Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Confessions of a Teenage-Drama Queen

In a recent article on The Evolution of the Teen Drama Series, TV Blend analyzes a few key dramas that have had an effect on the way television is programmed to teens today.

The article highlights:
  • Beverly Hills, 90210
  • Party of Five
  • My So-Called Life
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • Veronica Mars

I agree that these shows paved the way for later programs. Certainly the kids of The OC couldn't have lived it up in So Cal if Beverly Hills 90210 hadn't existed, and I doubt if the young people of Everwood would have been able to emote their way through a day without My So-Called Life before them. But there is one glaring omission: where is the influential (if uneven) Dawson's Creek?

Though the quality of the acting, writing, and storylines on DC varied greatly over the years, it was among the first shows to try having teenagers use dialogue that wasn't dumbed down--the way teenagers would arguably talk if they felt the need to exercise their SAT vocubulary 24-7. Realistic? Certainly not, but it at least tried to act as if teens were intelligent. And unlike MSCL, it was actually successful.

On the evolutionary timeline of the teen drama, it's somewhere in the middle. Not an australopithecus like BH, but certainly not an upright-tool-user like VM. No, Dawson's is probably in the range of homo erectus (particularly appropriate given the show's focus on genitalia).

I agree with writer Kelly West that teen dramas are evolving to offer less "soap fluff" and more well-written characters with complex, realistic storylines. Still, today's teen dramas have a ways to go to be considered non-fluffy fare in the eyes of the general TV-viewing public. When shows like Veronica Mars are considered by the Emmy voters, and when we no longer feel the need to put a "teen" disclaimer before the word drama, then the genre will really have made strides.


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