Older article by Melinda Metz: No Happy Couples

I found this in the NY Post. I’m not sure what date it was published.

Enjoy!

NO HAPPY COUPLES!
by Melinda Metz

YOU can’t walk two feet these days without running into a teenager. And you can’t channel surf 1ithout hitting one of the TV shows aimed at grabbing a piece of this hot demographic group. But you, too, can cash in on the fact that the children of baby boomers have reached adolescence. Here’s the formula for a successful show, based on what’s kept teens watching and talking this year:

LOVE QUADRANGLES AND PENTAGRAMS

To really heat up a storyline, it takes a minimum of four very attractive teens, preferably a mix of blondes and brunettes.

Take ‘Felicity,”the most-hyped show of the year. Felicity (blonde) followed Ben (blonde) to college in New York City because he wrote something semi-soulful-sounding in her yearbook.

Once at school, Ben fell for Elena (brunette), Felicity’s new best friend. Meanwhile, resident adviser Noel (brunette) couldn’t help being attracted to Felicity, even though she spent much time talking to him about Ben.

Then Felicity started getting attracted back, even though she couldn’t completely stop thinking of Ben, and some kissing happened, and then, post the kissing, it turned out that Noel had a girlfriend at another college (brunette).

NO HAPPY COUPLES

In real life being part of a happy couple is great, but there is nothing more boring than watching a happy couple on TV. It’s kind of like watching a loop of Certs commercials.

Yeah, probably most ‘Dawson’s Creek” viewers wanted Dawson to finally open his eyes and realize he should be with best-friend-but-not-girlfriend Joey.

But once it finally happened, the sound of z-z-z-z filled living rooms across the country.

Fortunately, a break-up followed within a couple of episodes.

UNREALISTIC DIALOGUE

There are two main variations.

There’s the unrealistic dialogue of ‘Dawson’s Creek,” in which 15-year-olds who sound like they are thirtysomething analyze their unfolding puberty in minute detail.

Then there’s the unrealistic dialogue of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,”in which there is more butt-kicking than talking and the characters are constantly tossing off the kind of one-liners most people come up with once every couple months and then repeat endlessly until their friends get sick of it and tell them to shut up.

Pick one style or the other. Don’t attempt to mix and match.

ANNOYING PARENTS THAT NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH

It’s hard to have a show about teens without any parents (unless they’re killed off, one of the major attractions of ‘Party of Five,”where the show began with big brother Charlie as the only adult in sight – and he never acted like one).

The trend is for said parents to do cringe-inducing things, like the time Dawson’s mom talked about running up the bill on her Victoria’s Secret credit card in the hopes of repairing her marriage.

STUFF TO SHOP FOR

It’s become routine for shows to end by naming the CDs where that week’s mood-setting songs can be found.

The shopping opportunities are expanding with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer clothing line, and this kind of cross-merchandising is key to raking in the bucks of teens who don’t yet have to worry about things like paying rent or buying groceries.

I predict that there are Felicity hair extensions being manufactured even now.

SOMEONE TO HATE

Clearly a popular show needs crush-worthy characters. But don’t forget that loathing is as fun as loving.

There’s a web site called I Hate Jen devoted to joyfully listing the victims of one of Dawson’s Creek’s wild girls (www.dawsons.creek.com).

Further evidence of the necessity of good bad guys is the many postings on the many Buffy web sites mourning the exit of Spike and Drusilla, two twisted and completely co-dependant vampires.

WORLD’S OLDEST HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

When casting your show, keep in mind that teenagers as often as not aren’t played by teenagers. Melissa Joan Hart, who plays ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” is 22.

Scott Wolf, Party of Five’s Bailey, was 26 when the show launched and his character was still in high school.

Charisma Carpenter, Buffy’s Cordelia, is 28.

Note that while it’s okay for actors to play younger, it’s a no-no for writers. This year Riley Weston, a 32-year-old woman, shaved 13 years of her age because that’s what she thought it would take to get a job writing for ‘Felicity.”

THE DORK FACTOR

Dawson has a poster of every Steven Spielberg movie ever made (even Hook) on his bedroom wall.

His best friend Pacey has been heard reciting limericks to himself and he works in a video store.

Felicity had a romantic moment while playing Boggle.

Willow, one of the most popular characters on Buffy, is a computer nerd who has been mocked for her fashion sense.

Claudia, youngest sister on Party of Five, plays the violin and had to wear a ratty possum costume when she thought she’d made the cheerleading squad but had really only been selected the team mascot.

Notice a trend?

Weird as it seems, popular shows often feature characters who have a wide streak of dorkishness.

SPIN-OFF POTENTIAL

Why settle for creating one hit series when you can have two?

Angel, Buffy’s vampire love, is getting his own show. (Now that it’s been proven he’ll lose his soul and become pure bloodsucking evil if he ever sleeps with Buffy again why keep him around her?).

Sarah, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character on ‘Party of Five,” is striking out on her own.

And Aaron Spelling is planning a new generation of 90210 high schoolers.

GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS

If you want to create a teen series that rocks, you’ve got to have the girls.

I’m not talking about beauty (uh, if you haven’t already realized the importance of beautiful people on TV, you should definitely keep your day job). But for a show to work, you’ve got to have girls with brains and guts. Okay, the character of Felicity has been compared to death-of-feminism-poster-girl Ally McBeal, and Felicity did choose a college based solely on following her crush across the country.

But she stayed because she realized it was time to make decisions herself instead of blindly following her parents’ desires.

Katie Holmes’ Joey is clearly the smartest character on ‘Dawson’s Creek.”

Buffy can take on a couple demons more than twice her size and still have energy to go out dancing.

The three sisters of ‘Charmed” all have powers, and – unlike the women of earlier generation’s ”Bewitched” and ‘I Dream of Jeannie” – there are no men trying to keep the ‘Charmed” girls in line (like they’d have a chance).

WARNING

The WB network runs a warning before several of its teens series that explains the show that follows is for teen and adult viewers.

While this is an admirable show of responsibility, it’s also enticing. (Kind of like when theaters used to hang out barf bags before horror movies.)

So in developing your show, why not mix in enough sex and adult subject matter to get a warning slapped on. Couldn’t hurt.

In the first years of the millennium, there will be more teenagers than ever. And now you know what to do about it.

Melinda Metz is the author of ‘Roswell High” (Pocket Books), a series of novels for young readers that is set to become a regular TV series for Fox next season.

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