If your entire perception of American high schools was based on “Boston Public,” you”d probably want to jump the border to Canada. The show”s Winslow High is a breeding ground for every teenage problem imaginable. Tune in and you”ll be fed a steady diet of bunk sexual advice, limb dissections, stolen protheses, drug problems and rampant, overdramatic bickering. In its second year, “Boston Public” loses its status as an original, lively ensemble drama. The spark of last year has instead been replaced with irrevelant subplots and a general lack of heart.
It”s not the acting that is the problem this year. On the contrary, the additions of ex-trekkie bombshell Jeri Ryan and cult-movie regular Michael Rappaport are most welcome. Ryan plays Ronnie Cook, a disillusioned lawyer who wants to revitalize her spirit with some high school teaching. Cook”s transition to Winslow is met with resentment but she is unafraid to make herself both likable and feared. Ryan not only adds a much needed sex appeal to the cast, but also a strong female personality to clash with the show”s males. While the other female teachers tend to back off in the presence of authority figures like Principal Steven Harper (Chi McBride), Ryan”s Tomb Raider boobs and no-nonsense attitude are a force to be reckoned with.
Last year”s cliffhanger erupted into this year”s irritating subplot. We find out that student Jeremy Peters locked his mother, Meredith (Kathy Baker), in the basement to retaliate against many years of her fascist parenting. Instead of leaving the story alone (which probably would have been the more savory option), the show”s writers opted to bring Mrs. Peters in as a recurring character. Every week we get an unhealthy dose of this creepy woman and her larger-than-life prosthetic hook.
Rather than the sentimental, realistic portrayals of student/teacher relationships from the first season, “Boston Public” is drenched in petty arguing and genuine gross outs. Why do we have to see close-ups of Mrs. Peters caressing the face of Assistant Principal Scott Guber (Anthony Heald) with that metal contraption? And why do we have to witness a funeral for Mrs. Peters” beloved right extremity?
Either the writers are stretching to find material or they find the Guber/Peters relationship a saccharine love story. I don”t buy it. Guber, Harper, and Mrs. Peters seem to be dominanting the show, but I”d rather see more from Winslow”s more developed characters, such as teacher Harry Senate (Nicky Katt). McBride”s Principal Harper has become such a one-note tyrant that his angry diatribes have become stale.
“Boston Public” is so conflict-filled that we we wonder if there”s any hardworking, mentally sound students at Winslow High. And the one who we thought had two feet on the ground, Jeremy Peters, turned out to be a total whack job with an axe to grind.
So if you want to spend your Monday nights watching a soap opera that just happens to take place in a high school, then tune into “Boston Public.” But if you”d rather watch an engrossing, thoughtful drama, then you”d best get your education elsewhere.