If you're in my generational cohort, you probably spent a good deal of your just-out-of-college time watching shows like Melrose Place and Beverly Hills 90210 ("Bev Niner"). My favorite part of Bev Niner was always that once-per-month episode where The Kids From 90210 Learn About [poverty, racism, homophobia, eating disorders, drug abuse] And Help Someone Along The Way.
I waited expectantly for that episode every time because I knew it would be annoying, contrived, borderline offensive in its cluelessness and unintentionally funny in all the wrong ways, kind of like Tori Spelling herself.
I mean, yes, you could argue that Bev Niner was simply mining a well-worn TV series plot structure, but at least Laura Ingalls lived in the same kind of log cabin and took the same kind of lunch pail to school as the kids she learned lessons about. At least John Boy and Jim Bob Walton wore overalls 24/6 (they wore proper britches to go to church on Sunday, I'm sure), just like their kinfolk and classmates. The reason 90210 was so laughably annoying was that they'd find a way for Tori Spelling "Donna" to meet some inner-city girl with a heart of gold working at the local supermarket who inadvertently reveals to Donna that she is being abused/threatened with death by gunshot/afraid of the gangs on her street/being pressured to have sex-crack-whatever, and Donna just can't sleep at night thinking of this girl and so looks her up and goes to her house to "help" her where (OF COURSE!) the story becomes All About Donna, who is threatened with death by gunshot/afraid of the gangs on her street/being pressured to have sex-crack-whatever, but escapes and finds a way for the Inner City Girl With A Heart of Gold to get a job at the 90210 Dean and Deluca, thereby saving her from her old job at the Price Chopper in Compton. Inner City Girl is grateful, "doesn't know how to thank" Donna enough, goes on, we can only assume, to a life of ease and financial freedom as the manager of said Dean and Deluca, and, once again, The Kids From 90210 have learned a valuable lesson about being caring and compassionate.
Which is why I loved this post at Best Week Ever about movie stars inspiring and helping gangs of unruly thugs and drug dealers:
Movie Stars Teach Us So Much