4 One-hour Public Television and Radio Programs produced in association with
Maryland Public Television and the University of Maryland

"The American teenager, caught in the crosswinds
of puberty and inexperience..."

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          Media Entertainment is producing for Public Television and Radio a new documentary series about the history of the American teenager. Caught in the crosswinds of puberty and inexperience, teenagers are notoriously obsessed with their complexions, their appearance, their social life, typical teenage problems that have spawned a thriving industry of advice-givers, guidance counselors, orthodontists, dermatologists. Their legendary need to fit in with the crowd generates healthy profits for a host of businesses from clothing manufacturers to pop music producers, teenagers are almost driven to keep up with the latest products and styles, marketers point out. With a population of 25 million and counting (there should be almost 31 million teenagers by 2006, an all-time high), they constitute a red-hot consumer market worth $89 billion, almost ten times what the market was reportedly worth in 1957, when Elvis Presley was riding high.

          And that doesn’t begin to count the $200 billion their parents spend on them either, a healthy figure in anyone’s book.

          Indeed, ever since the word "teenager" first came into popular use around the time of World War II, the group has been linked to "buying power and influence," a heady combination that promised big business to postwar movie makers, cosmetic firms, clothes manufacturers, and even grocery stores. At the time, the change was revolutionary, only a decade or so earlier, most teenage children had worked for a living. In fact some had been required to pay back the debts they had incurred in childhood before they were free to leave the family home!How did the American teenager go from that prewar position to this one: where retail chains, like Urban Outfitters and the Gap, vie for their business; magazine publishers offer Seventeen, Sassy, YM, and Teen (among others); and television networks like MTV, the WB, and Fox, program with their demographics in mind. Newspapers, from the Staten Island Advance to the Sante Fe New Mexican, feature weekly sections devoted to teenage issues that range from roller-blading to body-piercing, from prom clothes to mosh pits, to what’s hot and what’s not. Documentary and feature films showcased at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival portray this new generation of disaffected teenagers, drug-addled, lying, cheating, stealing, and flunking out of school. What happened?

          With author Grace Palladino, a University of Maryland social historian and author of the widely acclaimed "Teenagers: An American History", and film, television, and music archives at the University of Maryland, the National Archives, and the Smithsonian Institution, Media Entertainment proposes to tell this story in four riveting hours for public television in 2005. It is a public broadcasting series and cultural legacy project unprecedented in scope and ambition. "The American Teenager" will present an in-depth examination of the transformation of America over the past century.

          Through the eyes of teenagers, the series will examine the mores, fashions, sex, drugs, education, television, movies, music, MTV, parenting, the Internet and the politics of America and the American teenager from 1900 to 2004. In addition to historical and archival material, the producers will conducts scores of interviews with educators, psychologists, historians, and of course, teenagers.

          Over four exciting hours - Part One, 1900 to 1949; Part Two, 1950 to 1974; Part Three, 1975 to 2000; and Part Four, entirely devoted to present day and what the future might hold, with the extensive participation of present day teens and experts. Music will play a major roll in the series, considering that what teens listened to back at the turn of the century was very much what their parents were listening to. Eventually that all began to change, and music, at least the kind that teenagers supported, would never be the same. Frank Sinatra and Johnny Ray were the earlier versions of Elvis Presley, causing women to scream and shout (and faint). Bob Dylan’s explosive entry into the pop music scene marked the official rise of an alternative youth culture. Presley gave us sometimes banned swiveling hips, popular music, and bad films. Then there were four mop-heads from England known as The Beatles. It was never the same after that.

          Movies obviously had a significant influence on teenagers, as did the coming of television. What teens saw at the movies and on television is what they wanted to be, whether it was Randolph Scott riding the plains, James Dean racing a car in "Rebel Without a Cause" or Princess Leia Organa zipping around the galaxy in "Star Wars." Teenage sex had come out of the closet with movies like "Where the Boys Are," "Blue Denim," and "A Summer Place," which eventually led to "9 1/2 Weeks" and a frank sexuality that continues to this day. Television was not far behind with such early series as "Peyton Place," which eventually led to "NYPD Blue," "The Sopranos," and "Queer as Folk," with its frank depiction of gay sex.

