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Television Reviews : ‘Gangs’ a Superficial Look at Growing Problem

There’s probably nothing you haven’t already seen many times before in “Gangs: Not My Kid” (tonight at 10 on the Lifetime cable channel):

Walls signed with cryptic graffiti. Babyfaced young men looking sullen, talking stupid-tough and sporting gang colors. Their girlfriends bragging about the easy drug money. And, of course, the desperately worried mothers of children who are being sucked into the black hole of gang life.

All of those depressingly familiar scenes are included in this Tyne Daly-hosted hour whose main focus is on how some mothers in South Central Los Angeles are trying to persuade children not to join gangs such as the Crips and the Bloods.

Producer-director Shari Cookson shows us the mothers’ heartaches and their heroic but seemingly hopeless efforts. There are also interesting though inconclusive studies of two kids, one on a slow spiral into deeper gang affiliation and the other whose stint in a detention camp seems to have straightened him out.

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But “Gangs” ultimately is far too superficial for its own good. For example, it simplistically blames poverty and racism for gangs, but never gets close to asking a glaringly obvious question: Where are the fathers of these troubled boys and why are these families so fractured? Also, though Daly points out in passing that most kids don’t join gangs, there’s no attempt to explain why they are able to resist.

Though “Gangs” has its heart in the right place, it unfortunately offers few facts, little analysis and no worthwhile insights--socioeconomic or otherwise.


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