Unreality TV


So wait — did Haley and Nathan hook up last week on “One Tree Hill”? Or was that Haley and Ephram? Did Ryan choose between Amy and Peyton on “The O.C.”? Who’s recovering from a brief drug stint and who’s fighting with whom?

Ahh, to sit down and watch the several teen-centered shows on the air these days. One set of teens spewing glaringly obvious dialogue is hard to distinguish from another group of young people bed-hopping like there’s no tomorrow.

The similarities in these shows border on copyright infringement. They all seem to have:

Some sort of strange family dynamic, be it a difficult relationship with the dad (WB’s “One Tree Hill,” “Everwood”) or living with adoptive parents (FOX’s “The O.C.”);

Love octagons;

Dramatic pauses with longing stares;

Lead actors with bad hair.

The problem with these shows is the severe underestimation of teen intelligence. Their main selling points usually include good-looking young adults sucking face and parents who look like older siblings and dress that way, too.

Really, when was the last time you saw your mom wearing a low-cut spandex outfit while rolling around on a medicine ball or your dad sporting board shorts like he just got back from a surfing tournament?

On top of this, the storylines usually involve the obligatory three-episode-arc drug problems or lost virginity with dialogue designed to keep a dog up to speed. Corny pop culture references and forced jokes water down the credibility even more (“Everwood’s” Ephram says he “used to have skin like a hobbit’s feet, but now — got any Zoloft lying around?”).

“The O.C.” and “Everwood” are at least entertaining at times. But “One Tree Hill” is nearly unbearable, with equal parts laughless speech, atrocious acting and pathetic, unbelievable characters.

Take Haley, who gets her boyfriend’s jersey number tattooed on her back without telling him; or Nathan, who somehow lives in his own apartment and has a nipple ring. Keep in mind these kids are supposedly 15 and 16 years old.

And by the looks of the actors, I put heavy emphasis on “supposedly.” Whoever at FOX thought Benjamin McKenzie (Ryan on “The O.C.”) could pass for anything younger than 25 should be fired.

If they want to be taken seriously, the shows could take a cue from Canadian drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” which employs actors who look the age they’re playing and addresses the same gritty teen issues without being far-fetched.

Despite the fluffiness and limited thinking required, the U.S. shows maintain high ratings. Until we stop tuning in, we can’t rightfully expect anything more thought-provoking.

But maybe that’s just the way we like it.


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