'Nanny 911' cries for 86-ing
The newest reality show, "Nanny 911," is in such terrible shape, someone should call "TV 911."
It's not just exploitative. It's repulsive.
The concept of "Nanny 911," premiering tomorrow night at 9 on Fox, is to descend upon parents who are so utterly *irresponsible and clueless that they A) allow their young children to run roughshod over them, and B) think nothing of allowing a TV crew into their homes to document all the bad behavior.
Fox spread the word through local ads and affiliate Web sites for parents with rowdy offspring between the ages of 2 and 9 to apply to appear on a new, unscripted, "fun, family TV show" — submitting *video, if possible, of "any out-of-control behavior of your children."
A room of British nannies looks at this footage, judging from afar like the voyeuristic lifestyle makeover team on "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Then one of them is dispatched to the home in question, accepting the dare like a daycare "Iron Chef."
Only, in this case, it's Iron Fist, arriving at the door as if equal parts Mary Poppins and the Exorcist. She's got one week to whip the kids, and their *parents, into shape, while the *cameras roll.
In the opener, 4-year-old Dylan makes his *introductory appearance by hitting his mother, his 2-year-old sister, Natalie, and even the camera.
The only thing he doesn't clobber is Nanny Deborah, whose British accent drips out through sneers of disbelief at what she's witnessing.
I'm with her.
What's wrong with this picture? Just about everything.
# First, it's got the most headache-inducing* cacophony of crying children on TV since the ABC telemovie "The *Women's Room." That was 24 years ago, but I still remember how irritating it was. In 2028, should I live that long, I fear I'll still recall the wailing from "Nanny 911."
# Second, any reality show that includes kids, who are too young to offer informed consent, is by definition talking advantage of them — and of parents who are too egocentric to protect their own young. Even if the advice given is sound, the path to get there is far too manipulative and shameful.
# Third, there's no way the presence of cameras, filming this nanny-visiting pro*cedure, adds anything but conflict. I might even like this show if it were something like "Dog Obedience 911" (Animal Planet, are you listening?), because *canines will perform just as badly, or as well, whether a TV crew is filming or not. Little children, who feed off *attention and conflict, will act only worse.
# Fourth, no matter how sympathetic the nanny and the show sound at the end, most of the show is spent *encouraging viewers to *revel in the bad *behavior of the entire family. "I have *often found that long days can lead to even longer nights," Deborah advises, *suggesting that *nannies and TV critics share *something in common.
The misbehavior in "Nanny 911" is nothing that a good *tranquilizer gun wouldn't cure. And if you won't aim it at the kids or their mother, then, please, put me out of my TV-watching misery and shoot it at me.