A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this BET reality show is reminiscent of Laguna Beach and The Hills because it follows a group of mostly privileged teens living in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. That means that cast members are shown attending exclusive parties, freely spending their parents' money, and generally embracing a materialistic lifestyle. On the flipside, this show tends to be tamer than its reality cousins, and it makes an effort to examine the realities of class and race. The all-black cast includes teens from a variety of backgrounds, including a boy who "grew up rough" and a girl who lives "in the hood."
What's the story?
With BALDWIN HILLS, BET adds another glacially paced docudrama about a group of wealthy Los Angeles teens (think Laguna Beach and The Hills) to the world of reality television. But this one purports to be different because all of the main characters are African American. As the show's opening voice-over suggests, it's meant to shatter the erroneous assumption that "all black people live in the ghetto."
Is it any good?
The truth is, the lives of these teens -- who live in a posh enclave of African-American professionals known as the "Black Beverly Hills" -- seem just as devoid of real meaning as those of their white counterparts over in ZIP code 90210. Not all of the attractive faces featured in this half-hour show are the children of doctors, lawyers, entertainers, and entrepreneurs. But an awful lot of them are, and their pampered lives smack of certain privileges. Garnette (a type-A teen queen with aspirations of becoming a CEO) casually drops hundreds of dollars with her girlfriends at exclusive boutiques, while Gerren (a simpering model whom Oprah dubbed "a mini-Naomi Campbell") uses her connections to score one-of-a-kind club gear that barely covers her, um, assets. Amid plot points that don't really go anywhere and banter that's so banal it's boring, Staci (a working-class girl who lives in a poorer neighborhood, keeps it real, and buys her clothes from the bargain rack) is a welcome breath of fresh air.
While there's nothing truly harmful about the show's messages, there's nothing truly worthwhile either. Maybe the point of Baldwin Hills is to reveal that wealthy African-American teens can be just as vapid as wealthy Caucasian teens -- and if so, the show's a smashing success. But if that's not the point ... then maybe it just doesn't have one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the show's messages about race, class, and gender. What are the relationships like between the male and female characters, and how are their storylines different? Why does this show feature mostly African-American characters, while shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills follow mostly white characters? Do you think it's a conscious choice? Families can also discuss the privileged lives that many of the featured kids lead. Does their socioeconomic status change the "realities" they face? What are some of the differences between the teens who have money and those who don't?