Imagine being a 16-year-old girl, transplanted to a new high school in a sprawling new city, and unsure of your sexual orientation. It’s a scenario that isn’t terribly uncommon in real life, but it’s rarely explored on television.
That plot is now at the center of the new series, South of Nowhere, debuting on The N network on this Friday, November 4th.
The show follows the Carlin family, who has moved from a small town in Ohio to Los Angeles. The three Carlin children, Spencer, Clay and Glen are thrown into the fast-paced mix of a Los Angeles high school and their individual (and collective) journeys of self-discovery are kick-started by this exciting and unsettling change of location.
Spencer Carlin (Gabrielle Christian) is a thoughtful and down-to-earth 16-year-old girl who tries to find her footing at the new school by trying out for the cheerleading squad. Her brother, Glen (Chris B. Hunter), is a basketball champion whose joins and upsets the power structure of the current team. Her other brother, Clay (Danso Gordon), is a smart but naïve black kid whose life in Ohio with his adoptive white family has kept him fairly sheltered from the kind of overt racism rampant in Los Angeles. Their parents, emergency room doctor Paula (Maeve Quinlan) and social worker Arthur (Rob Moran), are somewhat oblivious to the culture shock their kids are experiencing.
But the family is closely bound, and we see them eating (and praying before the meal) together and actually talking about their lives with one another.
In the season premiere, Spencer meets (cute) rebellious rich girl Ashley (Mandy Musgrave), a tough-talking and mature sixteen year old with a brazen disregard for conformity. When the two of them hang out in Ashley’s bedroom and share an accidental but lingering touch of hands while lolling on the bed, Spencer notices a picture of Ashley in an intimate pose with another girl.
They don’t discuss the touch or the picture, but a new vibe is afoot in their relationship.
At school the next day, Spencer nervously tries to avoid Ashley. Ashley calls her on it and Spencer admits the dodge, and their budding friendship survives its first test. Later, bitchy head cheerleader Madison mocks Ashley and warns Spencer to stay away from her lest people think they are lovers.
Spencer stays loyal to Ashley, but she is still clearly conflicted about her own feelings. Without specifically mentioning the issue of sexuality she discusses her confusion with her dad. He tells her that this time in her life is all about trying new things, and being willing to make some mistakes. He assures, “Anyone who knows who they are at this age has made their decision way too quickly. Just be yourself.”
When Spencer wisely asks, “What if being myself isn’t what people expect of me?” Her father assures her, “That’s what makes people great. The unexpected.“