Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on October 15, 2008


typewriter5         If you comb back through the annals of American television, you’ll see that we have a long history of casting 30-year-old actors and actresses as 18-year-old high school students.  In fact, I would not be at all surprised to learn that there exists a secret pact among network executives that declares all actors under the age of 25 ineligible to play high school freshmen on the CW.  It’s like some weird, twisted version of the NBA Draft’s new 19-year-old age requirement that has been designed to keep Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin from growing up and stealing roles from Kirsten Dunst.  So, keeping this phenomenon in mind, let’s look at a few examples of the pattern:

         Example 1) – Beverly Hills, 90210.  This one may be a little too old for some of you to remember, but we’ll consider it first as it establishes an historical precedent.  I’m pretty sure that not a single actor or actress on this show was under the age of 30 when they were cast, with the possible exception of the guy who played David Silver.  Just think about how preposterous some of the choices were that the show’s producers made.  Both Jason Priestley and Luke Perry had visibly receding hairlines by the time they started hanging out at The Peach Pit, and Tiffani Amber-Thiessen joined the cast of the show as a high school transfer student from Buffalo after having already played Bayside High’s Kelly Kapowski on Saved by the Bell for at least 6 years.  Do the math – it can’t be possible.  But this isn’t even the worst.  Andrea Zuckerman, who attended West Beverly Hills High School from 1990-1994, was born in – this is just unbelievable – 1961.

         Example 2) – Dawson’s Creek.  In 1998, the Parents Television Council proclaimed Dawson’s Creek “the single worst program on television.”  While I’m pretty sure this rating is meant to be a warning for parents about the sexually explicit content of the show, I’d like to think the award was instead handed out to honor James Van Der Beek as the least believable 14-year-old in history.  Seriously.  Think back to your freshman year at good old Abraham Lincoln High.  How many guys do you remember who had to shave at lunch to keep their 5 o’clock shadow from busting through their makeup?

         Example 3) – The O.C.  Here again, we see the wizardry of Hollywood Math in action.  Fact: Adam Brody is older than I am.  This means he’s also older than Albert Pujols, Conor Oberst, C.C. Sabathia, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Scwartzman, Tony Romo, John Krasinski, and Jason Segel.  Can you imagine?  And Seth Cohen didn’t graduate from high school until 2006.  Even stranger – Seth was supposed to be Newport Beach’s awkward, nerdy kid who gets beat up a lot.  As my friend Clark points out in his forthcoming book, Hipster Philosophy, this casting is “just ridiculous.  Seth Cohen would have been the third best-looking kid in my graduating class of 450, and would have probably been the fourth coolest.  What are the real nerds supposed to do when they compare themselves to Adam Brody?  It’s no wonder the average teenager has issues.”  Exactly.  And this is what makes the following so noteworthy…

         Earlier this year, the producers of One Tree Hill, after similarly casting a group of 26-year-old models (and one MTV vee-jay) as students at Tree Hill High School, boldly decided just to fast-forward the plot of the show 4-and-a-half years into the future, skipping college altogether – presumably because no one would believe the Shakespeare-quoting Chad Michael Murray wasn’t one of their teachers.  At the same time, the show decided to drop that Gavin DeGraw song with the video where everyone is wearing a scarf as their theme music.  Evidently, they decided that they did indeed “want to be anything other than what [they] been tryin’ to be lately.”  I say, on both counts…good for you, One Tree Hill.  On behalf of the professors of America, thank you for deciding to stop mind-fucking the nation’s undergraduate population with your impossibly cast college students.

          Look, I want to make this as clear as possible, so students, listen to me.  I am on campus every day, and I see this over and over again.  You have got to get past the fact that you do not look like a cover model – because no one else does either, and you are all driving yourself crazy.  Almost every girl I’ve ever dated since high school has had some sort of body-issue that can be blamed on popular culture, and there were at least 6 dudes in my fraternity who were anorexic (think about that – 6 dudes!!!).

         Every semester, I read papers that just scream out, “please tell me I’m okay.”  Well…you are okay.  You’re just fine.  You’ve got to understand that these night-time teen soap operas cast professional models, dressed by professional fashion consultants, to deliver incredibly witty lines written by professional writers.  And the real-world just isn’t like that.  In fact, it’s much closer to the world as depicted by the new generation of teen-comedy movies.  Most of you look a lot more like McLovin, or Michael Cera, or those three kids from Drillbit Taylor than you do Ryan Atwood, and you can’t all date Sophia Bush.  So make the most of your potential, but be okay with who you are.  Stay fit (this doesn’t mean take steroids), dress well (this doesn’t mean you need to run up $10,000 on a Barney’s credit card), and be nice – and you’ll find you have all the opportunities you want with the opposite sex.  Then, who knows.  Maybe five years after graduation you’ll get a call from the CW asking you to audition for a new teen horror drama – Dracula High: The Locker Stalkers, or something equally ridiculous.

