At its best, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" used horror conventions to illustrate teen angst. On the late, great series, that howling creature in the basement wasn't just a werewolf. It was an eager boy, as seen through the eyes of his frightened, inexperienced girlfriend.
"O'Grady," a likable new animated comedy on the N for kids, employs supernatural events in the same wonderful -- and psychologically astute -- way. Set in O'Grady High School, it turns all the kids' emotional problems into wacky, "Twilight Zone"-like phenomena. In one episode, for instance, the characters begin to spontaneously produce clones when they get angry -- even a pent-up teacher, Mr. Lipshitz, who has created a virtual city of himself. In another episode, they all undergo physical side effects -- profuse sweating, swelling -- when they're feeling insecure. That self-conscious kid with the lisp? Her tongue just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
But "O'Grady," which premieres tonight at 9, is lighthearted, lest my description sound too heavy. The kids are your typical bunch of socially obsessed TV teens, except that they have to deal with what they call "The Weirdness," when paranormality settles over the town of Kilter. That would be when Kilter becomes totally off-kilter.
Abby is the show's Everygirl, a confident and fashion-conscious kid who chooses to hang out with the less popular, gullible Beth. They're a latter day version of Gidget and Larue. Meanwhile, Abby and cute wiseguy Kevin hate each other, and pick on each other every week; but, of course, their mutual fixation has romantic undercurrents. In the anger-clone episode, while they continue to bicker, their clones fall madly in love.
The show is created by Soup2Nuts, the Watertown-based company that gave us "Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist," and it's clever enough to entertain the grown-ups. But "O'Grady" is primarily meant for teens, who will appreciate the way it pushes honesty about high school into the realm of absurdity. The animation style is sweet -- smooth-lined figures with happy colors and wide, overexpressive mouths -- but the attitude is knowing and healthily cynical.
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On: The N
Time: Tonight, 9-9:30