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TV Reviews : Stodgy Crew Sinks Creditable ‘Voyage’

“Maiden Voyage,” airing at 8 tonight on KTLA Channel 5, is a heavy-handed look at a multiracial group of female teen-agers who are in serious trouble with the law--and life in general.

The material could have been far more compelling than it is. This story of six young women (one a recent parolee) from Camp Joseph Scott, a juvenile detention facility in Saugus, confronting nature, each other and themselves on a 10-day voyage to Catalina aboard a 57-foot sailboat is severely undermined by the script, narration and pacing.

Blame the producers, Lee and Linda Stanley (Lee also directed). “Maiden Voyage” takes place on their boat and the teens are under their supervision throughout the trip. (To their credit, the Stanleys apparently generously give of themselves; their PR material counts 41 like expeditions.)

The Stanleys clearly wanted this voyage to be similar to the much-lauded Outward Bound program, a group of survival schools that give troubled youngsters a shot of self-esteem by pushing them to rely on their inner strength while coping with rugged outdoor locales. But what comes through is simply too self-serving: The Stanleys are characterized in the narration as role models and surrogate parents and play the roles to the hilt for their own cameras.

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“Maiden Voyage” fares best when the teens simply tell their stories. All have been abused or neglected; they are clearly victims of their family life and/or rough neighborhoods. Unfortunately, much of the impact is undercut by the sappy narration (“A cry for help we must heed to preserve society” and on and on) and close-ups of every tear shed--all intercut with glowing shots of sailing and beautiful vistas.

As a result, “Maiden Voyage” feels artificial, though the teens’ pain is clearly real. It once again proves that good intentions do not a good documentary make.


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