If a teen-ager were sitting at home at 4:30 this afternoon (i.e., if it rains), watching public television's "Checking It Out" would be one mildly interesting way of spending half an hour.
This slick half-hour news show on Channel 26 is directed at teens -- mainly Hispanic teens -- and features teen-age reporters. The premiere of the series takes a look at the worlds of fashion modeling and "low riders" -- cars with bodies that almost skim the ground.
This well-paced magazine show examines subjects already dealt with by newspapers and television, but the program is interesting and balanced. One different aspect -- each reporter follows his English remarks with a summary in Spanish (subtitled in English.) This is helpful to both Spanish-speaking viewers and English speakers learning Spanish.
The bane of a youth-oriented program like this would be a patronizing tone, and this one does a fairly good job of avoiding that. It brushes the border in the modeling segment where the people interviewed talk at some length about how tough and sleazy the business can be. The reporter dispenses information with a sober face and a tone that says "Beware."
The program communicates that warning more compellingly when it shows modelmeister Eileen Ford expounding on "the current popular look in models" as "sweetly sexy -- it's very preppy" followed by a scene with an attractive Latin girl who is asked who told her she was too Latin-looking to be a model. "Eileen Ford," she responds. The show then cuts back to a smiling Ford saying, "If I get reborn, I'm going to look like Cheryl Tiegs. To me she's the ideal-looking American girl." Point made.
The low riders segment, filmed in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, does a thorough job of showing the complexities of a situation where well-intentioned teens who put loving care into fixing up cars are often confused with cruising gang members by frustrated police. Says one police detective in Los Angeles: "Out there are officers reaching a point of frustration. . . . It's like a rubber band. It's going to break."