Length: 8 x episodes (30-35 minutes each)
Can you imagine having to be a teenager again? Going through that mutant clown show of insecurity, puberty, zits, unfortunate haircuts, bad relationships and even worse decisions? Blergh. No, thank you. Once was more than enough, cheers ta.
It’s definitely worse in 2021, mind you. See, these days you not only have to contend with being a crazed, hormone-addled gronk but also every mistake you make will be recorded by one of your boofhead mates, immortalising your public humiliation for The Gram!
Genera+ion is the latest TV show that attempts to mine that mercifully short but very memorable period of existence, and the result is patchy but enjoyable for the most part.
Genera+ion tells the tale of a group of mostly queer high school students, doing teenagery things. It’s the kind of plot light dramedy that lives or dies based on its characters, and to be fair they’re pretty solid here.
There’s the spectacularly flamboyant, out and proud, Chester (Justice Smith) who is shock value personified in a fetching crop top, there’s closeted Nathan (Uly Schlesinger) who feels guilty keeping sexual identity secret from his twin sister Naomi (Chloe East), which is especially awkward because he’s getting it on with her boyfriend, there’s terminally awkward Greta (Haley Sanchez) who desperately needs some self confidence and the profoundly insufferable Delilah (Lukita Maxwell) who is so woke she should probably take a nap, for everyone else’s sake as much as her own.
They’re an agreeable enough bunch of teens, all well acted, on journeys that seem at least within cooee of reality. This veracity probably comes from the fact the show is created by 19-year-old Zelda Barnz, with assistance from one of her fathers Daniel Barnz and producer Lena Dunham (Girls).
A big point of difference of the show is that it’s meant to be authentic and “not filtered through the lens of adults”. It’s ironic then that easily the most nuanced and interesting character is adult school counsellor, Sam (Nathan Stewart-Jarrett) who is openly gay and utterly at ease with Chester’s more spectacular attempts to shock.
The stories in the batch of episodes available for review are a mixed bag, due largely to the ensemble cast. One riveting yarn set during an active shooter lockdown manages to be both impressively nuanced and quite tense while another - involving a teen giving birth to a baby she didn’t know she was pregnant with (done much better in Stan’s Bump btw) - is less deft.
The thing is, shows about teens being all drugged up and sexy is hardly pushing the envelope these days. Hell, HBO itself has another similarly-themed show, Euphoria, in its stable which is more melodramatic but significantly more memorable. Genera+ion on the other hand? It’s… fine?
The 30(ish) minute running time for each episode means it rarely outstays its welcome, but at the same time you never feel like you truly know and love these people.
It’s certainly impressive that a 19-year-old can co-create a show like this, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of work Zelda Barnz does moving forwards. In its current incarnation, however, Genera+ion feels more like a first draft than the culmination of a great idea.
The kids are alright, and so is this show, so don’t go expecting to have your mind blown and you’ll likely have a decent time.
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