What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this documentary-like reality show focuses on at-risk teens trying to improve their lives. Descriptions of harsh living conditions and family strife -- including physical abuse, drug and alcohol use, foster care living, and teen homelessness -- are part of the package. Some episodes include intense emotional scenes, such as a visit to a church where murder victims are acknowledged, an event that brings most of the group to tears. A couple of the teens are gay, and there is some discussion of their sexuality. In one episode a girl straddles a boy on his back while giving him a massage. Teens and adults use strong language, some of which is bleeped.
What's the story?
In the moving documentary series TRIAL BY CHOIR, 24 at-risk teens join a chorus with the hopes of escaping their rough neighborhoods. Dedicated youth counselor Kate Benjamin and stern musical director Jerome Kyles mentor the students along the way and also learn some things themselves. The 10-week program includes three rehearsals per week in a church basement, as well as occasional social outings during which the teens grow closer to each other. During one-on-one interviews and visits to the teens' homes, the kids expose their vulnerability and share some of their hardships with viewers. One girl feels like singing is the only thing good in her life, while another vows not to go on welfare like her older sister; one student wrestles with his family legacy as he turns 17 -- the same age his father was when he died -- and another, whose parents' stints in prison and on drugs sent him and his siblings in separate directions, is now settling in to his recently reunited family.
Is it any good?
What makes Trial by Choir work is the teens' honesty and their heartbreaking circumstances. Mix that with a documentary style that echoes a reality show without feeling fake, and you've got compelling television.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the kids participating in the show. What compels these teens to join the choir? Why do they think singing can help their situations? Do you think the worst singers should be kicked out of the chorus? Why do some of the teens sabotage their own success? Are there other ways that at-risk teens can be helped?