Not in front of the adults

25th April 1997 at 01:00
LOVE BITES, LWT, Saturdays 12.30pm, Age range: 11-16. What's the total amount of sperm produced by Britain's men in any one year? According to Love Bites, LWT's loud-talking and hard-hitting youth programme which tackles all aspects of teenage angst, the answer is "540 trillion wrigglers".

Now in its second series, six half-hour programmes deal with subjects ranging from what to do if your parents embarrass you to how to kiss to perfection, from the problems some Asian girls have if they stay out late to how to cope with body changes in puberty.

Introducing the series, presenter Anna Richardson promises that the programmes will be "perter, bigger and naughtier" than ever. Before each episode begins, there's a health warning: "Love Bites contains language and issues that some parents may find offensive".

Certainly, the language is almost fanatically street. Discussing myths about "willies", one old wives' tale goes like this: "The bigger a lad's feet, the bigger his love truncheon". Masturbation is "the five-finger shuffle", and the "bluffer's guide to pulling" features "a gorgeous lust bucket".

Though adults may find this cheeriness a bit relentless, especially at lunchtimes on Saturdays, teenagers might appreciate the series' mix of the serious and the silly. And because it's filmed like a music video, all jump cuts and quick takes, there's no excuse for dozing off.

Of course, discussing subjects such as masturbation, gay relations and teenage pregnancy - in accents from nasal Sloane to deepest Cumbrian - doesn't go down too well with Middle England's moral guardians. The Daily Mail called the series "shocking and sleazy" and accused it of encouraging under-age sex. So Love Bites gets it in the neck for telling it like it is.

But while the series is genuinely informative and good at quashing myths, its central message - "Only do what you feel comfortable with" - tends to be a bit simplistic.

The main problem with its jumpy, jittery formula is that the programmes never sit still long enough for a deeper debate. What's missing is teenagers talking about their problems at length.

Likewise, the harder moral questions - and mid-teens tend to be more moralistic than older youngsters - get elbowed out by endless repetitions of the trite formula: "Do what is right for you, when it's right for you."

For schools, Love Bites provides plenty of material, though teachers will need to find a way of using the cascade of quick soundbites in a way that goes beyond their anarchic, breezy humour. But with Britain leading Europe in teenage pregnancy, material like this can only do good.

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