Today I want to talk about one of the defining issues of our times. It’s not health care or peace in the Middle East or climate change. No, it’s something much more serious than that. I want to talk about actors in their 30s who play high school students on TV.
When I was 15 the original Beverly Hills, 90210 TV series was in its heyday. I was a big fan. I tuned in religiously to see what Brenda, Brandon and the gang were up to. And what they were mostly up to was playing characters much younger than themselves. They pretended to engage in drama that really, for the adults they actually were, wasn’t all that shocking. When the second season debuted in 1991 everyone on the show was supposed to be around 16. However, the real age of the 8 actors portraying teenagers ranged from 18 to 30, with an average of 22.5. By graduation day 2 1/2 years later ‘student’ Gabrielle Carteris was 32 years old.
That was almost 20 years ago now. Surely things have changed, right? In the era of HDTV, can a 30-something actor really pull off playing someone in their teens? I’m not sure, but based on two current TV shows set in high school things just may have gotten worse.
I love Glee. I don’t have cable but I manage to tune in every week over the internet. My kids and I listen to the music and dance while we make dinner. But in order to enjoy the show I have to ignore the fact that the ‘teenagers’ are stretching the bounds of believability. The actors playing 13 of the students range in age from 19 to 27, with an average of 23.2. And my guilty pleasure, the embarrassingly awful new 90210 series, is even worse. On that show, the actors playing teenagers have actual ages of 20 to 31, with an average of 24. On the last episode that I watched one of the ‘high school students’ had wrinkles.
I have often thought that I was too old to play a 17-year-old on TV. I may look young for my age, but I certainly don’t think that I look like a teenager. But based on my research, that doesn’t matter. So maybe if this writing and speaking thing doesn’t pan out I should consider acting. And heck, you should, too. Because apparently it’s totally cool in TV high school if one of the students is actually 6 years older than his teacher.
OK, so maybe it’s really not one of the defining issues of our times. But still, it kind of cheeses me off. Call it a pet peeve, or a petty quibble. I wonder if I am the only one who feels this way. Tell me, what bugs you in terms of casting choices for TV shows or movies? Is it 60-something men with 20-something love interests? The way that pregnancy and childbirth are portrayed? Bad writing? Please share!