There's a segment in tonight's "Rock the Vote" special on Fox that's a virtual manifesto for twentysomething.
Shot in black and white, the screen is filled with alternating tight face shots of Jason Priestley from "Beverly Hills, 90210," and Lisa Bonet, formerly of "Cosby" and "A Different World."
Bonet: "Some people say our generation doesn't count."
Priestley: "Yeah, right."
L Bonet: "Which generation insisted on dolphin-friendly tuna?"
Priestley: "And inspired a fourth TV network? We've got advertisers begging for our attention."
Bonet: "We've got sneaker companies running after us. We've ** got new ideas."
Priestley: "A new kind of language, a new kind of look."
Bonet: "We've created new music, new fashions, new attitudes."
Priestley: "You think we don't count? Count this."
And the screen fills with the words: "There are 25 million eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24. Rock the Vote."
"Rock the Vote," which airs at 9 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45), is not only far and away the best of the many register-to-vote entertainment specials aimed at young people this year, it is a superb primer on twentysomething pop culture.
There is some irony in the fact that it's produced by a couple of fortysomething guys, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, who became famous for creating "thirtysomething." But Zwick and Herskovitz listened and learned from the young generation featured in their special instead of trying to dismiss them or mock their culture as so many baby-boomer critics are doing with twentysomething TV this season.
Zwick and Herskovitz also avoided the older generation mistake of preaching or talking down to the audience the way PBS' "Why Bother Voting?" special with Bonet, which aired last week, did. "Rock the Vote" with Bonet in a much smaller role is as good as "Why Bother Voting?" with Bonet all over the place was bad.
How good is it?
Everybody who is anybody is in the special. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Queen Latifah, REM and U2 perform. Artists ranging from Spike Lee to Madonna appear. Madonna does a long and funny monologue about voting that involves clever self-parody and wicked satire. At one point, she's having great difficulty deciding what to wear to go to the voting booth when someone suggests a certain dress. "Please," she says, "that's something Cher would wear." Cher is not twentysomething pop culture, in case you were wondering.
There's a tough little discussion at one point about the " '60s generation." It gives boomers their propers for opposing the Vietnam War and winning the right to vote for 18-year-olds. It ends, though, with the line, "but then they got old."
The celebrities tell viewers this is a show mainly about power -- power for young people.
That's a powerful message especially in an election year when some are predicting that those young people will be voting in record numbers -- thanks in part to specials like this.
'Rock the Vote'
When: Tonight at 9.
Where: WBFF (Channel 45).