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The Best Years
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 college drama from the former head writer of teen favorite Degrassi: The Next Generation tackles just as many issues as that show -- albeit in a somewhat soap-operaish way. Romantic relationships among students (and in one case, between a student and his married professor) include sex; sometimes the girls use their bodies to gain guys' interest. Expect some mild language ("bitch," "damn," etc.) and lots of underage drinking -- though the latter sometimes comes with consequences: In one episode, a drunk teen falls to his death from a rooftop. (It's worth noting that many of the characters would be of age in Canada, where the series is made -- though it takes place in the United States.)
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What's the story?
THE BEST YEARS centers on Samantha Best (Charity Shea), a newcomer to Massachusetts' prestigious Charles University. An orphan who's been shuttled through the foster care system for 10 years, Samantha sees her full-ride scholarship as a ticket to a new life, and she's full of expectation as the school year begins. But it's not long before she learns that college is full of pitfalls as well as opportunities -- and that her own identity is subject to constant revision. From going to parties at the campus hotspot to handling friends' personal crises, Samantha finds that college life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes it's all she can do to navigate the uncertainty and reach her full potential. And if that's not enough, it seems her chances at success are sometimes threatened by outside forces as well.
Is it any good?
Following his tremendous success as head writer on hit teen series Degrassi: The Next Generation, Aaron Martin has turned his focus to the college world in The Best Years. Teens -- especially those contemplating or already familiar with college life -- will relate to many of the issues of identity facing the characters in The Best Years: "Where do I go from here?" "What do I value?" "Who am I, and what do I want out of life?"
The series puts a soap-opera spin on real campus life, with viable storylines enhanced for dramatic effect. Samantha's relationship with her roommate, Kathryn (Jennifer Miller), a rich socialite from the Midwest, gets off to a rocky start when the two disagree in the aftermath of a tragic accident. Handsome basketball star Devon (Brandon Jay McLaren) quickly catches Samantha's eye and causes plenty of distraction from her work, and Hollywood celeb Dawn Vargas (Athena Karkanis) looks to Samantha for the down-to-earth philosophy she's craving from "real" life. While it's sure to entertain your teens, be sure they understand the realistic implications of the frequent underage drinking, occasional strong language, and sexual relationships between the characters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues the show raises. What are the dangers of drinking too much? What risks come along with casual sex? What messages does the show send to teens about responsible behavior? Do the characters suffer consequences from their actions? Why is that important? Teens: What impression does this show give of college life? Do you think it's realistic? What aspects, if any, seem exaggerated?