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TV Preview: ABC's faux-documentary 'My Generation'

By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 23, 2010; C02

Forgive me when I whine that it seems too soon to make a TV show about people who graduated from high school in 2000. That's just the Aleve talking.

Oh, of course I care about 28-year-olds. They're totes adorbs. Everyone cares about 28-year-olds, especially when they come to office staff meetings and seem so bored by what the rest of us have to say.

Yet even the most self-infatuated 20-somethings do not deserve the punishment of wallowing in ABC's new faux-documentary, "My Generation," premiering Thursday night.

It should not be confused with a mockumentary, which would imply that it's funny. This is more like an ABC [Way] Afterschool Special: At 28, people find out they're infertile. People have sexless marriages and drinking problems. People have husbands in Afghanistan. People gave birth to your son nine months after prom night, but haven't told you that you're the father until now. People have something important to tell you but can't find the courage to say it. (So naturally they tell the omniscient documentary camera, which is always there.)

The show, based on a Swedish series called "On God's Highway," is all high-minded make-believe, occasionally tender, but often reaching haplessly for cinéma vérité. There really is not much worse than watching actors struggle to pretend they're in a documentary. The title "My Generation" unfortunately conjures up the Who's baby boomer anthem, which will always belong to "Their" Generation -- you know who -- and Nobody Else's.

Here, an unidentified filmmaker has returned to Austin to catch up with nine men and women who appeared in a documentary about being a high school senior in 2000. The whole show is based on the -- sadly true -- idea that people love nothing more than to sit in front of the camera and talk about their feelings.

While we are not immediately told if the original documentary was a big success or not (or why these nine adults would agree to appear in sequel) we are reminded of how very long ago it was made: Monicagate! Eminem! A lucid and tight-stomached Britney! Y2K! Remember? We see the characters in clothes and hairstyles that haven't had time to really go too far out of style.

In a clip from "back then," the seniors are each asked by the unseen female narrator to describe their future, in one word. The hip-hopper who calls himself the Falcon (Sebastian Sozzi) answers "MP3s."

"Which means what?" the narrator asks.

"You'll see."

And so the "film crew" goes off in search of the nine, mainly to see if the stereotypes held up. For some inexplicable reason, they've lost touch with one another. But who in the class of '00 can't find out everything they need to know about former classmates with just the click of a search engine?

Did the class overachiever ("Cloverfield's" Michael Stahl-David) pursue politics or become a doctor? (Neither! He's a surf bum in Hawaii.) The also-overachieving Latina (Daniella Alonso) is a lawyer in Washington. Does she still pine for the rich kid (Julian Morris) who wound up marrying the cheerleader (Jaime King) after she came home from chasing her Hollywood dreams with a mere "Bachelor" contestant credit to her name?

Does the nerd (Keir O'Donnell) who wanted so badly to marry and have children ever find a wife or have children? No. All he has his unrequited love for the class party girl (Kelli Garner), who is pregnant with class jock's (Mehcad Brooks) baby.

And off it goes from there, so much angst from such pretty people; so many awkward glances at the camera in failed attempts at realism. And anyhow, "My Generation's" super-serious self-regard and tone make me wonder: Whatever happened to baby Janey Steadman from "thirtysomething"?

She could just as well be here on "My Generation," all grown up, and as existentially adrift as her parents, those iconic troubled yuppies, Michael and Hope. It turns out their privileged tedium was hereditary, but easier to watch.

My Generation

(one hour) debuts Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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