UNIVERSAL CITY, CA.–I usually resent being held captive by NBC on American Airlines flights–I prefer the free range choice you find on the seat back on Air Canada–but one show caught my eye this trip out to the coast. The Airline previewed the series premiere of School Pride, which bows tonight at 8 p.m. on NBC. The reality series is basically Extreme Makeover: School Edition, with one of the Home Edition producers in on the mix. Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines is also an executive producer and introduced the episode on the flight.
The series rounds up teams of volunteers who charge into terribly run down schools–tonight it is an elementary school in Compton, Calif. that hasn’t been painted in 28 years.–and transforms the place in 10 days. Sure there are the usual product placements–Microsoft gets signage in the science lab–but the end justifies the means. This is one of those shows that hopefully will inspire a Canadian broadcaster to follow suit with a Canadian school makeover edition. (Debbie Travis’ new CBC series All for One, which starts this Sunday at 9 p.m.,does have a very similar, volunteer and community-based mission.)
The pilot (makes sense  that I think about it–showing a pilot on an airplane) is uplifting and inspirational. California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger adds a layer of cheese to the proceedings. The governator shows up to “pump up” the students and tells them, “Ill be back.” The star power helps the series if the script is a little lame.
Schwarzenegger must be glad hes not in the middle of this vicious school fight played out on TV every eight minutes in Los Angeles. The campaign to become the next governor of California, between ex-guv Jerry Brown and former eBay executive Meg Whitman, is the most lurid, disheartening thing on TV down here since The Jay Leno Show. The name calling and outrageous level of partisan rhetoric is ugly. Forget cleaning up schools–there should be an Extreme Makeover: Political Edition to save American politics.

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