USA version of 'World's Strictest Parents'.
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USA version of 'World's Strictest Parents'.

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18 April 2009 (USA)  »

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The Show Should Be Called "World's Most Reasonable Parents"
17 March 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It should go without saying that the title of this risky but enlightening reality show is a huge overstatement when you actually watch the show. I learned from Wikipedia that this show, like many other successful reality TV programs in the U.S., originated in the United Kingdom not too long ago. I've only seen the episodes aired on MTV (also shown on MTV's sister station, CMT). Judging from what episodes I've seen, I wonder how MTV as a whole defines the word "strict", and what kind of parenting would be considered reasonable according to their standards.

Truth be told, it's a great premise for a show, and there has not been one episode I've seen that has made me want to stop watching. In the show, there are two teenagers (usually no older than 18) who are deemed unruly by the producers, and therefore by the audience. These teens (different ones every week) are not unruly to the point of juvenile delinquency where they need to be sent to an institution, but they are almost always from a city (mostly Los Angeles, apparently the jaded teenager capital of the world, which it just may be), and come across as uncontrollable. They display the bad kind of independence consisting of drinking to excess frequently, smoking, or both, and sassiness to match. In other words, they have attitudes that may welcome them into Paris Hilton's circle of friends easily, but not into the real world.

The show doesn't usually bother to explain how they got this way, or place much blame on their parents for that matter. Still, they get sent to another set of parents, usually in a rural area, who are strict apparently because they establish an acceptable code of conduct for their children and guests, assign chores, and actually (gasp!) punish them for disobeying the rules or talking back. The teenagers given this special assignment from the show stay with this family for just seven days.

Now, I don't know if the teens themselves actually audition for this show, or if their parents sign them up for it. I also don't know at what point these teens know what they're in for. Regardless, it is nice to see these teens clean up their attitude in the course of the week. Most of the teens have messy encounters with the parents within the first day. It seems as though TV in general thrives on Reality TV meltdowns, but these fights are the same kind you feel when you're a guest at a regular person's house and a loud argument between a parent and a child ensues. You feel a different kind of thick tension that you don't feel when Flavor Flav's skanky girlfriends get into cat fights. It's incredibly uncomfortable.

However, from those tense moments come some poignant moments resulting from reconciliation, depending on whether or not the teen leaves the show (which has happened only once according to my count). When the teen makes a connection with the temporarily adoptive parent, the resolution seems far less scripted than other reality shows. It's unlikely that a spoiled teen would change his or her ways in just one week. After all, it takes Army recruits six weeks to change their attitudes in basic training.

With that said, I found myself, upon watching this show for the first time, thinking I was going to watch the show and say, "Wow, these parents are really strict", but instead saying, "Wow, what's wrong with these teenagers?". The parents on this show, for the most part, do what every parent should be doing: showing their kids enough discipline so that they enter the real world without the notion that success will be handed to them. It's a lesson every kid should learn, and actually enforcing such rules does not make a parent a strict parent; it makes them a good parent. Strict is not necessarily a good thing, either. Their are strict parents who are bad parents, too. Similarly, not every spoiled, cynical child comes from Los Angeles either. It's sort of sad that MTV (or CMT) doesn't seem to grasp that fact judging from this TV show. However, if a show that is simultaneously entertaining and educational can hammer home to a younger audience what good parenting and acceptable social behavior should be, then this show has served a purpose extending beyond ad revenue.


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