Screen savors: The ultimate makeover

Dr. Phil serves as host each week as we watch one family get "a new lease on the American dream."

By ARYEH DEAN COHEN
November 25, 2005 02:20
4 minute read.

Imagine: no more whining. A husband who helps around the house, or a wife who actually admits you did something right. That bathroom with the crooked floor tiles finally redone. Separate rooms for the twins. And best yet: for mom, her own private spa. Sound like a dream? Not in the world of reality TV, where all the above, almost - hey, there will ALWAYS be whining - is available in the blink of an eye in Renovate My Family, the new ultimate makeover show airing on YES Weekend Fridays at 14:00. And who better to host this makeover, this renewal of one family's bodies, spirit and home than... the son of Dr. Phil. No, we really mean it - Jay McGraw, the son of the current TV pop psychology king Dr. Phil, serves as host each week as we watch one family get "a new lease on the American dream." Yes, folks, it's a "powerful, seven-day journey" for the Biggins family, our first participants, and boy, do they need it. They're not called Biggins for nothing. Anything that gets dad Anthony's Olympic size butt out of that lounge chair qualifies as a great reality show moment for us. The only problem is that once mom Mila hears that she and her family have been chosen OUT OF THOUSANDS, she cries enough tears nearly to drown her whole family. On each episode, McGraw and his crew pick a family that needs to start over, "to change every aspect of their lives." The hard-working Biggins folks just want to provide for their kids and make a better life for themselves. Before you can say Black and Decker, a construction crew has descended on Casa de Biggins - yeah, the one where mama has the oven and washer side by side in the kitchen - to tear the place down and start over. The Biggins even get to help, as Mila and her three kids join Anthony in swinging a sledgehammer and saying good-bye forever to their home, not to mention many of their prized belongings. (Mila: "I got shoes back here I haven't seen in three years!") Most fascinating was the moment when the construction crew began to take the house apart. At first Mila screamed, "No, no. Don't do it." But within moments, the Biggins' attitude changed. Suddenly they seemed to delight in yelling, "Let's take this sucker down!" That sudden transition from Mila's nostalgia to what appeared to be a joyful, greedy celebration of their newfound possessions was jarring. It made us wonder whether the show's approach to helping a family overcome some of its problems with a large hand from "the experts" was really appropriate. After all, if the Rambam's highest level of charity is to help someone help themselves, we're not sure this quickie "makeover" thing works. The Biggins seem to be getting the ultimate quick fix here, rather than having to figure their situation out for themselves and work to improve it over the long-term - but we suppose that wouldn't make good "reality" TV, although this Fox effort at least appears far more well-meaning than some of the other "remake" shows out there. For example, in perhaps the most beneficial move and most praiseworthy moment in the show, McGraw and the crew brought the Biggins family to a wellness center to come to grips with their obesity. Besides the laughs provided by watching Anthony and his overweight brood try to do basic exercises, it was good to see them beginning to take a more serious look at the health hazard posed by their weight problem. But then McGraw went all Dr. Phil on us, first trying to add more romance to Anthony and Mila's relationship by recreating the moment in which Anthony proposed (no, it wasn't at a ribs joint), then advising Mila after the big event that "everytime you said thank you, you followed it with a but..." At times in this show, McGraw should just butt out. Back on their block, the construction and design team were working on the new house, with one week to create it from scratch, foundation to roof. There are lots of "before" and "after" shots, and lots of time devoted to the ever present Dahm triplets, three female blondes in construction boots and form-fitting matching outfits apparently hired to ensure that male viewers will return for next week's show. While we understood why the crew built a boxing corner in one kid's room and a salon sink in the teenage girl's new digs, what were they thinking by creating a "media wall" for this family of itinerant couch potatoes??!!!! Will Anthony and Mila rekindle the flame, or just use it to make ribs? Will daughter Krishara sue for a new name, and will the Wildlife Society take control of her awful hairpiece? Will skinny son Omar start to pull his weight and fill out to Anthony's waist size? Will they all hate the new house and yearn for the old one, where at least they knew where their dirty laundry went? Tune in to YES Weekend, and pray for a continuation of the latest trend on American TV - a reduction in reality programming and script-based material finally making a comeback.


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