At a moment when the newspaper industry is undergoing a nervous breakdown, MTV squanders a golden opportunity to actually illustrate what newspapers do — instead using Cypress Bay High’s school paper, the Circuit, as the backdrop for an over-produced reality-based teen soap. The premiere, anyway, is less a window into the lives of aspiring journalists than “Election” with real kids, a handful of which vie for the editor-in-chief title. Tears ensue, but not much else that resembles a newspaper, except of course that the featured copy editor is an irritating nerd. (Wow, did that get by the desk?)
Amanda, the bespectacled said copy editor, is the arbitrarily designated narrator of the proceedings at this Florida school, though in doing so she says stilted things like, “Procrastination is a foe that I have not met yet.” If that line wasn’t written for her, she might have wanted to delay coming up with it.
In addition to Amanda, sports editor Alex, business manager Adam and clubs editor Giana all bid for the editor-in-chief throne — a choice left to the journalism teacher, Mrs. Weiss, which will inevitably spur some ill feelings.
Developed by Lindsey Bannister, “The Paper” cares nothing about the paper itself, rather seeing it merely as the convenient setting for a volatile mix of personalities. From that perspective, the kids provide a cross-section of types joined in a potentially stressful endeavor. Unfortunately, the show works too hard at creating a desired mood, mostly of whimsy, through what MTV describes as “quirky music” and “a hip edge.”
As the de facto protagonist, you also wonder if poor Amanda, in particular, possessed a clear inkling of how she was going to be exploited for dramatic purposes, though at this juncture even teens must be counted upon to exercise discretion when venturing into the reality realm.
Like so much of MTV’s unscripted fare, “The Paper” essentially wants to be “Gossip Girl” on the cheap. If nothing else, one suspects the series will teach a valuable lesson to its young charges should they continue along this career path — the one about how when editing and “edge” get together, truth and accuracy is seldom the byproduct.