Rather than empowered and inspiring, the teens in HBO Max’s drama Generation seem to have rights and to be alien.

If you’re going to produce a show about modern teens, it makes sense to hire an actual teen to create it. Thus ended 19-year-old Zelda Barnz as co-creator of the HBO Max series. Generation with his father, filmmaker Daniel Barnz (Cake, Bestial). Perhaps Zelda brings an important perspective to the series, which is undoubtedly putting a lot of effort to appear authentic and raw. But Generation he tries so hard it’s exhausting, with characters feeling like they have the burden of communicating everything the Barnzes want to say about Gen Z, rather than being allowed to exist as people first.

“I’m, like, a lot,” says lead character Chester (Judge Smith), and that makes him the embodiment of Generation, a flamboyant and flashy queer teenager who is always trying to surprise and embarrass the adults around him. Chester means well but is extremely annoying, which is a good way to describe most of the characters in Generation. By seemingly trying to throw all of Generation Z’s concerns out to the audience within each half-hour episode, the Barnzses have created a show that is the television equivalent of a crying teenager who follows his parents around the house until the exasperated adult consent to a sick person. -Purchase or excursion advised.

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One of GenerationThe selling points are their commitment to diversity, and indeed the characters represent a variety of racial, religious, and class backgrounds. But his other selling point is his forward-thinking perspective on sexuality, and that seems to translate into giving each character the same soft, ill-defined orientation that maximizes the possibility of connections between the attractive cast members. There is even some sexual tension, albeit presumably unintentional, between the twin brother-sister characters who are the Gen-Z equivalent of Brandon and Brenda Walsh of Beverly Hills, 90210.

Chloe East and Uly Schlesinger in Generation

One of those twins is Nathan (Uly Schlesinger), who doesn’t know how to reveal his bisexuality to his somewhat conservative parents. However, among his peers, Nathan is more open and is not ashamed of being in love with Chester. Chester would make a much better romantic partner for Nathan than his current partner Jack (Connor Chavez), who is also the boyfriend of Nathan’s twin sister Naomi (Chloe East). Later, Nathan hooks up with Naomi’s best friend, Arianna (Nathanya Alexander), a horrible person who is easily the most obnoxious character on a show that is full of obnoxious characters.

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The daughter of two gay parents (like Zelda Barnz herself), Arianna makes constant homophobic jokes and other insensitive comments, using her parents’ sexuality as an excuse. “My comedy is edgy,” he scoffs, like he’s a middle-aged comedian who has been called out for his sexist humor. Arianna is just one example of the fine line Generation he often does not walk, and is often presented as a parody of the awakening of youth rather than a celebration. Rather than empowered and inspiring, these teens seem empowered and alien.

The actors do what they can with these cartoonish characters. Chase Sui Wonders is the highlight as the relatively subdued Riley, who is often a voice of reason among the most self-destructive characters, and has a sweet romance in the making with Greta (Haley Sanchez). Smith, the biggest name among teen stars, thanks to his roles in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Detective pikachu and Netflix series The Get Down, offers a great performance to accompany the great personality of Chester that often outshines any other actor with whom he shares the scene.

Justice Smith in Generation

All relationships and interpersonal fights reveal Generation as the latest version of the traditional teen soap opera (and has generated inevitable comparisons with the more serious and elegant Euphoria, an edgy HBO teen series partner). I like it 90210 (both versions) and The oc, takes place in sun-drenched Southern California, with a contrast between wealthy families like Nathan and Naomi and working-class households like Chester or Greta with their aunt and younger sister, who are struggling after the mother of Greta was deported to Mexico. Generation makes superficial references to social issues like that, but cares much more about who is making out with whom.

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That’s not necessarily a problem, and it’s kind of refreshing to see a teen drama broach the serious topic of a school closure (as it happens in the second episode) but focus on what it’s like just another day at school for these kids, with a vague threat. (that doesn’t amount to anything) somewhere in the background. Like a snow day or some other harmless event on a show from decades past, the confinement is primarily an opportunity for the characters to confront their feelings and work out their differences while being forced to be together in a confined space.

But Generation still presents these elements as shocking, and his most contrived story appears in the opening of each of the four episodes available for review, with a trailer of one of the teenagers who gives birth unexpectedly in a mall bathroom after not realize she was pregnant. pregnant. That’s an alarmist story that goes back at least three decades, and the Barnzes don’t put any kind of original or creative twist on it. Worse still is the ongoing thread about Chester trying to seduce his sexy guidance counselor, which is interpreted as a mischievous romance rather than a deep ethical violation (and is a rerun of the teen drama stories from series like dawson’s torrent). It’s just empty, pressing moments in a show that is irritatingly impressed with its own pseudo-transgression.

Starring Justice Smith, Nathanya Alexander, Chloe East, Nava Mau, Lukita Maxwell, Haley Sanchez, Uly Schlesinger, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Chase Sui Wonders, and Martha Plimpton, the first three episodes of Generation premiere March 11 on HBO Max. , with later episodes. debuting every Thursday.

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