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In the last 30 years there have been exactly three halfway realistic TV series about teenagers--"Freaks and Geeks", "My So-Called Life", and this one which is the oldest and by far the most obscure. They were all critically acclaimed, but all three of them put together didn't last even half as long as crap like "Beverly Hills 90210". It's ironic that as obsessed as Hollywood is with teenagers, they rarely show real teenagers, but instead these incredibly good-looking, articulate, acne-free versions usually played by actors in their mid-20's. I remember this show from when I was kid, and then again when it was on some cable network again briefly in the early 90's. It was about three normal middle-class 70's teenagers with normal, middle-class teenage problems. It was a little preachy, but lacked the ridiculous melodrama of "90210" and its ilk. I also vaguely remember this series and the TV movie it was based on being somewhat controversial for their sexual content (tame by today's standards and REALLY tame compared to the things that were actually going in the late 70's). Part of the problem might have been that the sex was portrayed as awkward and fumbling (and the actors were real teenagers) In other words, the teenage sex was too real and not sexy enough--ironic, isn't it? Anyway, I'd really like to see this again someday.
I found this to be a very entertaining program and wished it could have stayed on the air longer. It looked at the world through a teen-ager's eyes and dealt with subjects that many adults did not think dealt with teens,such as, alcoholism, pregnancy, dying, venereal disease. The acting was believable with Lance Kerwin as "James". Susan Myers was also very good in the role of "Marlene", the plain-looking but intelligent friend of "James".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this series fairly regularly back when it was first shown. At the time, I thought it didn't go far enough, but the Puritans said it went too far, and it was canceled. Lance Kerwin is a teen coming to terms with growing up. It is about awkwardness. He is white and his best friend is black (who I always would have sworn was played by Kevin Hooks, but the credits say that he was played by David Hubbard using one of his alternate stage names). Their relationship starts on the wrong foot because of their backgrounds, but they eventually become friends. I remember vividly the episode about James's crush on a Swedish exchange student. Friends persuade him to ask her, "Is it true what they say about Swedish girls?" To which she replies, "No, but apparently it's true what they say about American boys." The nail in the coffin was when an episode was written in which James finally sleeps with a girlfriend. The writer wanted to have them hint at the use of birth control, which he thought would be socially responsible, right? The network made him rewrite it so they don't discuss birth control and end up worrying about whether she is pregnant. Fast forward a quarter century, and the Nets are still run by moral midgets. Gross titillation, fine, but something challengingly humane (i.e., "Wonder Falls") and they reject it.
growing up in the seventies, it was wonderful to have James at fifteen.although our lives did not mirror each others lives, the character of James, beautifully portrayed by (lance Kerwin), was a true comfort. the relationship with his parents, and kid sister was awesome, believable. lance was truly overlooked, his acting was spot on in all of his roles, i think i have seen them all. the show, James at fifteen ended much too soon, was sorry when lance stopped acting but his life now is much more rewarding, and we have his work to revisit and remember fondly. would love to see James at fifteen come out on DVD! or, TV land. James was a first of it's kind and would still stand up to todays boring or violence, sex filled "teen dramas". James at fifteen was the first of it's kind and still the best of it's kind, rock on James, wherever you are!
"James At 15"....Do I remember this show.
For one,it was the replacement for the short-lived action/adventure-science fiction series "Man From Atlantis" starring Patrick Duffy on NBC's Thursday Night Schedule during the mid-to-late 1970's. Secondly,the show was placed at the 9:00 hour,where it was opposite two top-rated shows......CBS' long-running crime drama "Hawaii Five-O",and the situation police comedy show "Barney Miller",which was on ABC. "James at 15" was critically praised for it handling of realism and sensitivity when other networks wouldn't dare touch. Premiering on NBC-TV on October 27, 1977, the series lasted no more than a season and a half on the air producing 21 episodes.
For the two seasons that it was on the air,"James at 15" was one of TV's most honest attempts to portray the pains and joys of growing up during the 1970's. The main character,fifteen year-old James Hunter(Lance Kerwin)was a bright,sensitive lad who found his world completely disrupted when his father,a college professor,moved the family from Oregon to Boston,Mass.,in order to accept a new teaching position. At first James tried to run away,and then began to learn how to cope with life in a new city environment(which was totally different from Oregon).
Among his friends at Bunker Hill High School were a hip black male named "Sly" who was always giving James advice on anything,and whenever James needed it or to what Sly called his "slychology". Marlene was plain and intelligent who had a point of view on just about anything. Sandy(Kim Richards)was James' teen sister. Kathy(Deirdre Berthrong)was the older sister. One thing that this show had that really caught everyone's attention were the subject matters for each episode which were sometimes serious and controversial in some of them. Subjects like teen pregnancy,teenage alcoholism,venereal diseases,and relationships were the topics of the day. The acting were believable from Lance Kerwin and from some of the cast including Linden Chiles as James' loving and understanding father. David Hubbard gives a good performance as James' close friend. Susan Myers was very good in the role Marlene.
The controversial episode,and the one that became the nail in the coffin for this brilliant series is the one were James actually sleeps with an exchanged student and loses his virginity. NBC had high hopes for this series,and since the controversial episode was tastefully handled,it did not attract a large audience,and was gone after a single season. Even the title change "James at 16"(premiered February 9, 1978) didn't help things neither,since NBC placed the show opposite "Hawaii Five-O",and "Barney Miller" which clobbered it in the ratings. After two seasons,the series was canceled on May 6, 1978. Repeated episodes lasted until July 27, 1978(the last time this series was ever seen on network television). Repeated episodes of this series surfaced again during the early-to-mid 1980's when The Christian Broadcasting Network(CBN,which is nowadays ABC Family)brought this show back in re-runs. And since its airing,it hasn't been seen since.
I loved this show and made the mistake of throwing out my VHS episodes. James at 15 was such a well produced, topical, and written show. James at 15 was comparable to "St. Elsewhere" Not good rating but an excellent show. James at 16 was so watered down . whereas James at 15 could be very controversial about real teen issues, James at 16 could have been run on Saturday mornings. When Freaks and Geeks came out critics praised it as the next James at 15. Unfortunately this show didn't last long. I think because this 2000 show was written like shows were written in the 70's. Does any know if at least the James at 15 (before the series with Melissa Gildert) is available? I sure do miss this show. I found a site that will make DVDs of old series (Courtship of Eddie's Father) if enough people vote for it. I'll will try to find this site and vote.
I was about the same age as "James" when this show started, so I
enjoyed seeing someone else have issues like I was at that time.
I guess I always love the underdog, too. I watched a great deal of NBC's prime time shows during this time, as they were dead last in the ratings. I can't even count the number of programs that came and went in a short period of time. And when they tried something original, like "James" it got pulled down by the sinking shows around it. Now, granted, your average teen isn't in the desired demographic a network wants as they are all poor, but it might have gotten some of the older set to watch.
It's a shame that this one seems lost to the ages, and probably won't appear on some network like "TVLand"...but it would make a nice add to Netflix.
I was 16 when this show came out. It made me distinctly uncomfortable,
and worse as the show went on. I kept thinking, man, what is it with
this twerpy kid? I loved how another commenter stated that this was
great, like "My So Called Life", another show that depicted teens
saying things like no teen on earth says them. If that is the kind of
show you like, this show is for you.
The show was boring, strange, and off putting. I remember it was on a night where nothing else was on, and I carried through like four episodes, and that was enough. I remember the novelty of the show changing names when he went another year.
The reason why this show didn't continue is it really stank.
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