"Reality" in High School

This week in “obscure reality shows chickflick is forced to watch because of the writers’ strike”, I bring you a little show called High School Confidential. Even though it was originally picked up by MTV, apparently the show wasn’t even interesting enough for MTV, and is now relegated to WeTV (the same network which airs such quality fare as Bridezillas and Cheerleader U).

This series claims to follow 12 very different girls through all four years of high school, but in the end, all of the girls just seem to be, well, average. Upon the first viewing of the first three episodes, the girls all seem to be white, affluent, Christian, and heterosexual. It takes sitting through half of the episode, or in some cases, a second viewing, realize that's not the case. Upon first impression, I wanted to say that I find this show hard to relate to because of it’s failed attempt at diversity. However, I think the real problem is not that it’s not diverse – the problem is that the editors buried the lead. There are so many glossy shots of Kansas sunny skies, kids walking the halls, cheerleaders and town churches, to the point where they take away from the story we’re actually watching. What results is bland, formulaic, and looks just like every other TV show or movie we’ve ever seen about high school.

In each episode, the series focuses on one or two of the 12 girls, and follows all four of their high school years. In the first episode, we are introduced to Lauren and Cappie, and I think these two were meant to show us how very different high school can be for different people. Upon viewing, though, the only thing separating the two girls is their GPA. Lauren is on the drill team, was elected homecoming queen and is an overachiever. In tenth grade, she is diagnosed with a fully operable brain tumor which is eventually removed, and she moves on with her life. Cappie is popular, plays volleyball and likes to party. One or both of them (they’re so bland I can’t even remember) goes through a pregnancy scare, and freaks out because she doesn’t believe in abortion. That’s pretty much it. By the end of the episode, everything these two girls have gone through seems like it’s just par for the course in high school.

In the second episode, Courtney spends the better part of four years deciding whether she likes cheerleading or soccer better, and deals with a bunch of sports injuries while her mother claims not to be a pushy stage parent. And her younger sister gets pregnant. (Are you sensing the theme here?) Jessi, the subject of the third and most recent episode, does a lot of drugs, drinks a lot, dyes her hair too blonde, and eventually ends up in the hospital for suicidal tendencies. Following which, she gets pregnant and eventually has a miscarriage. In the episode airing next Monday, Allyson gets pregnant and has an abortion.

Instead of High School Confidential, they should have called it Adventures in Teen Pregnancy. Not that teen pregnancy is not an important issue, and I am really curious and a little bit impressed regarding next week’s abortion episode, given the running Christianity theme on this show. Plus, I always love another reason to rant about how the abstinence only education programs taught in schools like this one don’t work. However, teen pregnancy is not the only problem girls face in high school, and the soccer team is not the only activity girls enjoy in high school. I was hoping for a little more depth from this show, but once the editors and network execs got their hands on it, the problems and situations these girls run into seem about as interesting as an episode of 7th Heaven.

I’m going to keep watching though, because now I’m determined for it to defy my expectations. The girls are all presented so similarly that I’m thinking there must be a catch, or a plot twist somewhere – like that very special 7th Heaven episode where Ruthie suddenly had a Muslim friend. And if we’re lucky, maybe the editors will ease up on the football field shots a little, and we’ll actually get to see the plot twist.

Speaking of reality shows with the words “high school” in the title, I also managed to catch the first episode of High School Reunion. If any of you are TV geeks like me, you’ll remember that several years ago, this same show aired on the WB. Apparently, TVLand has resurrected it from the TV graveyard, for reasons no one really knows. I want to blame it on the writers’ strike – but um, it’s TVLand. A network built on reruns. Moving on.

On High School Reunion, the producers of the show bring together high school classmates and throw them a 20 year reunion in Hawaii. Each cast member gets a Breakfast Club inspired nickname, like "the Geek" or "the Princess." Within ten minutes of the first episode, the woman who they call "the Lesbian" comes out to the rest of the classmates, who are shocked and confused that she's gay, and then proceeds to make them feel better by saying that she's there because she and her girlfriend are “on a break” and she wants to "explore her sexuality" and see if she can find romance among the guys. Needless to say, by the second episode, her date with “the Stud” convinced her she was gay again. But I didn’t even get that far, because when one of the guys’ ex-wife showed up with his best friend, who she left him for, I had to turn it off.

Lastly, for one more bit of news concerning TV shows set in high school. Sadly, South of Nowhere has not been picked up for a fourth season, and on top of that, the rest of the third season has been pushed back to September. Crap! Now I’ll be forced to watch High School Confidential instead.

Author’s note: This post has been edited in order to correct some of the information about the girls in High School Confidential.


The Professor said...

I can't say this with any authority, but I think this series is based on a non-fiction book by the same name. It's about a young (24-ish) writer who gets to go back to high school undercover to show what it's really like. I found the book absolutely FASCINATING! I sat down in Barnes & Noble and read almost half of it in one sitting. It was incredible. I highly recommend it.

MDiva said...

This series was not at all based on a book. These girls were real, even if they were somewhat doctored up for ratings' sake.