          The arrival of MTV and the Internet marked a turning point in our culture that will forever be known as the final step in commercialization of the American teen. Teenagers now had their own television channel and their own window to the world at the touch of a keyboard. These new instruments, one musical, one almost universal, told teens what to say, what music to listen to, what to wear, and how to act. They were now in control of their own world, one that catered to them and one that most parents couldn’t begin to understand, or for that matter deal with. Teenagers had gone to hell in a hand basket, or had they?

          Working with collections including the Estelle Ellis Collection in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the archives of Seventeen Magazine at the Smithsonian, the records of the Children’s Bureau and the National Youth Administration at the National Archives and Record Administration, and a variety of film and audio archives at the University of Maryland and libraries around the country, Media Entertainment will bring this great history alive across a variety of media.

          With television, libraries, and universities interacting, television is becoming a window onto such libraries and digital content repositories. Television is soon to open millions of minds each week to the role of history in our lives, and take them on lessons and tours. It is becoming the truest portal, beaming, hopefully beaming intelligent television, into millions of homes through an appliance that is on, in the average home, eight hours a day.

          Traditional television documentary film making can handle such concepts with ease and has on public broadcasting over the years. Traditional integration of public broadcasting and new media have developed contextual repositories for PBS viewers and NPR listeners interested in further exploration. "The Civil War" and "The West", for example, have serious collections of materials, resources, even lesson plans on their companion Web sites. More recently, the NPR series "Present at the Creation," for example, broadcast a piece on the song "Dixie" on November 11, 2002, the Web site for which directs the listener to a digitized songbook at Duke University, news items about the song in American history, and even an archived edition of Elvis singing a moving rendition.

          Television with new media can support more nuanced issues of history and culture. "The American Teenager: A Documentary History" will take advantage of the sort of technology and expertise based at the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) and its sister institution, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH). Many of the projects being developed at MITH and IATH can serve as the backbone for modern multidimensional broadcasting projects.

          "The American Teenager: A Documentary History" has a heavy emphasis on education. First and foremost, University of Maryland students in various disciplines would be invited to develop projects for the initiative, ranging from film field work and music research to online web development. UMD faculty will be invited to develop curricula on the subject in conjunction with PBS and NPR; and the project would also plug into various regional educational consortia of state libraries and education broadcasters for educational K-12 programming. Local libraries and librarians would be invited to participate in the development of teaching materials for public schools and for teachers across the country. The television series will involve programming for an NPR series as well as local and state radio programs to promote and understand the American teenager.

          "The American Teenager: A Documentary History" is now raising production support. The support funds cover the development costs of research, writing, and production planning for the television series; outreach and education for public television viewers; and the central television production costs to be incurred. The budget also includes the costs of an early planning meeting at the University and the development of a prototype/pilot on video and online with MITH. The 2003 planning meeting would present the research of the project’s executive producers to a broad University-based team of administrators, faculty, librarians, public television programmers, selected students, and approximately 30 invited outside guests, funders, and supporters. The planning meeting would launch the production of the five-hour national public television series and surrounding media and activities that would involve people and institutions throughout Maryland and the country.

          The planning meeting would also bring together the project’s Editorial Advisory Board with others outside the University to initiate a mechanism for counsel on the film and other projects. The Editorial Advisory Board will put together a package of basic research and primary materials as background for each national hour.

          The film, radio, and educational project is important, both for teenagers and the adults around them. As Grace Palladino has written in Teenagers: An American History, "No matter how many rules adults agree to enforce, it is still up to teenagers themselves to decide who they are, what they want to be, and whether they will cooperate with the adult world to get there. The choices are, and always have been, theirs. The most that adults can do is to see to it that teenagers have good choices to make and real opportunities to gain useful experience, a generational obligation that we have yet to take seriously as a nation."

About the University of Maryland

          The University of Maryland is a public research university and the original 1862 land-grant institution in Maryland. It is one of only 61 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU). While the University has already attained national distinction, it intends to rank among the very best public research universities in the United States. To realize its aspirations and fulfill its mandates, the University advances knowledge, provides outstanding and innovative instruction, and nourishes a climate of intellectual growth in a broad range of academic disciplines and interdisciplinary fields. It also creates and applies knowledge for the benefit of the economy and culture of the State, the region, the nation and beyond.

