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One-Word Advice, from Plastics to Quarterlife
November 23, 2007  | By David Bianculli
Dustin Hoffman in The GraduateRemember that classic scene in The Graduate, when Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock was corralled at his college graduation party by an older-generation businessman friend of his father's? He uttered one word of advice, a word which was supposed to unlock the future, and future fortunes: "Plastics."

That was 40 years ago. Today, if a clued-in corporate type was about to utter a modern twentysomething the equivalent one-word piece of advice, it would be this: "Internet."

And here we are. Here's how those two worlds connect, today in particular:

Today on Fresh Air, I'm guest hosting a special show devoted to the 40th anniversary of The Graduate, replaying portions of archived interviews conducted by Terry Gross. The people interviewed: director Mike Nichols, star Dustin Hoffman, screenwriter Buck Henry and singer-composer Paul Simon. It's a wonderful show, so tune in if you can.

I saw The Graduate when it was released, and it was one of the movies that changed my outlook on things. A few years ago, one of the students in my TV History and Appreciation class at New Jersey's Rowan University spoke up in class about The Graduate, and I never forgot what she said.

She said that times were different, and that she saw that film differently than people in my generation. Where I saw a determined romantic - a young man willing to follow the girl he loved to her college just to be near her, and to crash her wedding in one last attempt to win her love - she said she saw something completely different.

She saw a stalker.


So I wondered. If the Internet indeed is the new "Plastics," am I seeing things the same way as the new generation? When I raved about Quarterlife, the new Internet series of eight-minute dramas about a 25-year-old video blogger named Dylan, was I truly responding to the future? And if I liked this new show by thirtysomething creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, did that mean its younger primary target audience would not?

Kristin and DavidFor the answer, I turned to one of my own graduates - my daughter Kristin, 25, a third-year-law student. I asked her to watch the first eight-minute episode of Quarterlife and write me what she thought about it. Here is her report, in full:

"Perfect! A show that finally gets it right!

"The opening scene where Dylan poses questions to her then unknown audience - asking, 'Why do we blog? We blog to exist, and, therefore, we're idiots' - was reminiscent of Claire Danes' Angela asking, 'Why do people chew, like, in front of other people?' in the pilot episode of My So-Called Life.

"In both shows, it's the rhetorical questions asked by the heroine that grab your attention, draw you in, and having you smiling just 30 seconds after the opening credits.

"The producers of this show captivated me and had me hooked back in 1994 by the way they pegged the angst-ridden, self-absorbed 15-year-old (myself included) and personified her in Angela when they created My So-Called Life. Fast-forward a decade, and the writers have hit the nail on the head again, creating yet another perfect female character for other mid-twenty (a.k.a. "Quarterlife") women to relate to.

"Once again, the writers have captivated me and have me hooked! Somehow, they've managed to pick up where My So-Called Life left off without missing a beat . . . and doing it 10 years later - quite an accomplishment. Can't wait to watch the second episode!"

Thanks, Kris. I feel better now.

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