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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Backstage is a scripted series designed to resemble a reality show centering on high school students at a fictional performing arts school. The students' achievements in music and dance and their complex social hierarchy take center stage, so you'll see typical teen behavior (flirting, competition for popularity, and the like) intensified by the high-stakes nature of their studies. That said, the content isn't concerning for its intended audience of kids and tweens. The characters' actions aren't always exemplary, but there's usually a lesson to be had in what comes of them, so follow up with discussions about competition, friendship, and personal success.
What's the story?
BACKSTAGE follows the ups and downs of life in the Keaton School of the Arts, an elite high school populated by students with a passion for music and dance. From aspiring producers to prima ballerinas in the making, Keaton's halls are filled with talent and competition, and these teens must balance their drive to outshine their classmates with their desire to befriend them. That's easier for some than it is for others, and the process is a new one each day. For Carly (Alyssa Trask), Vanessa (Devyn Nekoda), Miles (Josh Bogert), Alya (Aviva Mongillo), Jax (Matthew Isen), Kit (Romy Weltman), and the rest of the Keaton students, Keaton is more than a place to hone their skills; it's a venue for building their character.
Is it any good?
This scripted series doesn’t really break new ground with a premise that smacks of Fame -- movie, remake, and TV series. The drama is palpable in scenes that show high-achieving teens competing in performance as well as socially, and you'll pick out the kids you want to root for (and a few you'd kind of like to see stumble) pretty quickly. By adding individual confessionals to the content, the show offers viewers insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings while attempting to bridge the gap between drama and pseudo-reality series, but it's disruptive to the flow of the story.
On the other hand, Backstage does touch on many issues that are worthwhile for kids, provided they're fully explored by parents with them. The show illustrates both the positive and the negative effects of competition, from coming out on top to coping with disappointment. Many of the characters -- especially Carly and Vanessa, who arrive at the school as friends -- must deal with the polarizing emotions of those same circumstances when they affect relationships. In other cases, just persevering is a significant victory, as Alya discovers. While not all of the characters' actions impress all of the time, there is something to be learned from every circumstance they face, and that's a good thing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what Backstage suggests about what it means to be successful. Is there always a measure for a person's success, or can it be determined individually? How does it feel to fall short of goals you've set for yourself? Why is it important to learn from failures and persevere through the challenges? Why is perseverance an important character strength?
Do any of the characters stand out as role models to you? If so, which ones, and why? Do the teachers' vastly different approaches to inspiring students make one more effective than the other, or do both have success? Which one would best inspire you?
Kids: Can you relate to the characters' struggles to get along with all their classmates? Is it realistic to assume you can befriend everyone you encounter? How do people's life experiences shape their personalities?
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For kids who love performing arts
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