'The Paper' Makes the Grade
Is it just me, or does it seem like nowadays celebrities get famous for the sake of being famous, and then do something somewhat useful with their lives? Apparently, having your own reality show or being a party girl is ample qualification for releasing an album, acting gigs, or designing your own clothing line. Meanwhile, talented artists and designers might struggle for years without a lucky break. The unfairness of it all is enough to make you cry.
MTV has long been a perpetrator in this vicious phenomenon, garnering attention for their reality show stars (e.g. the girls from The Hills, Jessica Simpson after Newlyweds) and providing them a launchpad for subsequent ventures. So imagine what a welcome break The Paper is from the rest of MTV's reality fluff. The Paper chronicles a year in the lives of kids working on an award-winning high school paper. The documentary crew deftly captures the in-fighting and clique-y mentalities that dominate, which makes for good drama on TV.
What impresses me most, however, is that these kids are smart and ambitious, and they know what they want. They put in long hours at the paper before heading home to complete assignments for AP courses. They worry about SAT scores and getting into college, and even whip out calculators to figure out their GPA around report card season. Of all the idiots they could idolize, they actually worship "superteen" Michael Jan, a fellow student and well-rounded overachiever.
The Paper hits closer to home for me than any other MTV show. I didn't go to high school with rich attractive white kids like those on Laguna Beach. I don't lead a lavish life like the ladies of The Hills. Cribs and My Super Sweet 16 depict lifestyles that are so far beyond my reach they might as well be Pluto. But I did go to an alternative high school with an enriched curriculum designed to challenge advanced students, and I do remember the clique mentalities, the competitiveness, and the stress over extracurriculars, transcripts, and university admission letters. The Paper is practically a trip down memory lane--albeit in a parallel universe.
The first season has just ended, but I hope the show picks up where it left off soon. In the meantime, you can catch full episodes online here if you're in the US, or here if you're in Canada.
Posted by Lisa