W the Family
Meet the Westons. Husband/father Fred is an insurance salesman, and wife/mother Andrea is a teacher. They met at church, were married and before you can say "Ritalin," Andrew (4) and Sean (11 mos.) sprang from their loins.
"Life with kids can be very difficult," Fred sighs. It makes one question how Fred imagined life in a family with two kids. I hate to break it to Fred, but life isn't a Hallmark card. Hell, it's not even a Carlton or American Greetings card.
Note the appearance of Fred because you'll spot Fred in this episode about as often as you spot a Yeti in the wild.
His wife, Andrea, worries about Andrew's penchant for hurting other children during playtime. Andrea dreads phone calls from preschool. She's come to expect them, telling her that Andrew is acting out again and that she has to pull him out for the day.
From my experience, Andrea shouldn't worry. I didn't attend preschool, and my mother withdrew me from Little League because I "might get hurt," but I still became a normal, well-rounded, productive member of society...
...My society being the Kingdom of Farland, of course, where I am on a quest to reunite the 13 Harmony Gems and slay Balrog, earning the title "Lord Dragonslayer and Chief Counsel to the Realm," and...and...
I'm sorry. I must have blacked out for a moment. What were we talking about?
It's not Andrew's behavior toward other children that's cause for concern with his parents. Andrew is also a terror during mealtime and bedtime.
Supernanny Jo Frost chirps that the Westons "definitely do need [her]!" and off she goes to...wherever it is the Westons live. Oh, Jo. I like you, which is why it's hard to watch you go rushing off in the Nannymobile whenever you think someone needs and wants you. How many times did I tell myself the same thing only to have my dreams crushed, once again, by one of my crazy ex-girlfriends?
Look Upon Andrew's Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair
When Jo meets the Westons, Andrea tells the camera that Jo seems "friendly and young at heart," which is a good start for a blind date, but damning with faint praise for a potential caregiver to your children.
As always, Jo is here to observe the family in its natural state prior to rendering judgment.
We watch Nanny Jo observing Andrew and Sean in the backyard. Andrew takes playtime to the next level by turning on the garden hose and filling his plastic castle playset. (I have to admit, when I was a kid, anything having to do with the hose was a hell of a lot of fun. You simply can't go wrong!)
When Andrea tells Andrew to turn off the hose, he goes completely mental and starts tossing toys and furniture around the backyard. He's like a mini-Sean Penn with cameras in his face.
At this point, we're introduced to one of Andrew's favorite phrases: "poo-poo." Usage: "You go away, poo-poo!" directed to his parents or guardians, of course.
The amateur linguist in me idly wonders how he picked up this particular phrase. It's not like Andrew caught Fred accidentally whacking his thumb with a hammer and heard his father yell, "Oh...poo!"
Was Andrew sitting around watching The Fairly OddParents one day and say to himself, "By george, I need a crackin' good trash-talk phrase...Wait! I have it! 'Poo-poo'! The adults in my life will be disarmed by this infantile synonym for excrement! Andrew, you old wag, you've done it again!"?
Burnt Sienna and Frayed Nerves
Supernanny finally lives up to its title now that we've seen a child with the strength of the Hulk. (Note that he can toss a swingset, and he's only four.)
One would think a child like that shouldn't be placed around other children, especially if he's out of control. (But ding-dang it, he slays me every time he screams, "No, poo-poo!" or "Okay, poo-poo!")
Before we see Andrew around other children, I just know this is going to be a huge miscalculation in strategy. An enormous mistake, not unlike invading Russia in winter.
Andrew's parents either lack common sense or exhibit a severe knowledge gap in military history. Either way, here comes Andrew's playmate, Anya, to crayon with the little tyke.
Andrew crayons on Anya's drawing. When she tells him to stop, this only encourages him to scribble all over her drawing. Anya goes into hysterics.
Let me tell you something, Andrew: The ladies aren't down with it when you fool with them during playtime, you dig? That awkward little girl with the pigtails whose stuffed owl you dunk in a glass of milk just may turn out to be a beauty pageant queen, all-state track star and summa cum laude at Stanford someday. Don't ask me how I know this. I just do.
Some lessons are best learned through experience, I suppose. With crayoning time obviously over, Andrew and Anya proceed to the toys. Without preamble, Andrew knocks the toys out of Anya's hands, cause for another crying jag.
And for his pièce de résistance, Andrew grabs and pulls Anya's face. Somebody needs to tell this kid not to emulate everything he sees in Mission Impossible films.
