On the few occasions that my daughter and I watched Gossip Girl together, I would invariably comment, “You know this is not real, right?” Or I would ask, “Do your friends really act like this?” To which she would invariably reply, “Yes, I know this is not real and no, my friends DEFINITELY don’t act like that!” Well, leave it to Bravo to blow the cover of many NYC teens with the launch of their new reality show, NYC Prep. Teens will no doubt love this program, while we parents are sure to find out that sometimes reality is worse than fiction.
Monday evening I attended a preview of the first episode of NYC Prep at the Paley Center for Media, followed by a panel discussion with the five high school “cast members” and the show’s producers. While she did not sit with me, my daughter was also in the audience with a group of her high school friends who were there because they know some, if not all, of the “cast members.”
The cast is comprised of two boys and four girls ranging in age from 15 to 18. All but one of the girls goes to an “elite private school” in Manhattan. NYC Prep is very similar in style to the “Real Housewives” franchise, which is no surprise since Bravo’s Andy Cohen produces them all. In this first episode, we are introduced to the teens. PC, the oldest, is also the bad boy of the group. When explaining what it ‘s like to live in NYC, he tells the camera, “Money flows like the wind.” And flow it does. Jessie, PC’s best friend who is also a senior, buys designer clothes and confesses that she never keeps track of her credit card charges. When someone in the audience asked whether, given the fact that much of the country is suffering financially, the producers were worried about a backlash, Andy Cohen shrugged off any such concerns. “Bravo is about presenting a world of fashion, food and culture. We are not CNN and we’re not `Flip This Trailer.’ That’s not what sells.”
The other cast members are younger, either sophomores or juniors in high school. It is interesting to see a range of ages on the show, because we notice that there really is a marked difference in maturity between ages and even genders. One of the teens, Kelli, age 17, lives alone in an apartment on the Upper East Side with her older brother. Her parents live in the Hamptons, even though her father commutes to NYC each day. She is in New York to pursue a singing career. I marveled at how mature she must be to live without any daily parental guidance, but how deprived of a family life she is (although, to be fair, she did mention that the arrangement works well for her family). Another cast member, Camille, also 17, is seen getting her SAT scores. We do not learn the scores, but Camille does have a little meltdown afterwards, leaving us, (and every high school junior who will be watching the show) to speculate on her success. As anyone who has lived through their teenager’s SAT experience knows with certainty, finding out one’s SAT scores and opening the college admissions email should be done in private. It’s doubtful that PC or Jessie will be afforded that privacy when their admissions letters are delivered during the season.
Another audience member expressed concern about the privacy rights of the young cast. Weren’t the teens worried that peers would judge them harshly? Wasn’t anyone concerned about what a college admissions director may think? Didn’t Kelli, the aspiring singer, think about whether the show would hurt her chances of a serious singing career? The cast members’ naïveté was apparent. Kelli told the audience that she had an opportunity to promote her singing and took it. I heard the teenager behind me tell her friend that she was reminded of Living Lohan and how Ali Lohan’s singing career was likewise “launched.” Taylor, the only public school student in the show told the audience, “A lot of us couldn’t care less what people think about us.” While Taylor’s attitude might have seemed a little defiant, I don’t know a single teenager who really feels that way.
NYC Prep gives NYC parents a birds-eye view into their children’s lives (or how their children wish their lives were) and gives the rest of the country another reason to love or hate New York. Parents beware; it also gives our teen’s another excuse for demanding more freedom, no curfew, fewer rules, and lots more money. Get ready.
When we were leaving the show, I ran into my daughter and her friends on the staircase. An older woman in front of us turned to her friend and whispered, “I’m appalled,” just as my daughter and her excited and bubbly friends pronounced the show “amazing.”
NYC Prep premieres on Tuesday, June 16 at 11pm on Bravo.