In Praise of Felicity

I am a sucker for television series about high school or college.  In other words, I love coming-of-age stories. So it was a surprise to me when I stumbled across the WB series Felicity. It started in 1998, when I was without television, so I missed its four seasons in the life of the plucky girl who leaves her safe, harbored life in California to follow her high school crush across the country just because he wrote something soulful in her yearbook.

Yes, Felicity begins with a pretty lame premise, I will admit. Wallflower girl follows popular high school boy to New York. But I am telling you, they make you believe it and go with it from the get-go.

For one, there’s Keri Russell, who is so real and amazingly agile at playing Felicity Porter, who literally matures before your very eyes. Then there’s the guy, Ben Covington as played by Scott Speedman. Speedman gets Ben so well–he’s a sweet bad boy with a humongous chip on his shoulder. And then there’s Felicity’s freshman year RA, the adorably lovesick Noel Crane, played with nuance by Scott Foley. Since Ben is not available, Felicity and Noel hook up and you get your classic back-and-forth-until-you-get-seasick love triangle. What series isn’t complete without a little love triangle?

How, then, did I stumble upon this series? Well, it was thanks to Keri Russell’s amazingly droll, understated role in Waitress. Whenever I see that DVD languishing on our shelves, I want to grab it and foist it on patrons: “Take this home, watch it—it’s amazing!” Anyway, Keri Russell wowed me in that movie and I decided to give Felicity a try. Well, once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Like any series, Felicity has its ups and downs, but at heart it stays true to its main character. Felicity is earnest, idealistic, romantic and a little bumbling and even frustrating at times, but her character arc is more or less believable over her four years of growing independence in New York. What’s impressive throughout the series is the writing—the dialogue and narration are both wonderful. (Since Felicity was an early J. J. Abrams vehicle, it’s no surprise—the guy went on to produce Alias, Lost and Fringe. ) And you have to watch it until the mind-spinning last episode to see who Felicity chooses: is it Ben or Noel?

Place a hold on all four seasons now: The Seattle Public Library just ordered the series, and they’re coming soon!

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