"I Just Want to Be Held"
Andrea decides to give Andrew a time-out. She hauls him off to his room and shuts the door. When he refuses to stay inside the room, Andrea holds the door shut. She tells Nanny Jo that they can play this game for up to half an hour sometimes.
When that fails, she moves on to Plan B. "Plan B" involves sitting on the bed with Andrew and holding him tight. That's one hell of a Plan B. My Plan B for anything usually involves getting the hell out of there before the police arrive.
At mealtime, Andrew refuses to eat. When told to sit down and eat, he either runs off or plays with his food.
When given a five minute warning for bedtime, Andrew first stirs up trouble with Baby Sean and, like almost every child we've seen on a nanny program, emerges again and again from his bedroom.
It's 12:45 before Andrew finally goes to bed, and not before he tells Nanny Jo to "go home." She laughs it off.
I can't believe it. I don't stay up to 12:45...and I'm almost 31 years old!
As promised, Jo has reserved comment on the Westons, but she finally remarks, "My question is, why have they [the Westons] allowed this go on so long?"
When Jo finally sits down with Fred and Andrea, she starts by remarking on their stamina. "What energy!" she quips. (I get the feeling she's softening the blows to come.)
She compliments them on their level of education (Hrm?) and their knowledge of the children, but asks the Westons when they lost control. (Bam! Beaned in the head from out of left field!)
Jo is concerned about Andrew's behavior and calls him "very controlling, very overpowering, very aggressive," which are all apt descriptors for my crazy ex-girlfriends.
Andrew also needs to be taught how to play with other children.
"You don't want your child to be the bully," Andrea sadly admits.
The Westons need to balance discipline and love, Jo says.
I'm scribbling all of this down and wondering how much of it I can use to teach my dogs to stop jumping on the couch.
Get with Jo-Jo's Program
The first thing Jo does is post a schedule she's designed for the Westons. We can't read what's on this schedule, though. I suppose it's not meant for our beady little eyes.
Jo's system encounters its first test when Andrew torments Baby Sean, pro wrestling style.
Jo tells Andrea to get down on her knees and explain to Sean that his behavior is inappropriate.
Andrea's performance is dissatisfactory, though. It's not stern enough for Jo. Jo demonstrates by telling Andrew to get on his "naughty spot" in a low, Lucifer-style tone of voice.
Andrew scrambles faster than kids being told it's free entry day at Disneyland and Mickey Mouse is scooping chocolate ice cream.
I notice that Jo has changed the name of time-out from "naughty corner" to "naughty spot." "Naughty spot"--heh heh. This reminds me of a story back when I was in college. When I was living in the dorms, the guys next door to me and I decided to invite some residents from the all-women's dorm to the beach. So we all piled in my car and drove to the beach, and...
[Edited for FoRT]
...and that's why we called my car the "naughty spot."
As Andrew sits in the naughty spot, Jo and Andrea discuss his behavior and how they're going to deal with him.
Andrew manages to keep himself busy, though, by tossing books and relying on his old chestnut: "Go away, poo-poo!"
Next, Jo tackles Andrew's inability to play well with children his own age. She tells Andrea to speak with Andrew, then stand back and supervise.
While Andrea is trying to take care of Sean, Andrew throws a tantrum because he wants his chocolate milk warmed up. Aside from the fact that warm chocolate milk must be nasty, Jo tells Andrew to ask his mother nicely.
I tried to spell out Andrew's response, but suffice to say it sounded something like: "ah nah nah nah NAAAH!"
Fred makes a rare cameo appearance in the lives of his wife and children, time enough to remark that he thinks Andrew's behavior is worsening under Jo's tutelage.
Andrea sticks Andrew in the naughty spot immediately. Jo applauds Andrea for learning the Supernanny system so quickly.
When Andrew's time-out period is over, Andrea scoops up Andrew and hugs him to her chest. Jo admonishes Andrea for babying him.
At dinner, Jo tells Andrea to praise Andrew for every bite he takes, which seems to get the rascal chewing on his hot dog.
At bedtime, Jo has Andrea and Fred separate the boys. They move Sean's crib out of Andrew's room. Jo instructs the Westons in proper bedtime technique. First, put the child to bed and say goodnight. If the child emerges three times or more, put the child back in bed every time, consistently, without saying a word.
Utilizing Jo's technique, Andrea and Fred are pleasantly surprised that Andrew emerges only three times in half an hour, opposed to his usual 30.
Having laid the groundwork, it's time for Jo to go away and see how the Westons operate without her constant supervision.
