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'Yearbook': The Real Thing

March 03, 1991|L.L.

As the saying goes, breaking up is hard to do. So is fighting with your parents, finding out you didn't make homecoming court, and sweating out the results of college applications. Definitely not the kind of stuff you'd want to share with millions of television viewers.

Au contraire , say seniors at suburban Illinois' Glenbard West High School, who willingly bared their souls for Fox's new reality series "Yearbook."

The show, co-executive produced by the Emmy-winning documentary team of Lou Gorfain and Chuck Bangert, premieres Thursday. It offers an unstaged, unrehearsed peek into the lives of teen-agers through documentary-style taping of the real thing. The students aren't actors, and the situations aren't scripted.

"The way we originally conceived it was a John Hughes film, but real," said Gorfain, who compared his job to that of an anthropologist. "We're shooting about 150 to one--meaning for every minute we use we shoot 150 minutes. It's kind of like panning for gold--we wait around and wait around and see what happens."

So far, along with more light-hearted aspects of the high-school experience, the cameras have captured students complaining about their love lives and dealing with pregnancy and pressure from gangs. One student discusses a suicide attempt.

"It is the story of the lives of these teen-agers," said Sue Bridge, Glenbard West's principal. "To the extent that they are open to the camera crew, that is what they will show to the nation.

"We do get the permission of the students and the families," Bridge said.

One of those students, Aaron Campbell, 18, said that he's learned to tune the camera crews out. "They've been in some pretty personal times with me and my family," Campbell said. "They came over one night to see me and my dad talk about college. We started getting in this big argument about financing, one of those when you start out being real civil--definitely one of those father-son type arguments--and you end up at each other's throats. After a while, we didn't even notice (the cameras) were there."

Both Gorfain and Bridge speculate that the proliferation of camcorders have made the students at ease in being in front of the lens.

"We were at a wrestling match recently and there were about 15 families with video cameras shooting their kids wrestling," Gorfain said. "So we're not quite from outer space, either."

But Gorfain admits that his position carries a great deal of responsibility.

"It would be very easy to exploit the hell out of this situation," he says. "There is a very sensitive issue in the first show--a pregnant couple try to salvage their relationship. I could see where some people might interpret it as intrusive, exploitative, but we didn't intend it that way. I hope we handled it well."

"Yearbook" premieres Thursday at 8:30 p.m. and moves into its regular time slot Saturday at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.

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