To Be Young and Restless Yet Again
“Young Americans” does not arrive on the WB until July 12. When reading of this hourlong summer series being “imbued with the unbridled excitement of youth,” however, I feared I was in trouble.
I took a long look at myself in the mirror, wincing at what I had become. The hideous ravages of age had taken a toll. No sparkle. No brightness. Where was the inquisitive young man I used to know?
Once caring deeply about the length of Keri Russell’s tresses on the WB’s “Felicity,” I was now losing interest.
Once captivated by pubescent angst on the WB’s “Popular,” I now wanted these high schoolers to grow up and get a life.
Once hanging on every erotic utterance from the teens of the WB’s “Dawson’s Creek,” I now favored washing out their mouths.
Once thinking Regis Philbin decadent, I now believed his success on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” had come at an amazingly young age.
I knew what the problem was, and one evening my wife helped me erase it.
See the small photo atop this column? Zip. Blotto. That man is no more. At least that version of him, thanks to the “healthy, natural-looking hair color"--medium brown--that has replaced the advancing gray, courtesy of Clairol’s Natural Instincts for Men. Formerly an emblem of creakiness, my hair is again pretty much its original color, as well as being protected by “a complex of Vitamin E, proteins, aloe and plant-derived conditioners.”
Say hello to the new Howie.
This physical transformation allows me to read dirty magazines at newsstands without being recognized.
A youthful perspective was what I was after, though. And what I received.
Full of confidence, I was now ready for “Young Americans” and its great-looking teenagers at Rawley Academy, the New England boarding school where the WB says they learn “about passion, the potential for greatness, the power of love, friendship, trust, dreams and the need to make every moment count.”
It doesn’t take them long in the premiere, as scores of them strip to their underwear and charge into a lake for the kind of good, rigorous, close-body splashing that all wholesome teenage boys and girls like to engage in together.
If not for my new hair, I would worry about, you know, the arousal factor. But now, let her rip!
It doesn’t take long, either, for rich kid Scout Calhoun (Mark Famiglietti) and town kid Bella Banks (Kate Bosworth)--defined as “teenage poetry in motion"--to meet and fall in love at her stepfather’s service station. How romantic when they go for a ride on Scout’s bike, with her sitting on the handlebars in her tank top.
If not for my new hair, I would worry about her falling off. But now, go for it!
A few days earlier, I would have questioned his name. I would have wondered: Why not Scott, Scooter or even Scooby? But Scout? Would any parent impose this name on a child? But now, with hair as extra manageable as it is richly brown, I am free of skepticism.
As I am about Rawley’s hunky crew coach and most prominent teacher having just one name, Finn, something the musty me would have found puzzling.
I have to chuckle about what the pre-natural-looking me would have thought about Finn (Ed Quinn) grabbing his crotch when explaining great literature to his young charges: “Let me tell you a little secret about passion. It comes from right here.”
The out-of-touch me would have thought clutching one’s private parts while teaching schoolboys to be grounds for dismissal, but the rejuvenated me accepts it as a creative visual aid.
“Young Americans” opens with everyone arriving for the summer term. Scout’s roommate, scholarship student Will Krudski (Rodney Scott), confesses to him that he cheated on his entrance exams after Scout reveals that he slept with his mother’s best friend.
The antique me would have found Scout’s revelation a metaphor for mainstream TV’s flippant sexualizing of teen characters. The vibrant new me sits back and enjoys it.
As do Scout and Bella when intimately dancing in front of a Pennzoil sign above a truck that she had been working on, the hood probably not the only thing that’s up.
Later, smitten Scout and Bella speak of sex, and she reveals what she is wondering: “Is this the guy I’m going to spend the rest of my life with?” Because they’ve just met, this scene would have seemed absurd to me a few days ago. But now, right on!
Two other “Young Americans” at Rawley are the dean’s son, Hamilton Fleming (Ian Somerhalder), and Jake Pratt, who is sexually attracted to him. Just as Hamilton is to Jake, which confuses him, he and everyone else at Rawley are somehow blind to what viewers immediately will see when setting eyes on Jake. He is a she (Katherine Moennig) in drag and will never be confused with Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Later, “Young Americans” springs a ludicrous, even more stupefying over-the-top surprise that affects the romance of Scout and Bella. The older me would never reveal these critical plot points; the younger me is too brash and adventurous to follow the rules.
Will ends the episode with this stirring speech: “And so, our adventure begins. We find our heroes, and we uncover our fears. And sometimes we triumph.” The decaying me would have no idea what that meant. The new me is exhilarated.
Proving that a young man knows a crotchful of passion when he hears it.
* “Young Americans” joins the WB’s schedule July 12 at 9 p.m. The network has rated it TV-PG-D (may be unsuitable for young children, with special advisories for suggestive dialogue).
Howard Rosenberg’s column appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.