''Life Unexpected'' follows Lux, a 15-going-on-16 girl with a problem. Given up for adoption as a baby, Lux has spent her entire life in foster care after she was diagnosed with a heart condition requiring surgery, making couples unwilling to adopt her. Tired of being bounced from one foster home to the next, Lux decides to seek out her birth parents in order to get the signatures she needs to obtain emancipation.

Her search leads her to Nate "Baze" Bazile, a former high school football star who now runs a bar with his buddies. He is stunned to learn he has a daughter after a one-night stand in high school, and reveals to Lux that her mother is Cate Cassidy, a local radio personality who Lux has listened to all her life. Cate is saddened when she meets Lux and learns she was never adopted. Both Baze and Cate give their signatures for the emancipation process.

However, Lux is denied emancipation by a judge, who decides to grant temporary joint custody to Baze and Cate, with Cate being the primary caregiver. All her life, Lux has never had parents, but now she has three-- Baze, Cate, and Cate's fiance and co-host Ryan. And now it's up to all of them to somehow form a family.
!!Tropes used:
* ActorAllusion: In one episode, when Emma is talking about Cate, she says "...looks like that chick from {{Roswell}}."
* BarackObama: Ryan has a bobblehead Obama on his desk.
* BelligerentSexualTension: Cate and Baze.
* BettyAndVeronica: Ryan (Betty) and Baze (Veronica) for Cate and Jones (Betty) and Bug (Veronica) for Lux
* BrattyTeenageDaughter: Lux. An adult version is Paige, Ryan's sister.
** Though justifiable in Lux's case growing up in Foster Care made her cynical.
** One could argue that Cate never grew out of this, since she [[ItsAllAboutMe acts like this]] far more than Lux.
* CallingTheOldManOut: Baze does it to his father in "Love Unexpected"
* CrossOver: With OneTreeHill, it's even quick to point out that Cate and Haley are remarkably similar (valedictorian, pregnant in high school, impregnated by star player named Nate)
* DownerEnding: Should the series not get a Season 2, [[spoiler: the finale will be one of these for the whole series. Baze realizes he has to tell Cate he loves her and must stop her wedding to do so. Caught in a traffic jam on his way to the church, he arrives just after "I now pronounce you man and wife". Everyone turns, stunned, as he walks through the doors... and Cate kisses Ryan as Baze stands bewildered]].
** Averted since there will be a Season 2.
*** Averted as a downer ending to the whole series, yes. As a season finale? It's still a downer ending, at least for [[spoiler: Baze]].
* GoodGirlsAvoidAbortion: Cate states in the pilot that she never even considered keeping Lux, but that didn't extend so far as her seeking an abortion.
* HappilyAdopted: Inverted. Lux, who, as a Caucasian, American baby, would normally be very desirable for couples looking to adopt, was instead overlooked due to her heart defect.
** [[spoiler: Used, finally, in the season finale, "Love Unexpected", as Cate and Baze's parental rights are reinstated and Lux is adopted as their child.]]
* IdiosyncraticEpisodeNaming: Every episode is called noun participle e.g. 'Home Inspected', 'Formal Reformed', 'Bong Intercepted'...
* IdiotBall: One is handed to a main character about every other episode in order to drop an {{aesop}} about family relationships.
** Cate's lie to Ryan about [[spoiler: sleeping with Baze]] which only managed to make things ''worse'' for everyone. Thanks a bunch, Catie...
*** For bonus points, she does this just minutes after [[{{hypocrite}} she tells Lux]] to be honest with her boyfriend.
** Lux's plan and reaction in "Crisis Unaverted" when Cate [[spoiler: says she won't take in Tasha so she won't have to go to a foster home three hours away]]. Lux pulled the "I never asked you for anything!" gambit and asked at the worse possible time for Cate, not even considering that, y'know, Cate has problems of her own and can't exactly [[spoiler: handle taking in another kid]]. Her blaming Cate made her come off like a selfish bitch.
** Baze picks one up when he suddenly decides to interfere with Lux's romantic life.
* IntoxicationEnsues: Cate, on her first day as a producer of the show she formerly starred in, ends up speaking her mind about how she feels about the new co-host on air because she has eaten Paige's banana-and-pot bread.
* IsThisThingOn: Cate presses the ON button for the microphone while in the producer booth and [[IntoxicationEnsues high on Banana-and-Pot bread]].
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Baze.
* LampshadeHanging: In 'Crisis Unaverted' [[Series/BeingErica Cate and Ryan's boss]] says that her situation 'is so ''Series/DaysOfOurLives''. At midday I should tune in to ''you''.'
* LukeYouAreMyFather: Lux to Baze in the pilot. He'd known Cate was pregnant, but assumed she'd had an abortion.
* MeaningfulName: In episode two, Lux gives Cate some insight on her name's origin and meaning. A nurse gave it to Lux because of the sheer rarity of a light blonde being born to two dark haired parents. Going hand-in-hand with its origin, Lux's name's literal meaning is "light".
** It can't be coincidental that Baze's nerdy friend Matthew goes by Math. Though it's also a NonIndicativeName because he teaches English
* OnlySaneMan: Baze's friend Math is one of the wiser, more sensible people in the show. He tends to have his act together much more frequently than everyone else does.
* PapaWolf: Baze goes nuts on Lux's former foster father when he [[spoiler: insinuates that Lux came onto him.]] Also when [[spoiler: he finds out that Lux is having a relationship with her adult teacher.]]
* ProtagonistCentredMorality: Cate, oh so much.
** On one occasion, Cate is furious when Baze got the venue for Cate's radio station to shifted to his bar, after their original venue was shut down after an "anonymous tip" to the police that the bar was serving minors. When Cate chews him out for doing it simply to irritate her, he points out that even so, calling the cops on the rival bar ''was'' still the right thing to do!
* RealSongThemeTune: 'Beautiful Tree' by Rain Perry
* RightBehindMe: In almost every episode, one character X will say something about character Y, and in general, it's usually something X doesn't want Y to hear. Cue character Y being right behind character X as it is said.
* TeenPregnancy: As part of the backstory, obviously. Cate and Baze had a one-night stand in high school and Lux is the product of it.
* TheDanza: Emma Bradshaw is played by Emma Caulfield.
* {{Tsundere}}: Cate.
* WellDoneSonGuy: Baze is looking like he could be one of these. His father owns the building Baze has made his bar, but his father instead chides him for not paying the rent, which causes Lux to empty her savings and sell a gift Baze gave her in order to help him. She confronts his father about the way he treats Baze, as well.
* WholePlotReference: Season 2 features Lux hooking up with her teacher. While that on its own is not uncommon in TV, it plays out suspiciously like Aria and Ezra's relationship in PrettyLittleLiars. She's the same height. He teaches the same subject. They meet in a bar. He's resistant to the relationship. One could say it's a complete ripoff.