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The Hard Times of RJ Berger
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 witty but wild series deliberately pushes the boundaries of TV acceptability when it comes to teen sexuality. It's the kind of show that follows in the spirit of many R-rated movies like Superbad or Knocked Up -- shows that are geared to adults, but watched by teens anyway. Like those movies, this series is full of outrageous content that is sure to appeal to teen humor, but that parents may find hard to take. It's really in-your-face comedy full of sex, drinking, and teen sexual obsession. There's no nudity, although the series pilot opens with the lead character furiously masturbating under his covers, and there are regular animated sequences that play out his innermost thoughts and fantasies. Characters also make raucous, sexually charged statements like, "I'm soaked" (said by a girl who's sexually aroused). Equally edgy scenes show teens drinking underage without negative consequences, and teen dialogue with bleeped swearing ("f--k," "s--t," "c--k," etc.) and liberal use of phrases like "donkey d--k," "nip slips," and "nut musk."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE HARD TIMES OF RJ BERGER, the titular RJ (Paul Iacono) doesn't have much clout in the halls of Pinkerton High School. That is, until he drops his shorts in front of the entire student body and sheds light on his best-kept secret: his extra-large penis. It doesn't take long for RJ's peers to start looking at him differently, and for his best friend Miles (Jareb Dauplaise) to start plotting their road to popularity. But RJ's more interested in his budding friendship with school hottie Jenny Swanson (Amber Lancaster) -- and fending off his platonic friend Lily's (Kara Taitz) aggressive sexual advances.
Is it any good?
With the scripted series Hard Times, MTV is offering an antidote to its bloated menu of reality programming, and that's part of the reason it feels so fresh and funny. The other part is the whip-smart writing, with laugh-out-loud one-liners reminiscent of big-screen comedies like Superbad and American Pie. The difference here, of course, is that it's on the small screen -- and far more accessible to younger viewers, which begs the question: Is cable ready for so much raunch?
Execs behind the series insist episodes won't be "penis-driven," but that remains to be seen. Since it's set in high school, the show is clearly aimed at teens and older, though younger kids might want to watch too. The catch with Hard Times, then, is how parents will feel about its penchant for pushing the envelope when it comes to sexual content on TV. And chances are, based on what we've seen so far, they won't feel good.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how accurately your teens think this series portrays their sexual attitudes and emotions. Does the show get it just about right, or does it exaggerate fantasies and insecurities?
What's the show's target audience? How can you tell? Do you think the series will appeal to one gender more than the other?
Do you see any negative stereotypes being played out in particular characters?
Families might try and discuss why it is that parents don't find the same things funny that kids do when it comes to sex. Without being wet blanket, try to explain to your teens what concerns you in relationships portrayed.