By Margaret Lyons
Updated April 09, 2009 at 11:38 PM EDT

Leave it to Bravo to keep churning out lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-shameless reality series. The latest? New York Prep, a Gossip Girl–esque (ostensibly) series following tony teens from Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

I’m partial to teen shows where teenagers occasionally act (or at least think) like teenagers, which is why this season of GG has been so off for me, and why I really wish Privileged would get renewed. The same holds for teen reality shows. Laguna Beach‘s first season wasn’t just a sudsy treat; there was actually some real teenage anxiety at play. Later seasons didn’t quite achieve the same level of underlying normalcy because cast members, not to mention the rest of the nation, got hip to what makes a reality star. (Guess what? It’s not “realness.”) The more savvy the subject, the worse the show — behold, the diminishing returns of The Real World, or how with each passing season of any workplace doc show, events seem increasingly contrived and artificial. Call it reality TV’s Hawthorne Effect: The process of observing people changes their behavior.

The all-time best teen reality show — and for my money, one of the best doc series of all time — was the little-seen American High, which distinguished itself by not just having camera crews follow the subjects: The subjects themselves filmed the bulk of the footage. It only ran one season, which might be why its reputation is so pristine.

So can Prep manage to be credibly adolescent? I’m dubious, especially given that in the cast breakdown in Bravo’s press release, Taylor describes herself as “horrible at relationships.” Uh, Taylor? You’re 15. (Which also means she’s never been alive when The Real World wasn’t on, and she was six when Survivor came out. She and her pals know their way around a reality show.)

What do you think, PopWatchers? Are you ready to head back to high school for Prep?

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