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 the teen characters in this soapy British drama drink a lot, have plenty of sex, and -- despite the show's community college setting -- do very little academic work. Mature topics like date rape (of both men and women), serial murder, domestic abuse, cults, cross-dressing, and affairs between teachers and teen students are central to the plot. Plus, there's plenty of lying, cheating, and manipulating people's feelings. In short, there's not much here you'd want your kids to see ... but it's enjoyable enough for a guilty pleasure of your own.
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What's the story?
HOLLYOAKS is a long-running British soap opera about a group of students who attend the fictional Hollyoaks Community College. A fan favorite since it started in 1995, the show has gone through lots of cast changes over the years and was revamped again in 2007 -- just in time for its U.S. premiere. The series spotlights the ups and downs of teen life, blending lighthearted storylines with plots that explore the serious issues facing young adults. In typical soap opera style, the characters face a never-ending barrage of challenges, including domestic abuse, cult influence, murder, suicide, and rape -- and all from within their own group of peers.
Is it any good?
How soapy is it? Here's a sample story arc: Date rapist/prison escapee Sam (Louis Tamone) returns to Hollyoaks to stalk the students -- including his own brother and sister -- and plan his violent revenge. His brother, Russ (Stuart Manning), is piecing his life back together, working on his master's degree, and getting involved with new flame Sophie (Connie Powney). Meanwhile, Sophie and her sister, Mel (Cassie Powney), are busy comforting their 16-year-old brother, Justin (Chris Fountain), who may or may not be responsible for the baby expected by Becca (Ali Bastian), a married teacher with whom he's been having an affair.
And that's just the beginning. Several regular cast members have interwoven histories to keep track of, so the whole show has the feel of Melrose Place or Beverly Hills, 90210, just on a much larger scale. It's complicated and always full of surprises, giving fans a lot of deliciously convoluted lives to enjoy, but don't let the fact that the characters are teens encourage you to start bonding with your own teen over Hollyoaks. The show deals with some pretty heavy topics -- from date rape and serial murder to suicide and domestic abuse -- and the characters aren't exactly ideal models of responsible teen behavior. Many use drugs, alcohol, and sex to manipulate friends' actions and get what they want, and sexual content can be strong.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how shows like this portray teen life. Do you think they give an accurate impression of how real teens live and act? Which aspects of the characters' relationships seem exaggerated? Teens: Do your friends or classmates act the way these characters do? Can you relate to the issues they face? Which ones? Do you think the series oversimplifies the way conflicts are resolved? Why do TV shows and movies tend to do that? How is this show different from American teen soaps?