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Tampa teen given "One More Chance' on CBS // DOCUDRAMA

On the fringes of the sprawling CBS News family, there's a teeny, tiny division daring to do TV differently.

They are four musketeers, delivering depth and perspective to a medium that reduces national issues to sound bites. They tell long stories _ two hours each _ never once cutting to a nodding anchor or head-scratching reporter.

They spend months, sometimes years, documenting real-life events as they unfold, never certain what direction the story will take. In the end, viewers see what they saw: Before Your Eyes.

Tonight's installment of the periodic series (9 p.m., WTSP-Ch. 10), the fifth since 1994, follows the life of a Tampa juvenile delinquent struggling to go straight. A three-person crew _ including Manatee-based freelance photographer Bill Mumford and sound man Jack Neu _ spent 18 months with Juan Carlos Castro, filming his arrests, his breakdowns, his triumphs and relapses. They logged more than 500 hours of video tape to show a national crisis through local eyes.

At the heart of the Before Your Eyes division is a simple philosophy: Real life is very often as dramatic as a movie. Show it, but show it realistically.

"When Diane Sawyer moves in with the sextuplets, that's a story about Diane Sawyer," says Jonathan Klein, the show's executive producer and an executive vice president at CBS News. "We're trying to move out of the way, and let the story take center stage."

Klein gets flak from news traditionalists who cringe at the raw nature of the programs _ and the fact that no anchors or reporters are used. The Before Your Eyes programs resonate more of the stark cinema verite style of a Hoop Dreams than the polish of a Dateline.

The CBS team chose Hillsborough County for its innovative program targetting, then trying to rehabilitate, the county's worst juvenile offenders. A three-person crew followed a detective for a month before settling on Juan. "He was articulate, his story was moving," Klein explains. "He had promise."

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