American High (TV series)

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American High
Genre Reality, documentary
Created by R. J. Cutler
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13
Production
Executive producer(s) R. J. Cutler
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) Actual Reality Pictures
20th Century Fox Television (2000)
Twin Cities Public Television (2001)
Release
Original network Fox (later PBS)
Original release April 4 (2001-04-04) – June 20, 2001 (2001-06-20)
External links
Website

American High is an American documentary television show about the lives of fourteen students at Highland Park High School, located in the city of Highland Park, Illinois. The series originally aired on Fox and was canceled after four episodes. It was later picked up by PBS and aired in its entirety. The series was created by R. J. Cutler, a documentary filmmaker. The show received the 2001 Emmy Award for Outstanding Non-Fiction Program.

The theme song "American High (Now It's Everything)", was written and performed by Bouncing Souls.

An earlier Fox Network documentary series from 1991, Yearbook also covered the lives of suburban Chicago high school students.

Plot[edit]

Kaytee’s gift for song steers an inner turmoil about her future. Morgan’s sullen and needy exterior masks his true compassion. After revealing his deepest secret to his peers, what’s next for Brad? Who are they? These are real teenagers who unleash their adolescent anxieties amid their triumphs in American High. At the brink of adulthood, they face some of the toughest decisions and harshest realizations of their lives during the 1999-2000 school year at a suburban Chicago high school. But these kids aren’t actors. The situations aren’t contrived. The programs are not scripted. Cameras roll and the ensuing drama is riveting and real.

American High is an innovative drama series from Academy Award-nominated filmmaker R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," "The Perfect Candidate"). Following the lives of a group of students as they deal with their personal conflicts – both at home and at school – from the first day of senior year through graduation, the series is culled from 10 months of documentary footage shot by Cutler and his production team, which includes some of America’s leading documentary filmmakers. Also featured in the series are scenes from hundreds of hours of "video diaries" shot by the students themselves. This remarkable combination of professional footage and student-shot video provides a window into what it’s like to be a teenager growing up in America today.

Brimming with exuberance, hipness and stylish editing, American High boasts authenticity as well as addictive drama. "They trusted our crews to tell their stories truthfully and honestly," says producer Cutler of the students. "I wanted this to be as honest as any of the best cinéma vérité documentaries." And Cutler has succeeded, with scenes that are often brutally frank. The footage from the students’ own video diaries is among the most fascinating.

These scenes capture an eclectic mix of characters baring their souls as they confront conflicts with powerful emotions. Precocious Kaytee, the gifted singer/songwriter whose music fills the hallways at school and creates decision-making dilemmas for her. Easygoing and athletic Robby, whose best friend is Brad – the first high-profile kid to announce his homosexuality, confronts the future of his shaky relationship with Sarah. Anna, whose intimidating beauty affords her everything except what she really wants – a boyfriend. Mike ("Kiwi"), the star football kicker whose future hinges on a successful season. One of the series’ most dynamic characters, rebellious Morgan, comes across as angry and needy, masking a compassionate and sensitive nature. Half a dozen other students reveal complex natures and share their innermost feelings.

Series Overview[edit]

Season Episodes Season Premiere Season Finale
1 13 April 4, 2001 June 20, 2001

Episodes[edit]

