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Teen TV Shows

Author Elaine Needelman
Air Date 10/14/1999

Teen TV Shows Transcript

With most of the new television shows for children and teenagers on the air, here’s Elaine Needelman with the second of her reviews to help us sort things out.

There seems to be an incredible number of TV shows this fall about teenagers. At least 17 new shows feature major teen characters. if you include returning series like “Felicity,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Party of Five,” and “7th Heaven” there are about 20 hours of network prime time devoted to teen angst and other adolescent concerns.

The only new show on network television this season with a child as a main character is “Malcolm in the Middle.” Malcolm, played by Frankie Muniz, is a normal preteen kid who just happens to be very smart. The middle child in his family, he is horrified to find out that he has been classified as a genius at school. As he tells the camera and us frequently, sometimes outraged, sometimes embarrassed, he is a normal kid who just wants to watch cartoons in his underwear on Saturday morning — but with his bizarre family, a kind of live-action Simpsons, that’s hardly ever possible. This looks like a sharp-witted, funny show that we can look forward to when it begins later in the winter.

NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks” has a wonderful premise: have the teenagers actually look and act like real kids. They’re not particularly cool; in fact, they’re awkward and unpredictable. This hour-long comedy-drama focuses on the difficulties of adolescence for the outcasts of one high school. The “freaks” are Led Zepplin-loving burnouts and the “geeks” are athletically hopeless, science-fiction-reading loners, prime targets in sadistic dodgeball games and for the attacks of lunchroom bullies. It’s an intelligent, poignant, frank and funny show — too bad it’s being aired on Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. — a lethal time slot.

“Roswell” at first looks like a combination of “The X-Files ” and “Dawson’s Creek.” The show is about three orphaned space aliens living in Roswell, New Mexico, where their family’s spaceship crashed years ago. The alien teens go to the local high school and do the best they can to fit in with everyone else — except that they have extraordinary powers that have started people asking questions. It’s a cleverly plotted, suspenseful show that just happens to be tapping into one of the universal conditions of adolescence — feeling like you’re from another planet. Now that’s a perfect metaphor for this season’s invasion of the teenagers.

Posted in Television