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Television Reviews : A Trip Through the Teen-Ager Mine Field

February 19, 1988|LYNNE HEFFLEY

At first glance, it looks and sounds deceptively like one of those slick, exasperating clothing commercials--you know, the ones where with-it teen-agers make "real" talk while modeling an expensive line of jeans?

But keep watching. RKO's newest "Changing Family" special, "Teen Times," airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on KHJ-TV Channel 9, is a subtle, compassionate and informative look at one of life's most trying times: adolescence.

"La Bamba" star Lou Diamond Phillips hosts the program and "Cosby" kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner makes a guest appearance, but most of this well-crafted hour belongs to a slew of inner-city, Valley and Westside teens, talking about themselves and their concerns: peer pressure, friendship, faith, parents, drugs, AIDS and sex.

With patience and delicacy, Gail Choice (producer, writer and director) uses the camera to reveal the individuals behind their chameleon-like veneers and self-conscious bravado.

Two teens talk candidly about their suicide attempts: We hear the echoes of despair, but it was "dumb," they say now. A former gang member says gangs are a way of commiting suicide "very slowly." One girl talks about growing up in the projects and having mainly "guy friends" because the girls at school think she's "trash."

A smiling graffiti "artist," who says all he needs is a wall, shows off his work--"this is some we done for our friend. He just got out of jail." Later he says glibly, as though knowing it's expected of him: "We just want to have better lives." But his smile fades, and he repeats himself, suddenly looking lost and uncertain.

We're told that the problems of runaways, drug abuse, suicide, pregnancy and violent crime make adolescent life a mine field. Watch this one with your children.

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