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Pop CultureDecember 4, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Young Americans, the Show That Coke Built

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This Throwback Thursday, Alex Casey revisits a Dawson’s Creek spin-off that handily doubles as the longest Coca-Cola advertisement ever made. // 

As the year slowly starts to wrap up and people lock in their summer holidays, spare a thought for the ill-advised Dawson’s Creek spinoff created for the show’s summer break in 2000. Young Americans features the main character of Will Krudski, a childhood friend of Pacey who appeared briefly in season three of Dawson’s Creek when he came to play some pool.

this show does not make it to the pool room
this show does not make it to the pool room

For some reason, this powerful pool-based role on the show was enough to capture the imagination of Steve Antin, a writer/producer whose most famous prior work, quite tellingly, was playing the minor role of bad boy Troy in The Goonies.

What I’m saying here is, this show is quite bad. It makes Dawson’s Creek look like it should be our weekly Sunday Night Theatre. Although a hotbed for present-day talent such as Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries) and Kate Bosworth (Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!), Young Americans has violently clichéd characters and dialogue that would make even Tommy Wiseau cringe

The plot: Will, a blue collar roughian (expert working-class pool player) gets accepted into the prestigious all-boys Rawley Academy based on an entry exam that he cheated on. Shock horror, he gets found out – but the principal takes pity on him due to this inspirational essay:

“You asked me to write an essay telling you what I have to say and what I realised is that I’ve been ordered to listen from the moment I was born but now I know it is my time to speak”

Here’s hoping he got enrolled straight into Punctuation 101. The first episode, which you are welcome to watch below, features dialogue that will make your ears retreat deep within your skull so you will never have risk hearing anything like it ever again.

During his arrival to Rawley, Will encounters a wet t-shirt contest. Grinning out the window, he exclaims “wet t-shirt contest eh? Gotta love tradition!” As he heads down to join the shrill group he looks to the heavens like Annie at the Warbucks mansion, “I think I’m going to like this place.” The only acceptable wet t-shirt here is my own that I just threw up all over.

Not only is Young Americans quite bad (I’m allowed to be this mean because so was Michelle Hewitson in this excellent, scathing NZ Herald review), but it’s probably also the greatest example outside of Mac and Me of the most relentless ham-fisted product placement known to man.

Kate does Coke

Coca-Cola paid $6 million to be the primary sponsors of the show, and it originally aired as Coca-Cola presents: Young Americans. Honestly the worst PR move for Coca-Cola since this week’s terrible sexist Milk campaign (I still don’t know if I’m more upset about the sexism or the weird Coke/milk ideological collision).

I don’t know if you noticed in the first episode above (I know you didn’t watch it, it’s cool), but Coke is referenced so many times that it’s almost a character in the show. Coke is in the opening scene, Coke is skilfully used to woo Kate Bosworth, Coke is the refreshing drink of Young America. When the show went to air in the States, the product placement was instantly slammed, getting particularly nailed by then little-known Daily Show star Steve Carrell in his segment Ad Nauseum:

Young Americans
was bad enough to make me rewatch a bit of early Dawson’s Creek. It reminded me that there was good teen TV out there before all the wet t-shirt competitions brought to you by Coke. If you too are left with a bad taste in your mouth by Young Americans, I highly recommend a trip back down the Creek. If that fails to work, a nice class of Coke© should sort you out.

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