16 Responses

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  1. Snoop-A-Loop said, on October 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Best post yet, Dr. Wizard. Hilarious and insightful as usual. However, I must point out a simple mathematical error. You state that “I’m pretty sure that not a single actor or actress on this show (90210) was under the age of 30 when they were cast, with the possible exception of the guy who played David Silver.” Wiz — you state Gabrielle Carteris was born in 1961 and played Andrea Zuckerman who “attended West Beverly Hills High School form 1990-1994.”. 1990-1961=29 i.e. that Jesse-lovin’ woman was 29 when she was cast (which is less than 30). On a side note, who would have guessed that she would be the first 90210 vixen to have a baby out of wedlock? I bet Brandon’s kicking himself now…he could have hit that all week long and twice on Sundays but no one could have guessed that the four-eyed newspaper editor would put out like Kelly Taylor.

  2. UVA Mike said, on October 16, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Snoop – good bust on the Zuckerman math – I was totally thinking the same thing!!! Evidently, Wizard doesn’t teach arithmetic. But how funny is it that Seth Cohen is older than the guy that plays Marshall on “How I Met Your Mother”? And Albert Pujols looks like he’s 40. insane!!!

  3. MS said, on October 16, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Hey kids, aspire to be this kind of beautiful:

  4. UVA Mike said, on October 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    The one on the left or the one on the right?

  5. MS said, on October 16, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Mike, I’m sure you meant to ask, “MS, do you mean Tom or Elvis?” To which I would respond, “You really can’t go wrong with either now can you?” And in turn, after careful consideration, you would answer, “No, MS, I suppose you cannot, but that is why I actively seek the advice of wise sages such as yourself and Dr. Wizard.” I would, at this point, of course, take a metaphorical bow, noting it’s just my job, man, and I happen to enjoy what I do. And you would ultimately counter with, “Well played, sir, well played.” Upon departure you would begin watching Jim Jarmusch films, listening to This Year’s Model and Swordfishtrombones, drinking classy drinks, and enrolling in upper-division English classes because you firmly believe that is the only way to save humanity (Or at least that’s how it played out for me when I was an undergraduate and my very own version of Dr. Wizard gifted me a copy of Dead Man and a bottle of Montes Malbec 1996, explaining that he noticed I had been toting around a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories so I must “give a shit”). I did, and I do.

    There is a surprising number of quality television being broadcasted or collected on DVD. Why are people watching 90210 and One Tree Hill when they could be relishing in the brilliance of Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Flight of the Concords, Gilmore Girls, The Office, or Rescue Me?

  6. J. Harris, Ph. D. said, on October 16, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Dr. Wizard,

    I think you make a valid point here, and also make a number of comedic insights into popular television culture, but how is the misrepresentation of college life in these shows any different than the damage done to student ambition by a show like Entourage, which you admit is one of your favorites?

    J. Harris
    U of Montana

  7. the marquette 6 said, on October 16, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Okay, so there’s six of us sitting around reading todays entry together in the Marquette library and we just decided to make one big group comment…

    from meghan: Isn’t dr. wizard’s point that older people shouldn’t portray high school and college students ‘cuz its bad for their self-esteem. what does that have to do with Entourage? i don’t think that comment makes any sense.

    from Pruett: MS, you are awesome but also slightly disturbing!

    fromm Jake: as a die hard Brewers fan I can attest to the fact that CC sabathia does not look 28 years old. my older brother (who has 3/4 of an economics degree from UW-M is 28, still lives at home, and works at Wendy’s) is 29, and CC looks at least 10 years older than him. irony: how does he spend his time? watching dawsons creeks reruns.

    from Gina Palazzo: …but Jake, the point’s not really that Adam Brody is 28 – it’s that he’s too good looking to be a nerd.

    Corey: Andrea Zuckerman = slut. That Gavin Degraw song = the most annoying thing ever written.

    from sarah m.: MS, your list of acceptable television shows is okay – but have you ever watched One Tree Hill (I doubt it)? It’s a great show. Even if the Sophia Bush and Hilarie Burton look nothing like any high school girl I’ve ever seen.

  8. MS said, on October 16, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    What’s up Marquetteians! From one product of the Jesuit educational system to the six of you: good to have you aboard.

    Pruett, this is what my students tell me. I wonder if slightly disturbing is a good or a bad thing?

    Jake, as a die-harder Indians fan I can agree with you that CC Sabathia does not look 28 years old. Take a look at LeBron James, he’s 24 -that’s a real mindfuck.

    Sarah, Oh, I’ve seen it. I think what really upsets me is that Tristan from Gilmore Girls is on that show and I am just too invested in GG to accept him in a different role. Same reason I can’t watch Supernatural. I mean, one of the characters’ name is actually Dean, but it isn’t Jared Padalecki, what the shit is that all about? Anyhow, I do occasionally still see bits of One Tree Hill since it is on after Gossip Girl (I’m beginning to see why Pruett thinks I’m slightly disturbing , and how I’m beginning to undermine my own list of ‘good shows’), and I’m not saying it’s a ‘bad’ concept, just poorly written. And when it comes down to it, most stories are pretty good, where they fail is in execution by the writers.


