Let’s Remember The Random Years

Let’s Remember is an opportunity for those who watched relatively recent short-lived TV shows, as well as those who didn’t, to share their thoughts and memories, to help ensure that these shows aren’t forgotten. This month’s column examines The Random Years (UPN, 2002).

The Basics

Title: The Random Years
Network: UPN
Cast: Will Friedle as Alex Barnes; Joshua Ackerman as Wiseman; Sean Murray as Todd; Natalia Cigliuti as Casey Parker
Air dates: March 5th, 2002 – March 19th, 2002
Time slot: Tuesdays at 9:30PM ET
Episodes: 7 (3 unaired)

Official Synopsis

From the official UPN website for The Random Years (via the Wayback Machine):

Alex, Todd and Wiseman have known each other since grade school. Casey is a smart, hard-charging young woman.

[I]n their early 20s, the boys now share a Chinatown loft apartment and Casey has just moved in down the hall. They find themselves in New York City trying to negotiate the daunting realities of post-collegiate life semi-mature relationships, steady employment and coming up with the rent, for example.

Despite their seemingly similar situations, the members of this foursome take dramatically different approaches to life:

Alex, an aspiring music critic who works as a researcher for a New York-based magazine, is responsible, dependable and sweet, though he yearns for the hip, edgy existence that always seems to elude nice guys.

Todd has no such problem: hes the unmotivated guy who tries the least and gets the most. He has no plans career or otherwise and seems totally content, much to the bafflement (and envy) of his friends.

Wiseman is a dental technician who has never had to make a decision because his mother has made them all for him including his selection of careers. Now, independent at last, he finds himself making some rather unusual personal choices.

Casey is a smart and mature NYU business school student, who as a recent transplant, is finding life in New York a little tougher than she had expected.

Together they form an oddball kind of family, managing to negotiate the awkwardness of romantic breaks-ups, the frustrations of long-distance dating, the daunting search for the perfect New York apartment (or even a habitable one) and generally find a way to make a living while still having a life.

Program Notes

The Random Years and another sitcom, As/If, aired in place of Roswell on Tuesdays from 9-10PM ET while that series went on a two-month hiatus.

-The pilot episode did not include opening credits.

-A repeat of the pilot episode aired on Wednesday, March 6th from 9:30-10PM ET.

-UPN aired two episodes back-to-back from 9-10PM ET on Tuesday, March 19th. That’s how four episodes were able to air in just three weeks.

TV Guide’s Take

As a mid-season replacement, TV Guide never reviewed The Random Years for a Fall Preview issue.

Reviews

Seattle Post-Intelligencer – John Levesque (3/4/2002)
Deseret News – Scott D. Pierce (3/4/2002)
The Los Angeles Times – Scott Sandell (3/5/2002)
The Houston Chronicle – Ann Hodges (3/5/2002)
The New York Times – Caryn James (3/5/2002)
People.com – Terry Kelleher (3/11/2002)

Opening Credits

My Thoughts

I did not watch The Random Years during its brief run back in 2002. I did, however, tape the series premiere. Specifically, I taped the repeat of the series premiere. Why? I have no clue. But I kept the VHS tape and dug it out to prepare for this column.

The quality of the recording is abysmal:

Still from an episode of The Random Years showing Natalia Cigliuti as Casey Parker

Natalia Cigliuti as Casey Parker

Still from an episode of The Random Years showing Will Friedle as Alex Barnes.

Will Friedle as Alex Barnes

In the premiere, Alex and Wiseman go on dates while Todd stays at their apartment. Alex hires Casey as a temp to put up banners and links on his music website. She finishes her work and winds up playing strip Antiques Roadshow with Todd (the rules are never explained). Both dates end badly and stage is set for Casey to return to work for Alex on a regular basis.

Critics compared The Random Years unfavorably to both Friends and Seinfeld. I’m not sure I agree with the Friends comparison. It’s success meant any sitcom about a group of twentysomethings that premiered during the decade after it had to be a clone. But The Random Years is about the immediate post-college years whereas the characters on Friends were in their mid-twenties when the series began. It’s a small, but important, distinction. Also, the group dynamic is very different: three men and one women on The Random Years versus three men and three women on Friends.

The Seinfeld comparison makes more sense. Critics felt the Wiseman character, with his odd behavior and big hair, was a Kramer knockoff. I can see certainly see that.

Episode summaries for the first five episodes (the fifth never aired) offer some insight into the characters and situations. Obviously, the three guys are all interested in Casey. Had the series continued, one of them would no doubt have started a relationship with her.

Where to Watch

Nowhere. The Random Years is not available on DVD or digital download nor is it streaming anywhere.


Hit the comments with your thoughts and memories to ensure The Random Years doesn’t slip into obscurity.


3 Comments

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    It seems to me that UPN is becoming a forgotten network. Many people just didn’t see many of it’s shows aside from the Star Trek shows and a few other like Buffy. Although most of it’s shows only seemed to last a season or less. I do recall when it initially aired I could only watch the station off-air since our service wasn’t carrying it yet.

  • David says:

    The set-up kind of sounds like “The Big Bang Theory,” but with guys who are not geniuses.

  • Bob says:

    Sounds more like “New Girl” minus the sexual tension between the roommates.

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