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 Next Step is a reality-style drama series that deals thoughtfully with social issues such as status, bullying, and peer pressure. A manipulative social queen persuades others to sabotage a sympathetic new girl's attempts to fit in, and, although it doesn't always sit well with everyone, teens aren't quick to stand against the tide. The in-crowd lives by a set of rules (literally -- they refer to them by number) that upholds their privilege by excluding everyone else, even when it means severing existing friendships. That said, the fact that the show sets a stage of such drastic social inequality yields shining examples in those who eventually shrug off the pressure and do what's right by deserving characters. Because there's no sex, drinking, or violence, this show is geared toward kids as well as tweens, but be sure yours can separate the good from the bad in the teens' relationships with each other.
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What's the story?
It's a new year at The Next Step Dance Studio, and hopes are high for a win at regionals for the in-house competitive team known as A-Troupe. As auditions begin, veteran team members expect repeat roster spots, and aspiring dancers vie for a few coveted openings, but an accomplished newcomer named Michelle (Victoria Baldesarra) arrives and shakes up the status quo. No one is more unhappy with the change than two-time team captain Emily (Alexandra Beaton), who goes to drastic measures to protect her social status atop an exclusive in-crowd called the E-Girls from an unwitting Michelle. But, as time goes by, drama and personnel changes rattle the team structure, challenging the dancers' resolve to go all in for big wins at competitions.
Is it any good?
THE NEXT STEP is a scripted drama series filmed like a reality show, with a constant back-and-forth between observational segments and tell-all confessionals with individual characters. Given that it centers on two highly charged subjects -- teen relations and competitive dance -- it's never lacking drama, which bodes well for drawing in young viewers. The show shirks most iffy content that some other teen-centered series sensationalize, so you won't have to worry about allusions to sex, teen drinking, or strong language of any kind. What's more, many of the characters emerge as decent role models either through their devotion to and passion for dance or through some pretty strong mettle in standing up to strong peer pressure.
And, speaking of peer pressure, The Next Step's most striking quality is the obtrusive presence of an unapologetic mean girl in Emily, who uses her social status to dominate her peers. She's scheming and cruel for purely selfish reasons, and she uses manipulation and feigned affection to control her friends, which wins over several of the characters at one point or another. But, although her actions play out like a how-to book on bullying, they do serve an important purpose in posing moral dilemmas that may look familiar to kids. Not all the characters manage to rise above the social pressure, but, when one does, it's an example that's worth holding up to your kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Emily acts the way she does. Why is popularity so important to her? Is she a good friend to her peers? How does the structure of social status impede positive relationships? Are situations like this one inevitable among teens, or can they be avoided?
Tweens: Have you ever experienced peer pressure? Why is it difficult to hold to your convictions when they differ from what other kids think? How does it feel to be the center of attention for this kind of reason?
The characters in this show are chasing their dreams of dance excellence. What are your kids' dreams for the future? Are they willing to work hard to accomplish them? What are they doing now to move toward those dreams?
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