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Television Reviews : Shriver Hosts Powerful NBC Teen Documentary

Few would accuse television of having an overly active social conscience, but one issue is surfacing on the small screen with increasing regularity and responsibility: the problems and pressures facing teen-agers today.

Tonight’s NBC News Special “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Teen,” airing at 10 p.m. on Channels 4, 36 and 39, is part of “To Be a Kid,” a weeklong series of special reports dealing with teen concerns being shown on all NBC News programs.

The hourlong documentary, hosted by NBC News correspondent Maria Shriver, shows through interviews with real teens the human faces behind the alarmingly statistics of youth drug abuse, runaways, sexual abuse and suicide.

There is nothing exploitative about it. The simplicity of the format gives the stark testimonials a powerful impact. It’s difficult to take a breath while listening to the boy and girl talk of being sexually molested by their fathers, or to the small homeless boy in a shelter who looks forward to the time when he can “go back to bein’ a kid,” while the bitterness in his voice attests to an innocence irrevocably lost.

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The interviews are segments taken from NBC’s well-regarded magazine show for youths, “Main Street.” Shriver follows each with a brief explanation of what has happened to the young subjects since they appeared in the reports. There are only a few happy endings.

After watching, parents may feel an urgent need to reach out to their children, to talk to them. That is what this program is about--not answers, but a way to touch our emotions and underscore the crucial necessity of communication within the family.


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