Film and TV

Reality Bites: Extreme Guide to Parenting

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

To this point, there haven't been a whole lot of parenting reality shows, unless you count the ones that only address it in the broader context of family life, like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo or, I guess, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Therefore Bravo's new show -- Extreme Guide to Parenting -- is one of the first shows to feed into that most visceral of urges: mocking other people's parenting techniques.

Which is also why EGTP is yet another example of that network's insidious genius, because as any parent will tell you, the only thing harder than raising kids is resisting the urge to tell other people how to raise theirs.

Bravo tries to make it easy for us. "Not near my crystals," could be the motto of Shira Adler, whose style of parenting is presented as" eco-kosher" (okaaay), "shamanistic" (cool, peyote), and ... aromatherapy. Well, parenting does involve all kind of terrible odors. Andy is the barely credulous boyfriend, attempting to keep a straight face as she talks about her "synergy sprays." Shira can see auras, because of course she can. 12-year old daughter Emma's is lavender, though she confesses she doesn't know what means.

In this case, it appears to mean you don't warrant as much attention as your obnoxious brother.

Yonah, the 10-year old son, is an "indigo child." According to Shira, this means he's very "creative" and "out of the box." Outwardly, he looks like any other shitty 10-year old, only more so, because mom disciplines him using a chakra quartz singing bowls instead of sending him to bed without dessert or taking away the bullet(!) he took to school in his backpack.

It's hard to tell if Yonah actually needs medication/therapy or if he's just a typical bratty pre-teen whose normal boyish sociopathic tendencies are being exacerbated by his space case of a mother. Honestly, if there's anyone you should feel bad for, it's Emma, who doesn't rate as much attention as her attention-leeching brother (it's probably because of that *pathetic* lavender aura).

Because he's (surprise) at risk of failing 4th grade, Shira finally agrees to see a psychiatrist about Yonah. The doctor reminds her, "You don't get through your whole life without waiting in line," no matter how "paradigm breaking" indigos are. Yonah isn't keen on the idea, possibly because he has been told for the last decade he's an indigo superstar who's going to change the world. How does that Oompa Loompa song go again?

Shira, Princess of Cower, decides to send Yonah to an alternative school. She also finally realizes it's time to pay more attention to the long-suffering Emma. Whether that turns out to be a good idea or disaster remains to be seen.

Over in Los Angeles, Scout and Bill Masterson-Horn practice something called "all baby, all the time" with three-year old Simone. Between this brand of Siamese-attachment parenting, their insistence on designer togs (no really, great idea buying a Marc Jacobs shirt for someone who'll probably wipe their butt with it), and their inability to leave the erstwhile nanny (Scout's mother Nana) alone to play with the kid, the countdown has officially begun for either a) some screamingly disturbing separation anxiety, or b) a kid who runs away from home before her 9th birthday.

What do the two dads hope is the outcome of this? "She's going to turn out to be an amazing, young, confident woman." I'm not sure what dictionary they're using, but "confident" is rarely synonymous with "never allowed to learn on one's own or discover things for yourself."

Dad the first (Scout) has mommy issues. Specifically, Nana had to leave him with his grandmother *all day long* because she selfishly went to work to provide for him. And Nana's attempts to spend some one-on-one time with Simone are rebuffed by the dads, who even go so far as to consider hiring a nanny. Guess that events promotion business is doing well, if they can afford SoCal child care rates over family members who are conveniently obliged to help you watch your child.

Then again, maybe "nanny" is inaccurate. "Doormat who keeps Simone from playing with knives while parents hover nearby and question their every decision" might be more appropriate.

Predictably, Scout and Bill don't "feel a connection" with any of the candidates. Even more predictably, after 10 days without a break, they agree to let Simone spend the night at Nana's. Naturally, they don't tell her in advance, the better to feign dismay when they discover no food in the refrigerator.

It's obvious what Bravo is doing. After all, their whole goddamn raison d'etre is getting you to gawk and point at the goofy people on the tee-vee (it's the whole reason the Real Housewives franchise was created). What's sure to be lost in all the hurt feelings and creative editing is an actual discussion of how alternative parenting styles might be an improvement, and whether our closely held beliefs about child-rearing could benefit from further examination.

I know, right? BORING.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar