Teens, you might have heard, speak the ling. That's "ling" as in lingo, as in whatev for whatever, ridic for ridiculous, obvi for obvious, duh. The words are glib but the shorthand, meant to convey maximum meaning in minimal time, is useful.
Teens are efficient that way. They come pre-edited for time, if not for content.
The same goes for "Prom Queen," the teen murder mystery that bowed April 10 that represents the first production from Vuguru, Michael Eisner's new-media studio. Made for generation ADD, the show unfolds in 90-second segments via Veoh Networks, which makes the series available online at sites including PromQueen.tv, ElleGirl.com and MySpace. The production company is Big Fantastic ("Sam Has 7 Friends").
That's 90 seconds, as in half the time of a typical commercial break on television. Doled out over 80 consecutive days -- "OMG, prom is sooo close! Getting closer! LOL!" -- the segments combine to form two hours of teenage scheming, dreaming and hooking up. Light fare, lightly sprinkled.
Here's the setup: Danica, a British exchange student, is filming a video yearbook. The series opens when she wakes up, "Donnie Darko"-style, in her host's backyard -- scantily clad and with perfect hair, natch -- stumbles into her room, and finds her minicam is still filming. "Oh no," she says. Cut. That's Episode 1.
Episode 2: We're introduced to the dramatis personae as Danica uses that minicam to interview her schoolmates about "this American obsession called prom."
The characters are caricatures: There's blonde-haired Nikki (www.myspace.com/nikkiwagner), who hearts Chad; blue-eyed Chad, (www.myspace.com/radchadmoore) who hearts Nikki; and mousy Sadie (www.myspace.com/sadiesimmons), who hearts Morissey (but makes eyes at Chad). Then: Slutty Lauren (www.myspace.com/sexylalalauren) (who has daddy issues), surly Curtis (www.myspace.com/defconcurtis) (who has anger issues), and rich boy Nolan (www.myspace.com/thepillionaire) (who's just an ass). Sophisticated Courtney (www.myspace.com/urastarkid) is a brunette foil to Nikki, and the enigmatic Josh (www.myspace.com/gambitodelrey) is the requisite troubled teen.
Rounding out the cast is Ben (www.myspace.com/bensimmons4prez) who plays sports, excels in school and receives an anonymous text message at the end of Episode 2 that says "U R going 2 kill the prom queen." Bum bum bum!
Given all these characters (there's actually about 15 in all) and so little contiguous time to develop them, "Prom" relies on visual shorthand. Instead of dialogue, monologue. Instead of scenes, scene changes. It's almost as if the show is a trailer for itself. This isn't entirely a bad thing. For one, you literally have no time to get bored. And the only challenge is remembering the names of so many good-looking white people.
Help comes in the form of the characters' MySpace profiles, which are constantly updated with new friends, new comments and even personal videos.
And then there's the sex. "Prom," like the real-life MySpace, is honeycombed with sexual subplots. In the first few episodes, Curtis talks about getting laid, Lauren tries to jump Josh in her car, Lauren's mom comes on to Ben, and Chad gets off-camera oral sex in the boy's locker room. Typical "Degrassi"-style titillation, but somehow the MySpace tie-in makes it feel more transgressive.
That's why the show compels: This could be your high school. Or your kid's high school. Each segment feels like a synopsis of daily drama, a "Max Headroom" blipvert for an oversexed cohort. It is among the first mainstream online video dramas, and it demands your attention. On that very important level, "Prom" succeeds.