Anybody Else Remember the 1999 ‘Scared Straight’ Special?
1999 was a weird time. We, as a species, were on the verge of new technologies, and our elders didn't quite know how to integrate the new millennium into their lives. While there will always be a small population of kids doing hood rat stuff, there was a nationwide attempt to curb juvenile delinquency in one big swatch of prime-time tv. They called it 'Scared Straight.'
The premise was simple... Take a few at-risk teens to a maximum security prison to let them see for themselves what life could be like if they don't straighten up. They spent months advertising it across every media. Radio, television, and even print (because it was still a viable media in 1999). It didn't matter if you were a straight-A student and mommy's little angle, if you were a youth in 1999, your parents made you watch this show.
It was a one time thing. One episode, one airing, and it became the stuff of legends. It was on network tv, very expletive, and it's almost impossible to find now. Even in a world where everything is online, you have to do some deep diving to find the entire show on a streaming service.
Did it change lives? Maybe. I don't know. It did change how we consume media today. A&E has a show centered around it that airs all the time. Is it because kids need to be scared straight? Or is it more likely that people like playing voyeur to others misery?
Regardless, screaming 'Bikes!' at people might be my new adopted thing.