Reality Blurred

April 14, 2006

Confession time: I love reality shows.

Most of the time, I like to consider myself an intellectual, literature lovin’ mama, but sometimes there’s nothing better than tuning in to some mindless TV.

I’m not as bad as I used to be: I’m totally over “Survivor” and “American Idol.” My three mainstays are “The Amazing Race,” “America’s Next Top Model” and “Designed to Sell.”

I try to justify it like this: “The Amazing Race” is really a glorified travel show, so I get to learn about international destinations and their cultures! “Designed to Sell” is teaching me how to maximize my money should I ever decide to sell my home!” And “America’s Next Top Model” is…well, that one’s just an uber-trashy good time. Hee.

I’ve actually curtailed my TV watching quite a bit since I became a mom and got TiVo (god bless TiVo!), but a preview for a new show on TLC caught my eye. The name alone piqued my interest: “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids!”
Here’s the gist: each week, an unhealthy family enlists the help of Dr. Lisa Hark, a no-nonsense nutrition expert who evaluates their lifestyle and diet. These families usually eat terribly unhealthy, don’t exercise at all and have no structure. Chaos reigns.

So with the help of super-fancy technology, Dr. Lisa gives the parents a sneak preview into the future. If these kids don’t change their habits, she tells them, here’s what they’ll look like at age 40. And before our eyes, each kid grows, morphs, wrinkles and swells, eventually becoming an unkempt, unhappy-looking middle-ager with bad fashion sense. One kid even had a momentary mullet!

After a three-week crash course in healthy living, Dr. Lisa shows the parents what their children might look like at age 40 if they continue on the right path: stylish, confident, handsome, trim adults.

Basically, this is a goofy show with a dead-serious message: parents are largely responsible for their children’s health, now and beyond. Today’s junk food-eating couch potatoes will likely grow into adult junk food-eating couch potatoes. This show’s scare tactics probably aren’t the most effective deterrent, but it seemed to have an impact on the family in the premiere episode.

Kudos to the parents, who took their lumps and never got defensive, even when the harsh doctor dramatically told them, “You’re killing your kids!” Instead they took the advice to heart and made dramatic changes in their lifestyle, despite real resistance from the kids.

I checked some message boards and many viewers found Dr. Lisa’s bedside manner quite harsh, and said the dietary changes were too dramatic. The junk food-loving family’s first healthy dinner was bok choy with tofu, and the poor kids gagged. Maybe easing them in would have been better…

Overall, it was a fun diversion. I like to occasionally watch shows like this and “Super Nanny” just to remind myself: here are the traps I don’t want to fall into as a parent. And yes, I do enjoy feeling slightly superior for a half hour. 🙂

The show airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on TLC, in case you’re curious.

So ‘fess up, fellow MotherTalkers: what are YOUR guilty TV pleasures?