By MICHELE HEWITSON
Dead Poets Society has a lot to answer for. The film that styled itself as the thinking hunk's answer to the frat house brat's story has spawned a new batch: The Young Americans. This is small-town New England where you still get coke in bottles and gas is pumped by a candidate for Miss Teen America. Rawley Academy is set in 40ha of rolling hills, has its own lake and, convenient for plot development, a school for likely future brides of the brats just across the water.
Rawley town is supposed to be blue collar. Ask for directions to the "billionaire boy's club" and the locals are likely to snarl through their poor but orthodontically perfect teeth and tell visitors to "follow your nose, smells just like money."
The locals are touchy. So is Will Krudski (Rodney Scott) a scholarship boy so desperate to get away from his violent father that he bought a test online and cheated his way in. In the interests of plot development he's assigned a room with the Richie Rich of Rawley Academy, Scout Calhoun (Mark Famiglietti.) Despite the gaping gaps in their bank balances, you can tell that theirs is to be a meaningful friendship. They, like, connect immediately: "You have trouble finding the place?" "No. You?" "Nah." Tonight's pilot sets a cracking pace in the dialogue department.
There's the obligatory kooky/inspirational teacher (and there appears to be only the one teacher for the entire school.) Finn (Ed Quinn) wades into the lake fully clothed to give a lecture on literature: "Who's the greatest writer that ever lived? I'm here to edify you about the super-stars of literature." There's not a book in sight, but then, as we all know, reading in the bath just makes the pages go all soggy. Finn is something of a philosopher. Listen to the sound of the water, he tells the boys: "What do you hear?" They hear ... water. "The sound you should be hearing is opportunity - make the most of it ... Exceed expectations."
Teach is a good listener. He discovers, by eavesdropping, that Will cheated. And, oh dear, the motto of the school just happens to be Truth is Virtue. Will has to write an "essay" in "no less than 300 words." It didn't have to be grammatically correct, obviously. Mawkish would be just fine. He obliged: "I have known the comfort of my mother's arms and the violence of my father's disappointments, but everyone encounters obstacles. The trick is to discover the opportunities within them ... "
There are some other plot lines. Rich boy falls for petrol-pump girl. Could it be incest?
Girl dresses up as boy to get into Rawley, falls for boy. Kisses him. He, like, freaks: "Oh my God, I think I'm gay." Could it be homophobia?
Something like that. I was a bit overwhelmed at the time. It's not too often, after all, that an American television series manages to exceed all expectations - of utter awfulness.
TV2, Friday, 7.30pm