The producers of “Gossip Girl” ought to receive a generous gift basket from those responsible for “NYC Prep,” a self-explanatory Bravo docu-soap that ages down the channel’s “Real Housewives” franchise to teenagers in Manhattan. Despite the opulent setting, the issues troubling these privileged youths initially prove as puny as their years. CW has established a niche with dramatic forays into fabulous young lives, but as for Bravo’s nonscripted edition, get me rewrite, pronto.
That teenagers are sexually active and interested in hooking up hardly comes as a news flash, and the migration of gossip into cyberspace has been pretty well documented by, among other things, that aforementioned drama.
What’s left, then, is fly-on-the-wall access to the preening and pouting associated with these New York high schoolers, whose parents are about as present as those in the Charlie Brown cartoons. (That presumably image-conscious urbanites would allow their kids to participate could easily trigger a discussion about even elite society’s puzzling thirst for fame/notoriety, but at this point, what’s the use?)
Ultimately, the main problem with “NYC Prep” is that the show never gets better than its title — lacking the sociological insight to score as a documentary or the hyper-real situations and “characters” that would make it sizzle as a soap. As crass as it sounds, for something like this to truly pop requires a little more “Less Than Zero” than merely “Clueless,” which is what we initially glean from our encounters with the half-dozen featured teens.
At first blush, the boys register more strongly than the girls, perhaps because they appear less concerned about (or more oblivious to) the prospect of looking like self-centered little bastards. So pretentious 18-year-old P.C. lords over underclassmen, while 16-year-old Sebastian will surely make his folks proud by cavalierly saying, “Some girls like it if you’re an asshole to them.” See you on “The Bachelor,” kid.
Bravo had nothing to lose in gambling on this modest expansion of its brand into the MTV demo, but the network of the “affluential” life doesn’t conjure its customary magic with this junior version of status-minded reality. Still, with a little tabloid-loving care, who knows? One of these seedlings might eventually grow up to become fodder for the channel’s better-established concepts.