A lesson in how to tick off the in-laws
We can all learn a thing or two from the folks on Married by America
Scott Feschuk, National Post
Friday, April 04, 2003
Not many of you have been watching Married by America (Mondays, Fox/CH), an unexpected development that raises a deep and perplexing philosophical question: If a loose woman surrenders herself to a studly mandroid on national television and no one is there to watch, does she still contract gonorrhea?
Some television critics are interpreting the ratings faceplants of Married by America, The Family and other recent reality series as evidence that viewers have abruptly sprouted a healthy growth of good sense. This theory cannot be ruled out, although the continued popularity of According to Jim serves as a persuasive counterpoint. More likely, it's a by-product of bad timing. After watching Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette, we'd all grown weary of suppressing the urge to reach through the TV screen and crisply thwack dimwitted reality-show contestants with a rolled-up newspaper.
Perhaps the best way for me to convey the experience of watching Married by America, short of coming to your home and setting fire to your brain, is to describe what happened this week when Kevin and Jill -- who earlier in the series were matched up by well-meaning American TV viewers -- went to visit Jill's parents on Long Island. Ominously, Jill warned us: "My family is dysfunctional with a capital D!"
Kevin's parents showed up, too -- a surprise! -- and the party was on. You could tell it was a party because there was food and loud conversation and because Jill's father, Tony, kept taking off his shirt to reveal his thick, broadloom back hair. Tony was confrontational, coarse and, when he ventured outside, prone to wearing a light spring jacket with no shirt underneath. The whole of his screen time resembled a series of outtakes from My Cousin Vinny.
Tony, we quickly came to understand, was of a mind that 10 days of furious groping on national television was, when it came to his little angel, an insufficient courtship. He forced Kevin to sleep in a guest room. He treated him with swaggering hostility. And then, during the party, when he overheard Kevin innocently address Jill as "sweetie," Tony snapped.
"Don't call her 'sweetie!' " he hollered. "Don't do it!" Jill's mother tried to calm Tony down, but words failed where only a well-placed tranquilizer dart or more likely an anvil to the head could have succeeded. "Whose roof is this?" Tony bellowed. "He's Kevin! She's Jill! Enough with this 'sweetie' (naughty word deleted)!" And then to Kevin: "Don't get me pissed off!" Eventually, Tony fell glumly silent, which allowed Jill to continue a heated debate with Kevin's parents, who had gently denounced her plans to pose again for Playboy. In-laws: Is there anything they don't disapprove of?
The following morning, Kevin (doubtless after confirming that his dental insurance was in order) approached Tony and delicately asked for permission to marry his daughter. I found myself wondering: Will Fox show the evisceration, or just allude to it? But Tony, the effects of his exposure to a bombardment of gamma rays having apparently passed for the moment, pondered it briefly and replied: "I'm gonna give you a shot. I'm gonna give you my blessing. All right, son?"
Kevin looked stunned. I looked stunned. But neither of us looked nearly as stunned as executives at ABC upon discovering that their latest reality series, All-American Girl (also on Citytv), had bounced off the atmosphere upon entry into the popular culture and is currently hurtling silently through space.
I watched All-American Girl for the first time on Wednesday night. It's a bit like American Idol, but with more eating disorders. According to the voiceover, the series chronicles "the search for the exceptional woman who has everything." The accompanying visuals make clear that "everything" includes the ability to play basketball while wearing a bikini.
Geri Halliwell was there, acting as one of the "coaches" who counsel, assess and ultimately eliminate the contestants. She was wearing a shirt that, in large red letters, read, "GERI." Presumably so she wouldn't forget. At one juncture, Geri had to put a girl on "probation," a development that meant the contestant had a 50-50 chance of being booted from the show. The girl reacted as though Geri had run over her cat with a Zamboni.
Best as I can discern, the key to being declared All-American Girl is, in a word, it. There is no shortage of grave, passionate discussion about it on All-American Girl -- whether a contestant has it, and in sufficient quantity. Those who have it must also know they have it, and be able to use it, and be able to know they're using it. "I think you have it," one girl was solemnly informed this week. "I just want to see it more pronounced."
I cannot say with any confidence precisely what it is. But judging from the ratings, it's a safe bet this series doesn't have it.