Baldwin Hills: Season 1
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Baldwin Hills: Season 1

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Of late there seems to be an over abundance of television series about kids in high school. While there is nothing really new with this the twist that has been pervading the genre is to make the high school experience into a reality show. MTV has been the leader of the pack with ‘Laguna Beach: The Real OC’ and its spin off, ‘The Hills’. The thing about these shows is they only show rich white kids. It was only natural that someone would try to adapt the format and premise to other ethic groups. That time has come with the high school drama ‘Baldwin Hills’. It focuses on African American teens which are to be expected since it is broadcast by Black Entertainment Television, better known as BET. I have had the privilege to review several series on this network and have always been extremely pleased with the results. Although their series are ethically geared towards the Black community their shows are not just for the African American audience. This show is a different type of high school soap opera than their counterparts on the other networks. It is set in a neighborhood that is primarily black but the stories are more human than ethic. This series is gripping and takes a more serious look at growing up in today’s world than the guilty pleasure fluff the other stations seem to prefer to produce. If you are currently under the misconception that BET is only for black audiences then you are missing out on some of the best programming on cable today. Now is the perfect chance to catch up on this series. BET in cooperation with Paramount has released the first season on DVD.

There are several thematic elements that make this show different from the pack of others. First of all in most teen oriented series it seems that the kids live in a world totally devoid of parental influences. At least here there are parents around and they hope you are sitting down. Interact with their children. Another difference is the shows on networks like MTV tend to show only the most privileged teens ever. I supposed that there are teens that get upset when they can’t find the perfect Prada bag to go with their Jimmy Choo shoes. This series is far more realistic and identifiable to its audience. One of the best things is the way they show the difference between to parts of the Baldwin Hills neighborhood. One part is inhabited with professional families; doctors, lawyers etc. A few blocks away there is the rougher part of the area where the median income is far less. In this part of the neighborhood drugs and violence is part of every day life. This contrast not only makes for good television drama but gives a little lesson along the way. The main message to take away here is even if you have a chance for the good life another, darker path is right down the block.

There is the usual soap opera required cast of characters presented here. In every group of teens there is one that takes the role of the clown. In this case it is Daymon. He is popular. Mostly because of his innate ability to make his friends laugh. He is somewhat of a male diva preferring high end name brands for his clothing. He is usually seen in Ralph Lauren outfits and even works at the local Macy’s just to get the discount on his threads. Ashley is described as the socialite. She is an outgoing girl with a general sense of entitlement. She is always looking for something fun to do with her flock of friends. She has some mixed feelings about her parents. She generally gets along very well with them but has the usual teen problem with their participation in her life. Ashley’s passion is to dance; something she eventually wants to do professionally. In such a group of upwardly mobile teens there is always one wheeler and dealer. Jordan is such a young man. He sees himself becoming a successful business man and tries to use his financially secure background as a foundation to making it on his own. Gereen is a teenaged girl obsessed with looks. She is up on all the current fashion trends and magazines and wants to be a model someday soon and start her own clothing line. Her mother is a single parent and not much is ever said about her father. She suffered a loss a little while back when her best friend was killed. Moriah breaks the usual stereotype of the dumb jock. He is quite the basketball player, something he inherited from his father who was in the pros and now is a commentator on TV. He is not only athletic but carries a 4.0 grade point average. Garnette is one of the most mature of the group. She tends to mother the others and she is considered the one to someday become a trophy wife although she wants to be the CEO of a company.

President of the class and extremely popular Gaven seems to have it all. He is head strong and determined to make it in the world on his terms. Not only is he politically inclined he is a starter on the basketball team and plays the viola. The ultimate good girl here is Roqui. Her habit of preferring to keep to herself has given her a reputation for being the class snob. She gets along very well with her parents and wants to be a television news anchor. Every soap opera needs a few villains and after all they trend to be the best characters. The local bad boy is Sal. Originally from Watts he has a police record but is trying to reform himself. The required tough girl role goes to Staci. She is very emotional even to the point of being melodramatic. She has a strong inclination towards boys which rarely goes unnoticed by the others. She is very close to her mother which causes problems with her sister. Willie is a dancer who is smart on emotionally mature. Her little sister is an Olympic hopeful in gymnastics. Finally there is the proverbial trouble maker, Makensy. She is extremely out spoken rarely keeping anything in. This lack of an internal censor has resulted in alienating many of her friends.

This is a quality show that too many people are unaware of. Hopefully this DVD release will introduce it to the larger audience it so richly deserves. While most shows of this type have phantom parents here the adults are an integral part of the teen’s lives. Families are shown, not all traditional but all working for the most part together. While the kids depicted here are among the more financially secure in society they are still shown as working towards the goals they have set. Most are shown as being able to balance academics, athletics and a social life which is a refreshing change from the more typical one dimensional stereotypes high school series usually have. This is not only worth while for the kids the whole family will enjoy it.

Posted 07/10/08

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