When I was a lad of 16 or 17, I was not totally obsessed with sex. I occasionally took time out to play some baseball and watch "I Dream of Jeannie" on TV. Well, maybe "Jeannie" counts as sex obsession, too. But I did play some baseball.
The high-school buddies in ABC's "life as we know it" - the official title is lowercase, which presumably indicates irony - don't think or talk about much at all besides sex. Even when they play sports, they multitask. And they don't just talk about it to each other. They address the camera directly, like Malcolm in "Malcolm in the Middle." Through the magic of special effects, time and motion around them stand still, and they look right at us while they enthuse about how hot some girl or other is and where they'd like to be doing it with her, or just vent a little about how difficult it is to read the signals girls send.
The camera seems to see the world through their eyes, too. In the hallways at their school, it's often at waist level, brushing past short-short skirts, sprayed-on pants, bare midriffs and pierced navels. It makes you feel as though you're on an amusement park ride that runs through a forest of semiexposed flesh.
Our "guides," if you will, are Dino, Ben and Jonathan.
Dino (Sean Faris) is a handsome - and I mean young Rob Lowe handsome - hockey player who says matter-of-factly that he can have any girl he wants. What he wants, however, because she's as gorgeous as he is and a big challenge, is to be the first boy to sleep with Jackie (Missy Peregrym).
Ben (Jon Foster), who's less sure of himself but even more sex-crazed, is chewing his nails over the beautiful Monica Young (Marguerite Moreau), an English teacher who also trains the school dance team to do suggestive, Bob Fosse-style moves. He thinks she's got a thing for him, and he might be right.
Jonathan (Chris Lowell) has a different sort of dilemma. There's a girl named Deborah (Kelly Osbourne, as in Ozzy's daughter) who'd be happy to sleep with him. Even though they're friends and share artistic interests, she's "full-figured" and he's not sure he wants to get involved with someone the other boys make fun of.
I was resistant to "life as we know it" at first, but it won me over (or wore me down). What seems prurience for prurience's sake turns out to be a good bit richer, kind of like "My So- Called Sex Life."
Created by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah ("Freaks & Geeks"), the show has heart and a conscience. Dino in the opener makes a discovery about his parents that puts him off "the game," at least for a while. Jonathan proves himself a stand-up guy with the courage to be different. And Ben, well, let's just say that plot line is to be continued.
Like most of this year's more promising dramas - ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," UPN's "Veronica Mars," The WB's "Jack & Bobby" - "life" may leave you wondering whether the premise will sustain another 20 or 22 episodes. But there's no doubt it's artfully filmed, written with a pretty good ear for teen speech and features some able actors.
The adult co-stars include D.B. Sweeney ("Eight Men Out") as Dino's dad and Lisa Darr ("Popular") as his mom, both excellent.
Among the kids, the surprise standout is Osbourne, who's funny and touching and refreshingly self-possessed as Deborah, who refuses to be anybody's doormat. Odd as it may sound, given her heritage and punky look, she also brings a needed touch of ordinariness to a pretty good dramatic series that would be better still if it had a few more freaks and geeks, and fewer teen-model types.