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 teen drama has mature themes involving sexuality and alcohol use, as well as some violence. Teen boys and girls dress in tight, revealing outfits and skimpy bathing suits and spend a lot of time flirting suggestively (one teen girl squeezes her clothed breasts while primping in front of the mirror, another cavorts in sprinklers and straddles a teen boy, etc.). The main character is a recovering addict who attends AA meetings, while his teen friend drinks frequently. There is, however, some subtle if uneven condemnation of superficiality. There is also some violence -- in one episode, a character shoots himself, and viewers briefly see blood spray on the wall.
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What's the story?
Johnny Miller (Taylor Handley) was a high-achieving student athlete until his alcoholic father committed suicide in front of him. After spending a year dealing with the tragedy -- during which time he evidently became an alcoholic, lost his driver's license, went to rehab, and joined Alcoholics Anonymous -- Johnny moves to the elite California enclave of Palm Springs with his mother, Karen (Gail O'Grady), and her new husband, Bob (D.W. Moffett). In his new neighborhood, the houses are huge, and so are the ubiquitous backyard swimming pools. But behind the flawless exterior lie secrets -- the ugliness and pain of which Johnny will surely discover.
Is it any good?
HIDDEN PALMS focuses on teens who are burdened by shallow parents and personal demons. For example, there's beautiful-but-troubled girl next door Greta (Amber Heard) and Johnny's new best friend, Cliff (Michael Cassidy), who at first seems perfectly normal -- if a little cynical and mysterious -- but viewers soon find out he's cruel to animals, which can only mean he's evil altogether.
A mix between the over-intellectualized Dawson's Creek and the over-sexualized O.C., Hidden Palms piques viewers' curiosity, but it feels a bit structurally schizophrenic. Is it a teen soap opera? A dark mystery? A tale of redemption? And is Johnny an innocent do-gooder with a temporary lapse of judgment, or is something darker and more complex going on behind those sultry eyes?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how accurately -- or not -- this show depicts the teen experience. Teens: Are the experiences the characters go through at all accurate or relatable? Are the characters realistic reflections of other teens you know? If not, can you think of any shows that feel more authentic? Why do TV teens tend to lead such heightened, drama-filled lives? Families can also discuss wealth. Do the rich kids in this show seem happy? Do you think you'd be happy if you were as wealthy as they are? What are the downsides of being extremely rich? What responsibilities do wealthy people have to their communities and the world at large?
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