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SHOWS FOR YOUNGSTERS AND THEIR PARENTS TOO : 'Ready or Not,' here come the teen years and tough troubles

August 21, 1994|N.F. MENDOZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As Ready or Not enters its third season, the show's creators and producers hope to answer a question that troubles many pre-pubescent girls: Am I normal ?

This season, best friends Amanda (Laura Bertram) and Busy (Lani Billard) experience a typical bevy of emotional and physical upheavals. Amanda, the "ready" of the two, and Busy, the "not" part of the duo, encounter familial separations and reconciliations, first love, jealousy, racism, deceit, identity issues and more.

"We're exploring classic dilemmas," says Alyse Rosenberg, creator and executive producer of the new season. "The three different areas we're looking at are family dynamics, relationships and sexuality."

Focus shifts between the girls' home, school and personal lives. Early on, the dynamics of the family are examined, as Busy begins to see a family therapist. "During the season, we'll see how Busy and her family really benefit from therapy, and grow closer together," Rosenberg says. "Later, as Busy's family is mending itself, Amanda starts to fall apart."

Amanda's anger about her parents' separation leads to an exploration of "all the issues within her family," Rosenberg says, including "what do you call your mother's boyfriend's daughter? What's your relationship with her?"

When Amanda's mother begins a serious new relationship, sexual issues come into play. "We look at what becomes the most upsetting, how distressing it is for kids and how they react," says Rosenberg.

Sexual themes--and curiosity about them--run throughout the season. There are several looks at feelings, what's normal and what's not.

An upcoming show, with both girls as its focus, explores the difference between what is consentual and what is not, Rosenberg says. "We look at sexual abuse in contrast to mutuality," she says. "It becomes about knowing that you're in control about choosing to kiss someone."

While Billard, 15, and Bertram, 16, are older than the 11-to-12-year-olds they play this season, Bertram says, "it hasn't presented any problems. We're believable in the roles."

Bertram can often relate to the show: "It's sort of like what I'm going through with my own family," she reflects. "We're at a rebellious phase and it gets tense between your family and you. (It depicts) how emotional things can be."

Bertram offers her own take on the preteen and teen years. "Teens don't mean to be self-absorbed, but they are! Everything is new and so much is happening. They don't know what's right, just what they think is important. Adults have a lot of different values and don't always see eye to eye with kids."

"It's been tempting," Rosenberg says, "to play out the entire circumstance we've set up, to write a solution for the issues brought up in each episode, but I made a rule, no more 'I'm sorry' episodes." Rosenberg adds that she wanted to make sure that the show's situations about real-life issues mirror real-life responses, which don't always produce the happiest of endings. "The world," she philosophizes, "is not just black and white."

Bertram offers, "The show is pretty realistic. It doesn't make fun of them (pre-pubescent girls), doesn't turn it into a joke. The topics are serious to kids and adolescents, from their perspectives so they know what to expect and know that they're not alone."

"Ready or Not" airs Sundays at 5 p.m. For ages 8 and up.

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