The Hull High pilot has already passed into pop-culture lore as one of the steamier bits of prime-time fare to make it onto the air. The show is a chronicle of modern high-school life featuring rap and rock musical numbers. Its debut centered on the tragic plight of a rookie English teacher played by Nancy Valen. Her character spent lots of time in the teachers’ lounge sobbing because her students were flunking all her pop quizzes — they just couldn’t seem to keep their minds on their work. Could it be, a male colleague, played by Will Lyman, finally suggested, that her students were distracted by her stiletto heels and short dresses, which appear to be made from some clingy combination of silk and rubber? Later, Valen wiggled down a classroom aisle cooing lines from Longfellow and we were shown shots of male students in the throes of hormonal meltdown, while the girls stared at Teach with a mixture of awe and jealousy.
By the end of the episode, Valen had learned her lesson: If she wanted to succeed, she couldn’t dress provocatively. This is the most appalling, reactionary message presented in prime-time this season: First NBC pandered, then it got huffily conservative.
Of course, my TV-critic colleagues weren’t much better, spluttering about Valen as if they had never seen a tight dress in prime-time before. But all that provocation was just juice for the pilot. In the weeks since, Valen has looked not like a sexpot but like any regular teacher — a Karen Valentine for the ’90s. And more attention has been paid to Lyman, as the show’s wise, hunky hero, and the regular cast of earnest students.
Kenny Ortega (Dirty Dancing) oversees the production numbers, and he should get some of the attention being given to Steven Bochco and Cop Rock — Ortega’s musical numbers utilize rap music more convincingly, and move the stories along instead of stopping them dead. It’s just another high-school show, but Hull High deserves a decent grade. B-