Young American Bodies is the creation of Joe Swanberg, a young indie filmmaker whose films including Hannah Takes the Stairs have been compared to those of Andrew Bujalski, director of Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation. It’s easy to see the similarities between the two, as YAB, commissioned for Nerve Video, contains the same obsession with twenty-something hipsters and their problems in love as does the work of Bujalski, with Swanberg realistically focusing on six young Chicagoans and their intertwining tales. The series, begun in the summer of 2006, is also largely improvised, featuring an assortment of real locales, full frontal nudity, and well-concealed sex scenes.
Remember that MTV show Undressed, where privileged, mostly white college and high school students explored their sexuality and titillated late night viewers with the promise of hot flesh culled from the casting couch, despite the fact that platitudes about relationships were offered far more than naked torsos?
Young American Bodies is sort of like that, except it’s “sophisticated,” which means the acting is better, the drama is more adult, and nudity is actually allowed. Handheld cameras, real world locations, and accessible actors also thankfully replace the sterile camera angles, plastic sets, and made-up teens, creating a show that’s much more “real” and relatable.
But really, at the end of the day, this is pretty soapy stuff. Will you care when goateed, soft-spoken Ben (played by Swanberg himself) ditches the date Dia set him up with in order to meet unattainable crush Maggie? Or about the status of Casey and Noah’s rocky relationship? It depends on how much you can tolerate the ultimately frivolous problems of a group of narcissistic twenty-somethings, or how much you can forgive the show’s thin plot strands because of its consistent delivery of quasi-pornographic content. At least for Nerve’s audience, it would seem that some pseudo-voyeurism mixed with sexy eye candy is a pleasurably entertaining combination.
YAB peaks in its second season, in which Ben finds himself living with now ex-girlfriend Maggie and torn between an older woman and Casey. If “Do Not Disturb,” the first episode of the new batch, doesn’t get you hot and bothered (first line of dialogue, from Dia: “Do you think it would be sexy if I kissed a girl?”), YAB isn’t for you. If it does, you’ll probably get hooked.