          The University of Maryland has a clear vision of its future as a nationally distinguished public research university. To achieve this goal, the University expects to perform and be funded at the level of the public research institutions that have historically been the very best. Five such AAU members serve as the University's peers: the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, the University of California-Los Angeles, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. With increasing numbers of nationally ranked graduate programs, a distinguished faculty, and research leading to the discovery of knowledge, the University is in a position to provide graduate education at the forefront of research and scholarship, which will attract the most highly qualified graduate students. The University also provides enriched and challenging undergraduate educational experiences, including a core arts and sciences curriculum, opportunities for undergraduate research, living-learning communities such as College Park Scholars and the nationally renowned Honors Program, and other unique, intensive, and innovative programs such as Gemstone and Civicus.

          The University of Maryland shares its research, educational and technological strengths with businesses, government and other educational institutions. Because of the depth of knowledge possessed by the faculty across many disciplines, the University of Maryland is uniquely positioned to forge relationships with corporations, non-profit organizations, other educational institutions, local school districts, and major federal agencies, laboratories, and departments. Because of the breadth of strength in many disciplines, the University of Maryland is at the forefront in advancing knowledge in areas that increasingly depend on multi-disciplinary approaches.

          The University of Maryland Libraries Special Collections include Historical Archives (personal and family papers, records of organizations, photographs, and memorabilia relating to the Maryland region, labor and women's history, and University of Maryland faculty); the Library of American Broadcasting (audio/visual recordings, books, pamphlets, periodicals, photographs, and scripts devoted to the history of broadcasting); the National Public Broadcasting Archives (maintains the historical record, in both textual and audiovisual formats, of the major public broadcasting entities); and Special Collections in Performing Arts (archival research collections of national and international music organizations: personal and organizational papers, oral histories, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, selected books, periodicals, music scores, and sound recordings).

          The Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH) represents a collaborative effort between the University of Maryland's College of Arts and Humanities, the University of Maryland’s Libraries, and the University’s Office of Information Technology. An interdisciplinary institute and electronic center devoted to exploring ways in which new media can be used in humanities research and teaching, MITH is a virtual community and intellectual hub for scholars and practitioners of humanities computing, digital studies, and cyberculture. MITH plays a leadership role in developing innovative technological resources for revitalizing, reinventing, and expanding humanities research and education.

About Media Entertainment

          Media Entertainment specializes in creating original television programming and feature motion pictures. Television programs produced by Media have run on PBS, Encore, The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel (TLC), The Outdoor Life Channel, Plex, Black Entertainment Television (BET) and in over 55 countries around the world.

          Current productions include Starz/Encore Silver Plaque award winning series "The Directors," 91 one-hour programs honoring Hollywood’s finest directors in cooperation with the American Film Institute; "The Genocide Factor: From the Bible to the Present Day," a four-hour television documentary for PBS, which won the Special Jury Award for Best TV & Cable documentary at the 2002 Houston International Film Festival; "Kidhealth," 13 half-hour programs for PBS, hosted by Olympic Gold Medallist, Peggy Fleming, looking at the state of children’s health and medicine in America today; "Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs," five one-hour programs recounting the history of the Western in cinema; and "In Search of the Lincoln Brigade," two one-hour programs on the American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War.

About Intelligent Television

          Intelligent Television produces television programs that closely involve libraries, museums, universities, and archives. Intelligent Television productions build compelling stories with primary sources at these institutions; they are multimedia (audio, video, data, artwork, and text) and multi-platform (shown on television, heard on radio, seen on Web sites, and read in print). Intelligent Television works with libraries, museums, universities, and archives to further television-enable their assets with indexing, abstracting, coding, and enhanced metadata. The company’s founder and president, Peter B. Kaufman, has served as Director of Strategy of Innodata Corporation, the world’s largest digital services and XML solutions company, and as President and Publisher of TV Books, a publishing house he established to publish companion books to television documentaries.

          Intelligent Television productions generate DVDs, CDs, books, and wireless media. The company develops relationships with selected underwriters, advertisers, and sponsors to support these media as well as the associated television programming and online content. The company is currently developing television documentaries with the Library of Congress, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the New York Public Library, the American Museum of Natural History, the University of Virginia, and other public and private institutions.

Produced by

Intelligent Television, Inc.



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