School's open in the summer

Critic's choice: Television

July 09, 2000|By David Zurawik

"High school without parents" -- that's what executive producer Steven Antin calls "Young Americans," the WB's new teen drama premiering Wednesday night. And as teen dramas go, this one about life at a prestigious boarding school has a lot going for it.

Start with a great-looking cast. Would you expect less from the network of "Dawson's Creek" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"? There's an impressive soundtrack, too, featuring the Getaway People and their hit "Six Pacs." An up-tempo version of "Over the Rainbow" in the final moments of the hour -- as the star-crossed lovers look into each other's hearts and at a mountain of family history that seems to stand between them -- absolutely nails the emotional moment.

At its best, the series is almost Shakespearean. Call it Shakespeare Summer Lite, with some gender-bending and woodland trysts to go along with the star-crossed lovers.

Kate Bosworth, as Bella Banks, one of the lovers, has a smile that lights the screen. Mark Famiglietti, as Scout Calhoun, the rich kid who's infatuated with her, is likeable enough that I almost found myself rooting for the children of privilege -- almost. The character we're really supposed to be rooting for is Will Krudski (Rodney Scott), the townie, who gets into the school on a scholarship. The trio of Will, Scout and Bella has tons of potential.

One other reason to root for the series: It's produced in Baltimore, and right now it is just about the best thing happening in the local film industry.

"Young Americans" airs at 9 Wednesday nights this summer on WNUV (Channel 54).

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