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Some stations will delay ‘Senior’

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PASADENA, Calif. — Filmmaker David Zeiger hopes that a lot of people see his PBS series "Senior Year," which follows the lives of 15 teenagers at Los Angeles' most ethnically diverse high school, Fairfax High.

"I really hope there's a broad audience for it because it's not just aimed at teenagers," he said. "I want parents, I want teachers, I want young adults. . . . I also hope that people of nationalities that don't normally watch PBS will watch it." (The student population at Fairfax represents 60 countries and 32 different languages.)

It's highly doubtful, however, that a lot of people in Utah will see the series. KUED-Ch. 7 is airing "Senior High" on Fridays/early Saturdays at midnight and 3 a.m., a time when not many people are watching TV. It's a situation Zeiger finds "disappointing."

Not that KUED is alone. Zeiger said PBS stations in most big cities are airing the show as scheduled (Fridays at 9 p.m. Central and Mountain; 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific) while smaller-market stations are delaying it.

And the creator/producer/director of the series acknowledges that some people may have difficulty with some of the content of "Senior Year."

"It is kids talking about and doing what kids do," Zeiger said. "There's a gay kid, Jet, who's very open. There's a very interesting safe-sex seminar he goes to. There's issues of sex, there's issues of homosexuality, but we're very careful not to make it salacious. Jean and Maria have an active sexual relationship, and they talk about that.

"It's interesting — at the beginning of the series they decided to abstain for religious reasons."

The cast is eclectic, to say the least. Jet is a gay Filipino who was both a cheerleader and a member of the school's ROTC. Jean is a Latino whose father attempted suicide soon after filming began; Maria is his girlfriend (now fiancée). Kendra struggles with her physical disabilities. Boris is brilliant but alienated. Liz chafes under her mother's strict rules. And so on.

Zeiger hired film students from UCLA and USC to shoot the film — college students "who could really become a part of the lives of the kids at Fairfax."

The high schoolers profiled in the film agreed that their relationship with the college students was close. "He was . . . like a best friend," said Unity, an outgoing rap artist. "So the vibe was kind of like two friends coming together that made this film happen."

It's a project worth seeking out — even at midnight — although it requires viewer discretion. Zeiger is gratified that KUED is at least airing the show someplace on its schedule — Ch. 7 was one of several stations that refused to air a similar series, "American High," last year.

"We were very pleased by that because they didn't air 'American High,' " he said. "We are really hoping that, as the series develops and hopefully builds an audience in places that are running it at broadcast time that stations will change the time or start a rebroadcast of it as well."

E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com