Cockroaches for dinner? Fine. Wife-swapping? OK by me. The more revolting reality shows get, the happier I get. When networks grovel and pander, they make my case for me: "See, kids! Television is disgusting!" Just watching the commercials provides excellent fodder for discussions with my 11-year-old daughter, who, thanks to Bachelor ads, knows words like "objectify," "paternalistic" and "abhorrent."
But. In an astonishing case of tv-scum one-upmanship, NBC is proud to take us to an all-time low - and that's really saying something. The "Baby Borrowers" is...well...I'll let the geniuses at NBC tell you:
"...an intriguing new social experiment based on the hit British program that asks five diverse teenage couples -- ages 18-20 -- to fast-track to adulthood by setting up a home, getting a job and becoming caring parents first to babies, toddlers, pre-teens and their pets, teenagers and senior citizens -- all over the course of three weeks."
Yep, folks, you read that correctly: Babies will be handed over to teenagers - teenagers who are strangers! - for our viewing pleasure. Watch in amusement as the teens fumble the diapers! Say "ew!" in delight as they grapple with baby barf! Nod sagely as you think, "That will teach them to use birth control."
Maybe so. But hello? Can we spare a thought about the babies and toddlers that are being exploited for this cash cow?
Those baby lovers over at Zero to Three sure have. Here's part of their statement: "This setup can be very harmful for the babies and toddlers involved. For the past 80 years, many studies have shown unequivocally that babies and toddlers suffer when they are exposed to this kind of prolonged separation from family and left with people that they do not know or love. As all parents know, babies and toddlers are very distressed by separation. They cry, cling, and search for their parents. The longer the separation, the more upset they become. Some children are unable to sleep and refuse to eat. The responses routinely last long past the child's reunion with the parent. Prolonged separations heighten young children's separation anxiety and damage their trust that their parents will be available to protect and care for them. Children can become angry and rejecting of their parents after being reunited with them, damaging the fabric of the child-parent relationship."
Oh, is that all? Hey - I just got a great idea for a new reality show: "Why I hate my parents!"
For it's part, NBC is quick to point out that the whole debacle is filmed "under 24-hour supervision by nannies and the real parents who are stationed next door, watching via monitor, and able to step in at any time." I'm sure that's of real comfort to the terrified baby suddenly thrust into the arms of a stranger.
Yes, it's an "emotional and dramatic journey" alright. Just give me five minutes alone with the development team behind this debacle. I'll give them dramatic.