  9. Sarah said, on October 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    What is UCDB? Is that one of the Universities of California? I’m finishing up my MA thesis on Flannery O’Connor at Georgetown. I want to know where you teach so I can apply. Do you teach any courses on O’Connor? I’ve been reading your posts, they’re really funny and spot on. If I ever visit your campus, let’s get a beer (or 1.5 X what we usually drink in a weekend). Is there an MS blog out there or do you just comment all over the place?

    (favorite Tom Waits song?)

  10. CS said, on October 16, 2008 at 10:57 pm

    Damn – a love connection a-brewin’ thanks to Dr. Wiz? Who knew that the combination of Flannery O’Connor and Tom Waits was such a powerful aphrodisiac? I can see the first date now: “So, do you think the protagonist in ‘Going Out West’ is a recreation of the Misfit in ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’?” Magical.

    But to answer MS’ original question: Waits or Costello? Depends – do you want to create your own junk-store mythology out of busted guitars and pawn-shop marimbas or write devastating lyrics with nothing more than acerbic wordplay and new-wave aesthetics? Can it please be both? I’m sure that MS has Tom and Elvis’ duet “I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know” tucked away on some ancient hard-drive or CD-R.

  11. drwizard said, on October 16, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    All right – so some interesting things going on today at Dr. Wizard’s Advice…

    First off, welcome to new readers/commenters from Marquette and Georgetown! Glad to have you visiting the site.

    Second, in Defense of Entourage: I’m not so sure that the show does significant damage to student ambition. Granted, Entourage depicts a lifestyle that most of us will never be a part of, but who on the show lacks a work ethic? Turtle? Maybe, but he did have the wherewithal to discover and sign Saigon. Vince and Drama are both working actors; Eric is definitely a mover and a shaker – I anticipate that Season 5 will see a continuation of the rise of the Murphy Group; and Ari has to be just about the most driven Hollywood agent in history. So again, how does this comparison work? It’s not as if Adrian Grenier is being portrayed as a teenager. In fact, in the pilot the guys head off to their ten-year-reunion, which is about right. So, unless you’ve got further points to make J. Harris, I’ll go ahead and finish off this comment the way Johnny Drama finishes off every episode of Viking Quest – VICTORY!!!!!!!

  12. drwizard said, on October 16, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Oh, and by the way, that picture of McLovin makes me so happy.

  13. funktifiedacoustic said, on October 17, 2008 at 2:28 am

    I’d like to say that I’d rather aspire to Elvis Costellian looks: Diana Krall, ipso facto.

  14. MS said, on October 17, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    No, I’m on the other side of the pond.

    Though I love O’Connor, I am not an Americanist, and therefore do not have the opportunity to teach any courses on her works.(CS, I’d rather talk about Revelations or Everything that Rises Must Converge. And you must send me a bootleg of “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know” because when my desktop melted last year I lost my Mp3. Also, Wicked E.T. is looking for a keyboardist if you’re interested – see comments to Lesson #20).


    Um. (For further explanation as to the various meanings of the word ‘um’ as used here, see Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Wampeaters, Foma, and Granfalloons).

    My Blogs: “Dr. Doctor’s Doctoring of Doctored Doctorates.” It’s basically a conjugation (not conjugal) blog. Most people aren’t interested in such interesting interests, so I suppose – supposing your interest in commenting on my comments, which I will, in return, have commented upon – you’ll want to read (having read) my secondary blog, “Comments in the Comments section of Dr. Wizard’s Advice for College Students.” If this ever turns into a book, I plan on coming out with an annotated edition, thus launching myself into a prosperous career as the leading Dr. Wizard Scholar.

    Couldn’t possibly pick a favorite, but I could narrow it down to around 20 or so, if you’re interested.

  15. seamstress for the band said, on October 17, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    MS–can you watch “Heroes”? I know I can’t…and I feel sorry for the next role Logan Huntzberger plays because I’m not tuning into that one either.

  16. MS said, on October 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Seamstress for the band,
    Though I’m aware that ‘the band’ probably refers to the widely popular and critically acclaimed Hardly Portland (and if it doesn’t, and you actually mean, The Band, were you on from the beginning back when they were The Hawks, backing up Ronnie Hawkins, or after they split and became The Levon Helm Sextet in 1964, and then stuck with them during the ’65-’66 tour with Dylan when they actually became The Band?), are you going to play a similar role for Wicked E.T.? And if so, can I require an outfit that requires an ascot?

    And to answer your question, no, I cannot watch Heroes. Mainly because the way GG ended allows one to create their own ending in a way, and I still think Rory and Jess hook up after Obama wins the presidency and her journalistic services are no longer needed on the road, so she settles in NYC with him.

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