For the first half-hour of the first episode of “One Bad Choice,” an MTV program that began Thursday, puzzled viewers might think they have mistakenly landed on Investigation Discovery, the channel known for true-crime stories cheesily re-enacted.
This stark, well-intentioned series turns out to be more serious than that.
It presents real-life accounts of young people who, as the title says, made a bad decision and faced severe consequences.
The central figure tells his or her story, the narration accompanied by re-enactments. It’s an uncomfortable mix: the re-creations are often clunky and, this being MTV, they occasionally feature subtitles relating what song is being heard on the soundtrack, as if this is some kind of perverse music video.
In the premiere, the tone shifts markedly when the screaming starts.
The first episode is just what you’d expect in a program of this nature: a story of a teenager who drove drunk and killed someone.
In this case, it’s a young Florida woman named Jessica Rasdall, and the victim was her best friend. The hospital scene is horrific. And the screams of the actress playing Rasdall aren’t from pain; they’re from the realization of the consequences of her actions.
“The only thing worse than losing your best friend is being charged with her death,” the real Rasdall is seen telling a high school class later in the program. “And I never want any of you to understand that feeling,” she says.
Yes, “One Bad Choice” is a TV version of the scared-straight approach that teenagers are familiar with from school assemblies and driver’s ed. And whether it has much effect on behavior is open to question. High schools load up prom week with cautionary tales, yet kids still die on prom night.
What will be interesting, though, is where the series goes after the opening episode. Not all the pitfalls that beckon young people are as obvious as drunken driving.
Certainly the season finale, scheduled for Sept. 10 and seen in a sneak-peek showing in March, is chilling in an entirely different way.
It tells the story of Levi Sparks, an Indiana youth who found out as a result of a burglary gone wrong that merely whom you hang out with can have devastating repercussions.