The real trouble with teenagers, if School Rules is any indication, is that they're not very interesting - except to other teenagers and, occasionally, to their parents.

The nine young things on School Rules were followed around school, the liberal Selwyn College in Kohimarama, and at home, by three camera crews for six months. That's around 300 hours of footage. We'll get to see 10 hours' worth. So far, so mildly soporific.

It's not the fault of the kids. They're all bright enough, charismatic enough (in that egocentric teenage way) and not one of them seems to have adopted the irritating teenage habit of punctuating their sentences with "like" every third word. Which goes to make them very likeable indeed.


It may not even be the fault of the series. There are nine characters to introduce; the first episode is the television equivalent of that ghastly old classroom game: introduce yourself and say something quirky.

It may get more entertaining. It's hard to imagine it'll get more insightful. That's because roller girl Amber, at 17, will say things like "I want to be a go-go girl who doesn't take her clothes off," without necessarily having any idea why.

It's just a bit of a wacky thing to say. And television adores the youth-plus-wacky formula.

For a generation of teenagers raised on "reality" television, it's a formula that can't fail - point a camera at them, and they'll perform.

Amber is obvious talent. And you have to admire a 17-year-old who, showing off her red sequinned bra and hot pants, says, "This is a message to all the anorexic girls in the world - eat."

Many of the teenage troupe are at Selwyn because it offers "an open-minded and accepting" environment. Troy, who comes out in front of the cameras, wants to be a pilot.

Wendy, who has mysteriously "lost" most of her family (the explanation has presumably been held back for future episodes which is supposed to be enticing but is merely irritating), is considering a career with a circus.

You can tell that this is a liberal school. Head girl Allie is seen in a mentoring session with some of the younger kids. She's wielding a taiaha. "You could kill someone with this. It's real easy, just smash them up the nose or something."

The most interesting thing about tonight's episode is that liberal is as liberal does. You still get detention if you're late without a good excuse (the excuses haven't got any better either). You still go on the dreaded daily report system whereby a teacher has to sign off an attendance record for each class. It turned a small percentage of my school generation into expert forgers.

The most cringe-making aspect of School Rules is the resolutely middle-aged voice-overs. "Looks like wild haircuts are catching tonight," says a bore about the Hero Parade. The pre-ad break teasers are patronising and plain dumb. "Up next: Anton scores some serious tongue action." He gets his tongue pierced. "Wendy shows how high she gets in the weekend." She goes to trapeze lessons.

If nothing else, such misleading nonsense indicates a lack of confidence in the documentary material, and it's borne out by the actual drama. Wendy is going on her first date. Does wearing a black bra underneath a pink halter top look slutty?

That's the thing about teenagers, these little things take on enormous significance, as we all remember. It just doesn't make for significant viewing.

* School Rules, TV3, 7.30 pm