Miss Reality? Shows Live Richer in a Poorer World

When I heard that the teen-show titan The CW was considering a Melrose Place remake, I greeted the news with a flabbergasted sigh and several gratuitous eye-rolls. It was a similar reaction to the one I had when the Disney channel informed me that High School Musical 3 was choreographing its way into theatres. Don’t we have enough money-churning teenage stars flying around? I guess not.
Both Beverly Hills: 90210 and Melrose Place were such time capsule shows that it’s sort of fun to look back on them and laugh at the monstrous outfits and egregious acting. Now that both will have been remade by the time this decade is over, I wonder if we might as well just continue to remake them with every generation. And why stop with those shows? Think of Dawson’s Creek 2020: The Next Generation, where the original creek is too polluted to actually row around in so there’s a holographic one instead. Or maybe a remake of The O.C., where a new cast of Republicans-to-be cruise around in their Hybrid Hummers. If that doesn’t sound like good television I don’t know what does.
The prospect of the Melrose Place remake brings dread on many levels and raises a number of questions. The first, and probably foremost, is what horrible standards will be imposed on young people next? Specifically, which 80-pound rehab candidates are going to play the young protagonists? The once coveted size four has been replaced by double-zero, and the ever-present number of anorexia cases seems to be following suit. If young female viewers don’t feel bad enough already, let’s talk about the impossible young men who have been gracing the screens of late. With their multi-thousand dollar wardrobes and carefully quaffed do’s, they’re almost more dolled up than their co-starlets. Subsequently, the on-screen and real-life discrepancy is enormously disappointing. While there are a small handful of men who attempt to live up to red-carpet standards, it seems the more common teen male is not complete without bed-head hair and videogame calluses. Not to mention that their attention to romantic details has yet to flourish.
Recent episodes of both 90210 and Gossip Girl seem to be nothing more than a blur of expensive outfits, jewelry, galas and private cars. In 90210, our frail heroine is whisked away on a private jet for a dinner date in San Francisco. Since when do kids have access to all this wealth? Although the visuals are no doubt delightful to the eager eyes of 14-year olds, the lack of plausibility is sickening. Just when you thought the standards couldn’t get higher, the stakes are raised by the wealth of the characters.
In the current economic climate, these standards cannot possibly echo reality. The hardest parts of the recession are yet to come, and even with the election of Barack Obama, an economic stimulus doesn’t just pop out of nowhere or come without serious sacrifices. Too many of my UC Irvine alumni friends with bachelor’s degrees are forced to seek employment in minimum-wage retail jobs, and even those are a tough bid.
Film and TV may never have been about portraying reality accurately, but this form of entertainment has always been one that can’t help but set examples for its viewers. If producers can ban smoking in Bond films, would it be a far cry to have primetime characters face more realistic problems? The escape that sexy and entertaining television provides from day-to-day struggles can be a welcomed respite. I can only hope that young viewers don’t see the shows as a guide for young adult life. Plus, let’s face it: Hair doesn’t shimmer and glow when you shake out your ponytail under the fluorescent lighting of a New York subway station.