Teen shows tend to have the same story lines: Every show has a pregnancy-scare episode, a big-dance-gone-awry moment. Something about taking — perhaps failing? — a driver’s test, and the SATs, and maybe the Time We Got Drunk. So it’s not so strange that two current teen-oriented shows are covering similar territory. But MTV’s Finding Carter and ABC Family’s The Fosters aren’t just moving through identical stories in which one of our main characters has (impulsive, not premeditated) sex with her sister’s kinda-sorta-ex-boyfriend for whom there are still strong feelings. What’s striking is that the same actor is playing said kinda-sorta-ex-boyfriend on both shows.
Alex Saxon plays the free-spirited, mostly kind Wyatt on The Fosters, and the free-spirited, mostly kind Max on Finding Carter. He has long hair, and a demeanor that causes young women to want to tend to him in some capacity. On Finding Carter, Max and the once-kidnapped Carter are old pals; they were friends with benefits for a while, but once Max met Carter’s long-lost sister Taylor, he became a more committed dude. They were very much in love! They broke up — teen soap, par for the course — and in a moment of sadness and desperation, Max and Carter “comforted” one another in the back of his truck. Noooooo! They eventually came clean to Taylor, who was crushed but decided to work on forgiving both of them, which she pretty much has two episodes later.
Mere days after Max and Carter’s misguided hookup aired, The Fosters went the exact same route. Wyatt’s been in and out of the picture for a bit — perhaps because Saxton was also filming Finding Carter? — but he reemerged last week. Wyatt and our heroine Callie aren’t together-together right now, but over the years, he’s been supportive during her stints in juvie and a halfway house, and he was compassionate and kind when she told him about being sexually assaulted in her previous foster placements. Less good was when he becomes more of a stoner, but even worse than that: In last week’s season premiere, he had drunken sex with Callie’s foster sister, Mariana. Mariana was planning on losing her virginity to her very cool musician boyfriend Mat before he left on tour, but they had a fight, and then Wyatt showed up with a backpack full of beer and a head full of touchable hair. We all know how that song goes, friend. Now Mariana feels incredibly guilty, so much so that she told her biological mother that she feels like “a slut.” (Argh, Mariana, that’s just our horrible culture shaming any kind of female sexuality. You’re gonna be okay, I promise.) She hasn’t told Callie yet, nor has she told her boyfriend, Mat. It’s not clear how or if she’s going to do either.
I’m not knocking Saxon’s performances here at all; he’s got a surfy-sweetheart charm that works very well on both shows. That said, Max and Wyatt were very similar characters to begin with, and now their story lines have become identical. Branch out! There’s a whole wide world of bad behavior to mine! For Saxon’s sake, and for teen TV fans’ sake, maybe it’s time to give the Leah and Rachel stuff a rest.