This sort of technique gives me pause. It's not unlike Stacy and Clinton taking a step back in What Not to Wear after they show the subject how they ought to dress.
I wonder about Supernanny like I wonder about What Not to Wear: Is there ever an occasion where Jo, Stacy or Clinton are so satisfied with their students' behavior that they don't jump back in the fray to correct them?
For What Not to Wear, that answer is yes, last week. I was so stunned, I nearly dropped my beer.
So far, I haven't seen Jo do the same, but the show is young, the show is young.
Like Brain Surgery, Childcare Is in the Details
Before reviewing her Westons DVD, Jo remarks that disciplining Andrew is going to rest in the details; if they can proceed from point A to point B to point C, they ought to be fine.
When Jo sees Andrea counting out the bites with Andrew during mealtime, she's satisfied. I have a glimmer of hope that Jo won't have to swoop back into the Westons' household to correct their behavior.
I'm soon proven wrong.
When Andrea is forced to put Andrew in the naughty spot, she leaves him without telling him long he has to stay. That's a red check mark in Jo's handbook. Andrea makes another faux pas when she forgets to ask Andrew for an apology.
When Andrew tries playing with Sean, he flips out. He's back in the naughty spot, and what can I say except that Jo thinks their naughty spot technique is disastrous.
"I've got to get back there!" Jo says urgently, as if there were ever any doubt she would.
It occurs to me that if one were to create a What Not to Wear or Supernanny drinking game, "Stacy/Clinton/Jo is satisfied with contestants' behavior; doesn't need to offer more advice" would be a great "Finish the bottle" because it happens rarely, if ever.
After Jo returns and shows the Westons their footage, she wastes no time in correcting what she sees as wrong in their discipline.
"Give eye contact," she reminds them about Andrew.
Jo also reminds the Westons to (1) tell Andrew to stop then (2) walk away if he starts mocking them when he's in time-out.
If you're wondering about a theme for this episode, it's all about following the small details, apparently, when dealing with children. Nanny thinks that the Weston parents have the general idea, but when they forget the small details she's shown them, their discipline doesn't work.
"I believe you can do this, but you need to believe," Jo tells Andrea.
Insanity Is Repeating One's Behavior and Expecting Different Results
I'm watching this episode with J. She glances up from her book, watches Andrew and comments that at the rate Andrew's going, he'll be on the naughty spot until he's in college or starts his first job. I tend to agree.
So, like a Shaolin master, Jo goes over the routine again with Andrea and Andrew. Jo reminds Andrea to encourage Andrew's positive behavior when he's eating.
With only a few minutes left in the episode and what appears to be a lot of work left to be done with Andrew, one wonders whether Jo has finally met the child she couldn't teach to behave properly.
It doesn't help that Fred doesn't seem involved at all and doesn't seem to believe in Jo's program.
"He's an aggressive kid," Fred tells the camera, as if that explains their lack of control with their child.
The reality is, the challenge is with Mom and Dad, Jo correctly points out.
And almost magically, but more likely because ABC won't grant 1 1/2 hours to this episode of Supernanny, we evolve from "Okay, poo-poo!" to Jo: "He's changing. They [the Westons] embraced the details, and it's working."
During a gentler moment, Andrea and Jo watch Andrew sleeping.
"He snores," Andrea grins.
Andrew ought to enjoy women cooing over him while he snores for as long as he can, because let me tell you, kid, women won't find that as cute in about 20 years.
As encouragement to move forward with Jo's plan, Andrea reminds herself not to be afraid to try new things. "Fear can stop anyone," she nods solemnly.
Come again? Lady, you're trying to get a kid to eat Mac & Cheese without throwing a cheese grater; you're not hunting Hannibal Lecter.
And, just like that, it's time for Jo to leave. Frankly, she looks like she can't get out of there fast enough, and Fred doesn't look too sad to see her go. I would be very interested in finding out just what the hell happened between Fred and Jo. I'm sure it's more interesting than the boring pap seen in this episode.
J. grins at how quickly Jo is out of there. "So long, poo-poo," J. imitates Andrew. "Okie, bye," she emulates Jo.
Even the family update is done too quickly: Andrew is reportedly eating well, falls asleep 20 minutes after going down for bed and Fred and Andrew seem to getting along well during a game of father/son basketball.
All's well that ends well until next week...
...until we're treated to a clip of Fred sitting in the naughty spot and throwing a tantrum, imitating Andrew and drawing laughs from his family.
Bizarre. Disturbing. And not very entertaining.
(Hey, poo-poo, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)