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Coming-of-Age Dramas Crowd TV

Shows follow predictable patterns of young love, careers, conflicts

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GROWING up, to paraphrase an old song, is so very hard to do. And plenty of shows on television these days describe just how tough it is. The tribulations and trials of the young as they confront all the temptations and dilemmas of this society make a mixed bag of weekly drama and melodrama. "Beverly Hills 90210," "Melrose Place," "Going to Extremes," "The Heights," and "The Round Table" present various flocks of young people, grouped by age (from teens to mid 20s) tied together by circumstances, as they

search for and define what they want from life.

Adolescents just finishing up in high school form alliances, struggle with difficult moral issues, confront teenage suicide, and fall in love with each other's steadies on Beverly Hills 90210 (Wednesdays on Fox).

The oldest show in this genre, "90210," is popular because it sets headline issues against the glamour of Beverly Hills.

It took me several shows before I could suspend my adult disbelief and tune in on the rich-kids' wavelength. The acting is sometimes studied, the morality superficial, and the parents ineffectual. But at least the show zeroes in on the complexity of coming of age in the United States. It offers an antidrug and safer-sex message, and shows kids under the emotional strain of over-indulgence. "90210" advocates loyalty to one's friends and honesty with one's parents - however nerdy they may be - without bein g preachy.

Melrose Place (Wednesdays on Fox) deals with young adults just out of college looking for their place in the world. The title of the series refers to the apartment complex the young folks inhabit. Most of the acting is breezy and poor. But the situations are slightly more interesting to the adult viewer since they pertain more to adult difficulties.

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