The Emmy Award winning and Oscar nominated filmmakers behind critically acclaimed ABC primetime documentary specials now tackle the world of teenagers in the 2001 documentary , TEENS GET REAL.
The one-hour documentary was made in association with Teen People Magazine, and was broadcast on The WB Network on FRIDAY night, June 29, 2001 at 8:00 p.m. This was the first documentary special the WB Network has ever aired and, for all we know, the experience was too much for them as to our knowledge they never aired another one. The then barely discovered Columbia recording artist Jessica Simpson hosted.
TEENS GET REAL was no puff-piece or celeb profile, but a brutally honest roller coaster ride through the intense and emotional world of today’s youth. In intimate interviews and revealing verité footage, real teens spoke for themselves about everything from life and death issues (such as AIDS, gangs, death of a parent) to aspects of normal, everyday teen life (getting caught cheating on a test, friendships, being popular, loving music, relations with parents.)
TEENS GET REAL pulled no punches and offered no bullshit. There was no narration and no experts, parents or adults. Instead the documentary offered stories and lives that were the result of real research and interviews with over 900 real teens. What they talked about is what ended up on screen, and by the way, guess what … no “Colombine massacre” sequence!
TEENS GET REAL was made in a unique arrangement with The WB network. The filmmakers paid outright for one hours time from the network and then sold the advertising inventory of the hour by finding sponsors who are willing to put their money where their mouth is — sponsors willling to create better television shows with real stories that people and families could relate to. Johnson & Johnson was the presenting sponsor.
Among it’s other claims to fame, TEENS GET REAL was a pioneer if not the very first ever interactive television show. An internet/call in survey was displayed early in the airing of the program, asking for responses from the watching audiences. Near the programs end, accompanied by the now quaint sound-effect of the dial up modem signal tone, the survey results were shown in an on-screen display of “teen” opinions. Did it work? No – the back up already prepared survey results were run instead. And that is how interactive-TV began …
“We were determined to let the teens speak for themselves.
When they were goofy we let them be goofy on camera. When they cried we let them cry.”
-co-producer/director Gary Weimberg. The Press Enterprise December 11, 2000
“‘No experts, no parents, no actors, no know-it-all journalists, ‘Teens’ is a program that is 100 percent real and 100 true.’”
-Jessica Simpson. The Sacramento Bee. December 11, 2000
Teen People Magazine, with whom the program was made in association with, ran a four-page photo spread on Teens in the week just before broadcast. Did a larger audience result? Well, no way to know, but you could bet we all were sure happy about it. Below you can read the whole thing.
” ‘Teens’ uses a diverse assortment of real kids talking on camera about themselves and their lives, to explode some of the stereotypes about teenagers.’”
Daily News. December 11, 2000
“TEENS GET REAL is…a brutally honest roller coaster ride through the intense and emotional world of today’s youth.”
Teens Get Real Press Release. April 30, 2001