Wednesday, March 29, 2006

'The Bedford Diaries'

I can't say I usually make it a habit of watching TV shows on the WB, but this Times article about the series premiere of "The Bedford Diaries" piqued my interest. I never watched "Felicity," which was supposed to take place around NYU, so I don't know how accurate WB shows attempt to be when dealing with New York City colleges, but this one certainly raised a few questions for me.

I did notice what Alessandra Stanley described as "Harold Bloom's nightmare" — the seeming lack of academic content in the college courses depicted. The sex seminar looks more like a therapy session than anything else. No wonder the character played by Broadway star Audra McDonald, who only appears briefly in the first show, seems to be hounding the professor who runs the course for a syllabus.

But that wasn't all: If this is supposed to be the beginning of the school year, then why is there snow on the ground and why is the sun setting so early? It's supposed to be Manhattan, not northern Maine, right?

The two universities "Bedford" seems to resemble most are NYU and Columbia/Barnard. The rash of suicides in the fictional plot echoes the real-life "trend" at NYU a few years back, while the on-screen campus — in that the students appear to be walking around on a somewhat self-contained campus, other than one just centered around a city park — evokes the uptown school. I'd mention City College as well, but one bit of dialogue seemed to indicate that tuition at the school is high.

Another thing that I wondered about was the ethics and rationale behind the student newspaper publishing an article about the one professor's relationships with female students. If there is no rule against it, as one character notes, and the students involved aren't planning on filing harrassment charges, and each was of age at the time, then what's the argument for printing articles about it, beyond just warning innocent freshmen about the guy, as one of the two women suggests? Perhaps this will be made clear as the series goes on, but I don't see it. Perhaps the guy's a scoundrel, but that doesn't mean he deserves to have his private life revealed. And the headline they show, something like "Professor Accused of Sexual Misconduct," seems to imply that he did actually cross some line, either with respect to the school or the state, which would seem to contradict what we'd learned earlier in the episode.

And I know it's just a TV show, and they might not be able to afford "staff" for a buzzing newsroom, but why is the editor-in-chief of a major college paper the one who's out covering student government meetings, writing big exposes, and handling touchy ethical situations? Whatever happened to division of labor?

While we're picking apart the show, how about that teaser the N.Y.C. local news kept playing throughout the show? About real-life college courses about sex? If you're looking for a lame trend, how about this unfortunate, growing tendency of local TV news teams to turn a channel's entertainment content into fodder for feature segments. This isn't even as bad as some "stories" I've heard about, where the anchors and producers "report on" what just happened in some TV program or what's going to happen next week, etc.

One last item on the evening's topics: For the third year in a row, New York University topped a survey of prospective students who were asked what their "dream school" would be. When parents were asked what their first choice would be, Princeton won out, and NYU didn't even break the top 10. Hmmm. Could that be because NYU has gotten the reputation as where you go to school if you want to major in New York City, with a minor in academics? Certainly doesn't seem to hurt them, as the university "receives more applications for undergraduate admission than any other private U.S. school."

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