Saturday, June 10, 2006

Beyond the Break - Surfer Girl Redux

I heard some decent things about Beyond the Break, a new cable drama about teenage professional surfers, so I caught the pilot episode. It's on The N, a fairly new nighttime-only channel which specializes in teenage programming (it shows original series as well as repeats of shows like Degrassi: The Next Generation and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch). So this new show is clearly designed to appeal to the contemporary teen, and it wears its influences on its sleave. Anyone who remembers the 2002 surfer girl movie Blue Crush will recognize the basic formula: a multi-ethnic cadre of up-and-coming female surfers try to make a name for themselves while holding down day jobs in Hawaii. Beyond the Break also throws in a twist cribbed from The O.C.: one of the characters is a misunderstood juvenile delinquent from the California hinterlands.

Stylistically, when the show isn't throwing in 24-esque split screen transitions, it has the feel of, well, "verite" if you're feeling generous. It's shot on location, which yields shots of beautiful scenery, but can just as often look rushed for the character shots. And some of the cast look a lot better than they act, which adds to a certain roughness around the edges.

But I'm being too hard on the show. I didn't find it terribly compelling, but compared to the down-market teen TV of my generation, like Saved by the Bell, it represents quite an evolution. The dialogue is punchy enough and at least a few of the characters edgy (and pretty) enough that it will probably find an audience.

Thematically, perhaps the only place it really held my interest was in its depiction of the class differences between the surfer girls. As I thought about it more, I realized how many adolescence narratives deal explicitly with social class. Teens in the US are perhaps in a much better position to appreciate class difference, as they are forced into contact with each other in school, or must take on menial or service-oriented jobs (a thread of cultural studies considers children to be a "perpetual underclass"). TV shows about adults rarely show characters from a range of backgrounds, as if once people grow up they prefer to believe in a classless utopia.


Blogger RBG said...

Wow, having distractedly watched that pilot episode with you, after which I do believe I proclaimed how lame it was, I'm way more interested in what you're able to extrapolate from the show than the show itself. I mean, I guess I see what you mean if I think back to shows like "Saved by the Bell" but standing alone...well, let's just say I won't be watching any more of it.

11:20 AM  

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