Series
#
Season
#
Title Original air date
1 1 "You Only Live Once" April 4, 2001 (April 4, 2001)
As the school bell tolls and the fall term gets underway, Morgan declares his teen years are for rebellion and ridicules his younger brother for doing his homework. He relishes the thought of one last year to push the limits of being a kid. Steady couple Robby and Sarah deal with the fact that Robby will be going away to Colorado for college, leaving Sarah alone to finish high school. Friends Kiwi and Anna hang out, but it’s obvious that Anna wants more from the relationship – even though Kiwi has a girlfriend.
2 2 "Who Am I?" April 4, 2001 (April 4, 2001)
Three teens struggle to find their identity and direction in the world. Rebellious Morgan declares his independence in his video diary, shouting the praises of porn – but ironically spends his free time volunteering with handicapped athletes. Kaytee, an aspiring singer/songwriter, comes to terms with her talent and ambition, creating a demo tape of her original music. Brad has recently come out of the closet and is now searching for a meaningful niche within his circle of straight friends. He discusses the implications of his homosexuality with his friend Robby.
3 3 "Boogie Nights" April 11, 2001 (April 11, 2001)
Brad decides to try out as one of the choreographers in the school’s annual Dance Show. Morgan also takes a shot at it, motivated by the chance to spend more time with Salina, who’s also trying out. Despite her body image issues, Suzy confronts her self-consciousness and tries out as well, surprised when she makes the cut. Brad and Morgan are also selected, but Salina isn’t, further straining her relationship with Brad.
4 4 "Pressure High" April 18, 2001 (April 18, 2001)
Struggling at school, Morgan realizes he may not graduate and takes solace in his relationship with Salina. When her grades begin to slide as well, her parents forbid the pair to see each other. Trying to balance her academic difficulties with her parent’s ongoing divorce, Allie is torn between her loyalties to her mother when her father moves in with his girlfriend. Star football player Kiwi pins scholarship hopes on his field-goal kicking performance, but crumbles after he misses a crucial kick in the team’s big game.
5 5 "Saints and Sinners" April 25, 2001 (April 25, 2001)
Gifted poet and Bacchus-wannabe Pablo challenges authority, including a school counselor who confronts him about his drug use. When a forbidden party at his friend Lisa’s grandfather’s house ends in Pablo’s arrest, he must face consequences he never anticipated. Kaytee comes to terms with her feelings for Teddy, a passive fellow musician. She declares her love for him but he spurns her and she despairs. However, she finds heartbreak inspires her songwriting.
6 6 "Bustin’ Out" May 2, 2001 (May 2, 2001)
Anticipating their freedom after high school, the seniors try to break away from the restrictions of their lives. Anna is exasperated by her parents hovering as she tries to prepare her college applications. Her mother realizes that Anna faces the college career she couldn’t have and mourns her own lost dreams. Allie struggles as both her parents try to exert control over her. With fantasies of one day marrying his girlfriend Sarah, Robby flees to her house, asserting his right to do as he pleases. With wisdom and perspective, Sarah draws the conclusion that she and Robby will likely grow apart after high school. Pablo considers joining the Marines and scores well on the aptitude test, though he is apprehensive about being part of a fighting unit and his mother scoffs at the idea.
7 7 "Winter Chill" May 9, 2001 (May 9, 2001)
With the college application process in high gear, good friends Brad and Abby start to drift apart when he gets an early acceptance to NYU, but she is waitlisted at her top choice. Allie’s struggles at school intensify as she backslides into absenteeism, barely passing some of her classes and engages in a vicious argument with her mother. It is her best friend Brett who guides her back to the right path. As Morgan’s father leads him step-by-step through the application process, Morgan believes he’s on his way to Harvard.
8 8 "Winter Formalities" May 16, 2001 (May 16, 2001)
Turnabout is fair play for the Winter Formal, as the girls get to ask the guys out. Tiffany asks Drew, her longtime crush, and is stunned when he says yes. Later, when she attends the dance with Drew, she learns that the prospect is often better than the fact. Feeling alienated by her boy-crazy friends, Suzy refuses to look for a date and concentrates on her operatic ambitions. Her perseverance pays off when she makes All-State Honors Choir, compensating for not going to the dance. Fighting again and facing parental disapproval of their relationship, Morgan and Salina trudge a rocky road to the dance. Ultimately, they go and enjoy themselves, romantically contemplating their future together afterwards.
9 9 "Homeward Bound" May 23, 2001 (May 23, 2001)
Allie, Morgan and Kaytee reevaluate their home lives, all enduring discord with their parents. When Allie’s parents’ divorce is finalized and her father announces his engagement to his girlfriend, she grapples with indecisiveness about whether or not to attend the wedding. Kaytee, in the midst of preparing for her first gig as a singer/songwriter, faces the fact that her parents are on the verge of divorce and wonders whether she will ever want to try marriage. Morgan realizes that home is a state of constant change as he confronts the loss of his cat, Earl, and his beloved three-legged hamster, Stumpy, at the same time.
10 10 "Spring Broken" May 30, 2001 (May 30, 2001)
Anticipation consumes the high-schoolers as Spring Break 2000 nears. While some seniors plot their unrestricted escape to the sunny Bahamas, the Band Kids prepare for their regimented trip to China. Abby and Shanna reminisce about their friendship and look forward to their first vacation together. Sarah, who isn’t going on the trip, okays Robby’s girl watching while he’s away. Kaytee, Scott and the band kids feel the heat when their leader, Dr. Hile, announces they are ill-prepared for Chinese audiences. As the day arrives, Spring Break brings a series of discoveries about groups and individuality as well as a revelation about the meaning of friendship.
11 11 "Promises, Prom Misses" June 6, 2001 (June 6, 2001)
Spring has sprung, and prom mania arrives – setting off a season of breakups and heartache. Everyone’s buzzing – who’s going with whom to the prom? Morgan, unable to bear the disapproval of Salina’s parents any longer, decides they should break up. A new romance is born when Kiwi, dumped by Rachel, ends up taking Shanna to the prom. Cursed by her intimidating beauty, Anna longs for Mr. Right to appear, while her conservative father makes things worse as he vows to keep guys away from his daughter.
12 12 "War and Pieces" June 13, 2001 (June 13, 2001)
Senior year is drawing to a close, and everything’s coming to a head. Pablo and Allie fight intense pressure at home, while Morgan struggles with his schoolwork and worries about graduation. Since Pablo’s mom, in the midst of a divorce from her third husband, is unable to afford college tuition, Pablo dramatically decides to join the Marines. But when he fails a "past drug use" questionnaire, it’s apparent that he will have no future with the armed forces. Allie and her mother, still at odds over Allie’s decision to attend her father’s wedding, fight fiercely, and Allie is kicked out of the house. On the brink of not graduating, Morgan resolves to get it together for the final weeks of senior year. Or does he …?
13 13 "Finale" June 20, 2001 (June 20, 2001)
Graduation. Finally. Only days away. This episode provides a veritable portrait of every AMERICAN HIGH character from the series. Morgan has been accepted into college; now all he has to do is graduate. Pablo’s future remains uncertain, as he decides to leave home and live with his father. Acting out a scene in their drama class, Sarah and Robby confront issues of their relationship and their future. Allie is hopeful that, as school ends, she and her mother will reconcile. Brad, on his way to a new life in New York City, celebrates graduation rather than being sad about leaving the past behind. Kiwi says goodbye to his football coach as he heads for Ball State University on a football scholarship. Kaytee risks a critical career step as she records a CD demo. She has regrets about junior year but recognizes how much she’s grown. Suzy confides in her father about her ambitions, promising herself to become the diva of her dreams. Anna is excited about her future at college and the opportunity to move away on her own. Abby faces the reality that the happiest time of her life is coming to an end. Change is in the air, and everyone aims to make it to graduation. But will they all pull it off? Surprises await some of the AMERICAN HIGH students.

External links[edit]