`Get Real' proves reckless, ill-defined

Review: Fox's newest series promotes irresponsible teen behavior and parental ignorance while relying on pat resolutions unsuitable for a show calling itself nontraditional

Fall television

September 08, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

Mom is angry and sexually frustrated. Dad is stressed-out at work and feeling misunderstood at home.

Seventeen-year-old Meghan is class valedictorian but doesn't want to go to college, while 16-year-old Cameron is having girls sleep over, right under the noses of mom and dad. And then there's 15-year-old Kenny, who is obsessed with breasts and wants to tell us all about it -- again and again.

This is the Green family: Mama Green, Papa Green, and the three little Greens of "Get Real," a new Fox drama premiering tonight that the network calls a "nontraditional family series."

By "nontraditional," Fox wants us to think groundbreaking. Don't be fooled. There is nothing new in this series except, perhaps, the volume of unpleasantness among the adults and the unconditional approval its gives for 16-year-old boys and girls to have sex.

Tonight's pilot, which is directed by Scott Winant, who wrote for "My So-Called Life," starts out with a bit of technical razzle-dazzle. After opening on a sexual dream sequence for mom (Debrah Farentino), we quickly meet the family. As a hand-held camera moves about the Green household with family members getting ready for school and work, we find out about each through shifting points of view told in voiceover by Kenny (Jesse Eisenberg) and Meghan (Anne Hathaway).

Fox is trying to reach teen-agers with "Get Real," so teen points of view are the only ones that really matter. One for the girls and one for the boys.

There's a fluidity to Winant's direction that you have to admire. As Kenny passes Meghan in the upstairs hall, the voiceover and point of view seamlessly shifts from his to hers.

But Winant and creator Clyde Phillips ("Suddenly Susan" and "Parker Lewis Can't Lose"), take it one step too far when they have Meghan turn toward the camera and speak directly to us.

"I know what you're thinking," she says. " `This is another one of those smart--- shows where the kids talk to the audience, like on "Dawson's Creek." ' Which, actually, now that I think about it, I'm not even sure does voiceovers. See, personally, I wouldn't be caught dead watching it, because there's nothing more obnoxious than self-aware teens who know more about life's great mysteries than their parents."

Then, not a minute later, we have a scene with mom standing outside Meghan's door and looking sad as Kenny says, "My mom's all fractured about my sister going to college and triggering the old empty nest countdown. Talk about your mega-change. Every day, it's the same: Mom imagines Meghan opening the door, walking out of the house and out of her life forever."

I don't know, but that certainly sounds like a self-aware teen who knows more about life's great mysteries than the parent to me.

The biggest problem with "Get Real" is that it does not know what it wants to be. On the one hand, it goes all out for hip, cutting-edge and postmodern with its multiple points of view and direct-address to the camera by the teen characters. But then it also tries to get away with the old-fashioned, heart-to-heart, parent-to-child, midnight chat over a glass of milk in the kitchen as a way of resolving major problems. You can't have it both ways: You want to be hip, you give up the cheap hug-hug solution to life's major woes.

Beyond that, the treatment of sex really bothers me. I have come to expect and accept -- in a Fox series pitched to teens -- a black-and-white worldview where the teen-agers get all the sex they want and the parents don't.

But the continual celebration of Cameron's sexual conquests and jokes about him not even knowing the names of the girls he sleeps with seem excessive if not irresponsible. What messages about relationships will 16-year-old boys take from the show?

And then there are the constant shots of breasts, with the camera so close it seems to be almost touching what it's showing.

Enough with the Breast-Cam, boys, really.

`Get Real'

What: Series premiere

Where: WBFF (Channel 45).

When: 9 to 10 tonight.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.