VH1 has become a channel that has, over the last decade, truly mired itself in reality programming. I’m not sure that there is a more odious iteration of “the screaming, catfighting housewife series” genre than Mob Wives, which has bordered Hindsight on Wednesday nights throughout its first season run. That’s one of the reasons that Hindsight, a rare scripted series from the network, has felt so different, and so unexpectedly delightful.
Hindsight starts off by focusing on a 30-something New Yorker in the present day, Becca Brady (Laura Ramsey), on the eve of her second wedding. Her trepidation and anxiety over the event is keenly felt, as she remembers her disastrous first marriage to an Australian painter, Sean (Craig Horner). Though she seems happy marrying the buttoned-up Andy (Nick Clifford), her childhood friend, she’s still not certain. An elevator ride then magically transports her back to 1995 as the Becca on the eve of her first wedding to Sean, where she realizes she’s been given an opportunity to change her life.
You weren’t expecting time travel to be involved, were you? It’s one of Hindsight‘s biggest and most interesting quirks, as Becca navigates the life of her younger self with the benefit of knowing how certain things turn out. The only person she is able to confide all of this to is her ditzy and loyal best friend Lolly (Sarah Goldberg), who is often a fantastic fashion plate of 90s regalia.
What’s interesting throughout Hindsight‘s first, 10-episode season (which wrapped Wednesday night) is how Becca’s knowledge of the future becomes less and less helpful to her. History doesn’t always repeat, but sometimes — despite her best efforts to thwart it — it does anyway. Further, though Becca is able to change her career and the trajectory of her love life, the things she hopes to avoid become new problems she must face without any idea of how they will end up.
Of course, Hindsight‘s biggest draw is how much the show is steeped in 90s nostalgia, yet manages to do so in a way that remains an organic. Since Becca is reliving the 1990s having come from the 2010s, she laughs at Lolly having an AOL email, and has to get used to pagers again. The scrunchies, the movie references (in the perfect 90s job, Lolly of course works at an independent video store), the purple Doc Martins, and the zines are all great fun, but nothing binds Hindsight together as well as its music. VH1 has finally embraced that which it was designed to be: a music showcase.
Though Hindsight is a fun show, but it’s by no means perfect. The time travel mechanics (including a magical guide who only appears twice to Becca; or perhaps he’s just another traveller) eventually get lost under the weight of the relationship dramatics. Like another great 90s-based series (although one that deals with much deeper issues, Britain’s My Mad Fat Diary), the shows end up devolving into the partner swapping within a friend group, when it could be about so much more. But Hindsight is also a meditation on friendship, which is its most powerful thread. It explores the ever-changing nature of friendships in a way most series don’t bother with, which is another way the show distinguishes itself.
While Hindsight is mostly light, it ends on an emotional cliffhanger that necessitates closure, as all of its major characters are at crossroads in their lives. For VH1, who has not yet renewed it for a second season, the show also marks another kind of crossroad, as far as whether to invest in this kind of riskier scripted fare, or to go back to finding shelter in bottom-barrel reality programming (although it may have found a viable hybrid in the upcoming Barely Famous). Hindsight itself may have had some growing pains, but that’s also the theme of the series. Then again, as Becca says cheerily in the face of despair, “I have my clogs, my favorite jacket, and my best friend.” Sometimes that’s all you need. And hopefully, VH1 will see fit to give us more. In the meantime: