40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

TV Review: Nanny 9/11(3-24-06)

I've previously written about Nanny 9/11 in a general way, focusing on the series as a whole. Today I'm writing about a specific episode (aired on March 24, 2006), which was completely fascinating and a little different than other episodes in the series. This episode provides enough material to continually raise the question, "Why does this family want America to know how horrible the parents are?" Or, when you get right down to it, why would the parents want to know how horrible they are? Is a brief moment of fame worth the public humiliation? I don't understand it at all.

We meet the Longairc family: husband and step-father Adam; wife and mother Michelle; and her three children: son Sean, eight; five-year-old son Adam, a charming child who bites, screams, and likes to drop the F-bomb. It's so cute when children swear, isn't it? And six-year-old daughter Erica, the only child of the three we don't see acting like they had been raised in the wild by a pack of wolves.

Adam is in the unfortunate position of being a step-father. Now, before I get complaints that I'm calling step-parents "unfortunate," I'm only referring to this situation. I know there are plenty of families with step-parents that do not have the issues the Longairc family have, and are thriving. I can relate to Adam as I'm a step-parent. I came into my step-child's life when he was nine, and immediately wanted to jump in with my own style of discipline. Big mistake, since his mother had her own style, and our styles were not the same.

For several years it created strife until I finally decided that I would not continue in a disciplining role, but rather try to be a positive influence and a mentor. And things got better fast. I know, all experiences vary, but I know there are some of you out there who know what I'm talking about. But I digress.

Back to the Longairic family. We watch step-father Adam attempt (unsuccessfully) to bring so discipline into the family. The kids are defiant and mom Michelle is not what you'd call a disciplinarian. So Adam has his hands full as he fruitlessly attempts to bring some order out of chaos. Time to bring in Nanny Stella!

If you've never seen the show, the format is pretty simple. On the first day, the nanny will observe the family and take notes. At the end of the day, she'll discuss her observations with the parents. The next day, the nanny brings in a set of family rules, and the rest of the episode (normally) shows us how, by the end of the week, life is ice cream and puppies for the family as the children magically transform into little angels. Not this time! Nope. That's what made this particular episode so unusual.

Sure, Nanny Stella came up with family rules, but throughout the episode, mother Michelle refuses to follow the rules or enforce them. In fact, she even refuses to acknowledge that her children are...difficult, despite saying so at the beginning of the episode.

Poor Stella gives it her best shot, but nothing. Michelle basically wants Stella to leave due to the fact that Stella has questioned Michelle's parenting skills (or, in her case, lack of parenting skills).

And so it goes in this train wreck of an episode, culminating with five-year-old Adam punching, kicking and spitting in Stella's face, all while his mother sits back and enjoys the show. You know she wants the tyke to assault the woman who dared to question her skills as a mother. It's all very sad, really.

By the end of the week, Nanny Stella hasn't really accomplished anything, which is unusual for this show, and off she goes, with no emotional departure that is the norm of Nanny 9/11. We get a sort-of follow up to find out that step-father Adam is attempting to follow the rules set up by Nanny Stella, and even Michelle acknowledges she's going to try and follow them. Which seems unlikely. I wonder if we'll see this couple on Divorce Court?

All said, the Longairc family episode made for interesting television. Recommended.


Blogger Grins said...

I saw that episode as well. It was the only of that series I've seen and I have to say I prefer the other nanny show. The way 911 is produced I felt they did far too much recapping in an attempt to stretch what was a 1/2 show into an hour. That aside though I really agree with you that I was amazed these people wanted to put themselves on television, especially the mother.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fan of both Nanny 911 and Super Nanny. I love both shows but this show really made me angry. Not at Nanny Stella but at the very immature mother, Michelle. I wanted to literally crawl through the television set and shake some sense into her. I was thinking also that this couple are on their way to Divorce Court. Michelle should be voted as the dumbest mom of the year for not stepping up and admitting her lazy ways. Great post!

5:42 AM  
Anonymous GenesisCEO said...

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4:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

""Why does this family want America to know how horrible the parents are?" Or, when you get right down to it, why would the parents want to know how horrible they are? Is a brief moment of fame worth the public humiliation? I don't understand it at all."

Not just America, dear! This is probably seen around the world (I've seen it twice now in Finland). I kept wondering about the same thing as you about all these families, but with this family especially, I don't think the parents saw themselves objectively at all - not even the stepdad who must be under some strange spell. Parents in these nanny shows honestly think their kids are the root and cause of problems (true enough, the house must have been quite calm before they appeared ;-) ). And of course they do, as the problems would never have become so obvious if they had been ready to look in the mirror in the first place.

So, if people are stressed after years of such hell, and they already tend to see their children as a somehow non-human source of nuisance, they will gladly show their freaks to the world in the hope that the world too will feel sorry for the parents and have respect for their plight. And true enough, I often keep wondering about the limitless strength of parents to keep trying without hope even when they are already obviously depressed and unable to think - as somebody who understands what must be going on in such a family, I couldn't deal with their situation for two weeks without losing my mind, as it all feels so utterly unnecessarily sad.

Also, I must say, when I started devouring nanny shows, I was always appalled by the children and wondering how long I could manage with such a child without resorting to violence or at least seriously wanting to. After years of watching them with a keen eye, a pattern has emerged. The parents are first clueless about their mutual relationship and then play the children against the other. One becomes the overly strict disciplinarian whereas the other becomes the seemingly soft-hearted guerilla leader undermining each effort to create order. Now I pay little attention to what the kids actually do, except as a guide into what is happening with the parents. The kids will be sorted quite easily when they just understand that others suddenly care and listen without surrendering their post.

I am very glad that these shows have given me this insight. Now that I am hoping to finally become a parent myself, I will hopefully not fall for such a sad power struggle myself, and can use this acquired ability to see my child as a thoroughly human being with great capacities for becoming a good and loving character (unless I am standing in the way by creating a constant anger in my offspring by my faulty ways). This will quite possibly save that child from the troubled childhood that I myself had. People like me have a strong tendency for seeing another person as the enemy once they have hurt me. I wish people would discuss these sad results of fear and hate much more, in the church, in society, in all sorts of gatherings. Mistreated children grow up to mistake eager aggression for strength, and this tendency must be balanced by culturing a more loving understanding in the society.

12:26 PM  

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