The team that brought us the prison-life docuseries 60 Days In (Lucky 8 TV) turns its cameras on the challenges of high-school students in A&E’s new social experiment Undercover High. Seven young adults ranging in age from 21 to 26 go undercover as high-school students for one semester in this 11-episode docuseries.
“While the shows have that similar DNA, they’re very different,” executive producer Gregory Henry stresses. “It’s not like, ‘Can you survive high school?’ That’s not the intent here. It really is, how do you pierce that teen veil, that teen bubble, because it’s become so difficult for adults to really see the world through the eyes of those kids.”
Stripped of their true identities, the undercover adults turn in their credit cards and cellphones and are given a new phone with fake social media accounts, along with some coaching, before being immersed into Highland Park High School in Topeka, Kan. Only the school administrators and select members of the community know their true identities and the reason for their semester-long stay.
“You’re signing up to go live in a place for five months, and you’re going to go to school, and you’re going to take tests, and you’re going to go to class. They get that this is much more than a television show,” Henry explains.
Each of the participants had their reasons for becoming involved. Most were looking to broaden and strengthen their occupational skill sets and help impact positive change. Erin, age 25, decided to get braces to look more the part. She didn’t, however, expect how difficult it would be to keep up with social media, relearn algebra and follow lunchroom conversations. Also unexpected for 22-year-old Lina was the segregation among blacks and Hispanics and the speed at which social media was used to befriend and to bully.
The series is a fascinating and sometimes brutal awakening to the challenges teens and school staff members endure daily.
Undercover High airs on A&E Tuesdays beginning Jan. 9