There's a lot to hate about reality TV. But when filmmaker R.J. Cutler gets his hands on a project, the outcome is more than a snarky competition or gutterwise titillation. Such is the case with Freshman Diaries. Filmed right here in Austin, three-person crews followed 17 UT freshmen during the 2002-2003 school year, turning the footage into 10 half-hour episodes currently airing on Showtime. As expected, Sixth Street sojourns are present. So is partying, drinking, and sexual tension. But participants become more than meat puppets and have a hand in creating their image with cameras provided to record personal video diaries. Can anyone be ignorant about how to best "play themselves" in this media-saturated age? Certainly not this crop of young people schooled on The Real World. The combination of conscious preening, unguarded moments with the mute, roving eye of unseen camera operators, and luck makes Freshman Diaries an always intriguing, sometimes heartbreaking, highly magnified snapshot of young adults coming of age.
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