A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series is escapist fun for reality show junkies. That said, the featured couples do some serious bickering, and the host and judges make their fair share of mocking comments. There's also some language to watch out for -- words like "hell" and "damn" are audible, while "f--k" is bleeped. Still, if teens are interested in watching adults' relationship dynamics play out on screen, there's not too much here, content-wise, that's particularly iffy for them.
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What's the story?
BETTER HALF takes the saying \"Anything you can do, I can do better\" and explores the truth behind it. In each episode, two couples are chosen; one person in each duo then proceeds to teach the other the rudiments of their job. In one episode, for example, two women have to learn how to play executive chef; in another, two trainers have to put their partners through the paces. Whoever survives the trial by fire is the winner. The prize: $20,000 -- although the central idea is that the exercise will help both couples get to know each other's strengths and, in turn, appreciate their \"better halves\" more.
Is it any good?
Hosted by comedienne Susie Essman of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the show is part reality series and part anthropology -- Survivor meets Trading Spouses, with a dash of the Discovery Channel thrown in. Watching how couples work under pressure is fascinating stuff, as is witnessing participants step up and give their tests the old college try. But seeing the spouses (or significant others) grow increasingly frustrated as they watch how their partners do via closed-circuit TV can be painful. "What a schmuck," says one when he sees how badly his wife is doing. "You're killing me," says another to the screen. It can feel a little like intruding on a one-sided fight -- though the stand-offs aren't ugly ... yet.
Essman's bits are the funniest parts, though her glee at uncovering participants' -- victims'? -- mess-ups is sometimes a little too gleeful. For example, her comments on the two women trying their hand at chef-dom included "They're on the same plane of cluelessness. They're both horrible." If you're a reality-show junkie, it all makes for some escapist fun. But it's hard not to wonder how long the producers can keep coming up with interesting jobs for the format. Pick the wrong field, and they'll wind up with a boring episode with only bickering to offer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this type of reality series actually promotes understanding. Or is it just a typical show that capitalizes on others' misfortunes? Why is it hard to understand someone else's predicament unless you've actually walked in that person's proverbial shoes? How realistic is it to expect someone to do a decent job at a task they haven't taken on before?