In April, an Associated Press analysis put the bad news in clear terms: One in two young college graduates is either jobless or employed in a low-wage, unskilled position. The next month, fittingly, MTV crews arrived in Chicago to film Underemployed. Shooting finished in August.
The hour-long scripted series, premiering Tuesday 16 at 9pm, centers on the post-grad malaise of five good-looking friends. They include a book-smart virgin slaving away in a cartoonishly trendy doughnut shop (a disguised Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park); an environmental activist forced to work for the evil chemical company run by his daddy (Steppenwolf ensemble member Tom Irwin of My So-Called Life fame); and an aspiring rocker who ends up serving drinks (at an unnamed Gold Star Bar in Wicker Park) until her life hits an unexpected bump in the road.
Judging from the pilot—which features copious aerial shots of downtown in addition to locations like Rosebud on Rush and State Street near the Chicago Theatre—Underemployed probably isn’t going to lend much insight or wit to life after higher education in this economy. Anyway, Lena Dunham has already nailed the voice of the Millennial generation with HBO’s Girls. Underemployed creator Craig Wright, a former writer on Six Feet Under, is old enough to be Dunham’s father. Wright’s show resembles MTV’s former late-night soap opera Undressed as fit to the Friends mold, with some insipid lines to match (“If life is just about working and making money, we’re all screwed”).
Nonetheless, certain elements ring true, particularly the desperation to merge onto any career path—and the dreams deferred along the way.