Reality TV with a dose of instruction

Reality TV hits Wife Swap and Supernanny will air on YES's new channel YES Stars.

By MIRIAN A. SHAVIV
March 2, 2006 11:54
3 minute read.
Reality TV with a dose of instruction

supernanny 88.298. (photo credit: )

Beginning on March 5, the YES satellite network will premiere a fresh line-up on its new channel, YES Stars. Some of the most popular and successful shows from the US and Britain will hit the airwaves, and their addictive quality is undeniable. Among the programs available will be the Emmy-nominated medical drama Grey's Anatomy, Geena Davis's White House series Commander in Chief, and the return of some familiar shows, such as the third season of the teen soap The O.C. and the fourth season of the hospital comedy Scrubs. Most riveting of all, however, will be some of the reality shows. Two in particular have become massive hits abroad. The second season of the British series Supernanny and the third season of the American version of Wife Swap will air on Wednesday and Sunday nights respectively. Supernanny has been so successful that it has already spawned an American version, giving supernanny Jo Frost a lucrative following on both sides of the Atlantic. The show is such a sensation that even an Israeli version is in the works. There's nothing like watching a houseful of unruly, disrespectful, and even downright repulsive children make a turnaround in the period of time Frost is given to retrain parents and their offspring in manners and discipline. It doesn't seem to matter that the basic tenets of her child-rearing philosophy remain the same from show to show; the amusement of watching other people's children wreak total havoc allows us all to feel better about our own, and isn't that ultimately why we love to watch these shows? The beauty of Supernanny, however, is that she actually does impart some crucial lessons. Don't let your kids rule the roost, don't give in to them for fear of losing their love, don't sink to their level by indulging your own temper (especially when it comes to corporal punishment), and be authoritative and consistent with consequences. Sounds obvious enough, right? But for many parents, these simple rules are difficult to incorporate into their daily lives, often because mom and dad are undermining each other. The proof is that after the Supernanny manages to turn things around, the parents are given a week on their own to implement the lessons they learned, and quite realistically often fail to maintain the standards set by Frost. WIFE SWAP, on the other hand, is a bit less realistic and a bit more engineered for drama. In this show, two mothers swap places in each other's homes and impose their lifestyles and values. Of course on Wife Swap, the two mothers are always polar opposites, so the degree of adjustment required by the adopted families is typically the cause of most of the drama. In the first episode, a white mother from upstate New York swaps places with a black one from North Carolina. Did I mention that the white woman's family is just about as hillbilly as they come, and prone to using the "N" word? That she gambles until four in the morning when she's not working at a call center, has an unemployed husband with an eighth-grade education, and has no set rules, chores or bedtime for her young kids? Mix this woman with the family of an overprotective black mother who values education, cleanliness, discipline and chores, and watch the fireworks! This particular episode could not have gone better for producers. While the families managed to find the best in each mother, the two women meet at the end of the show only to curse each other, fists flying. After a three-hour respite, the two sit down and manage to close the episode with a civil hug. Episode Two pits a beef-loving country mom whose husband and kids hunt for dinner in the backyard against a hippie vegan who believes she can nourish herself by absorbing nutrients from the sun. The two don't resort to violence at the end, but each one sheds a tear or two as a result of the ordeal, and ultimately tries to incorporate changes into her extreme lifestyle as a result of the experience. After all, what is reality TV about if not teaching crazy people the value of compromise?


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