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 reality show's Rocky Mountain setting is gorgeous, and the cowboy hosts are the real deal. But there's plenty of gender stereotyping, with the female contestants portrayed as materialistic and prissy. (In one episode, a woman leaves because she can't tend to her blond extensions -- why was she picked in the first place? Also, why not say that the winner will be the best cowboy or cowgirl?) While it's good to watch adults step outside their comfort zones and push themselves to succeed at something new, between the show's language, the presence of guns, and the cowmale-centric message, kids under 10 years should watch and discuss with an adult present. Worth noting: Kids who are concerned about animal welfare might be upset by the ritual of bull riding and scenes of calves being chased, caught, and dressed in panties.
What's the story?
In CMT's COWBOY U, eight city slickers compete for the title of best all-around cowboy while they learn first-hand about the not-so glamorous, hardworking life of a ranch hand. Viewers watch the contestants (a mix of men and women from many walks of life) care for their assigned horses, ride bulls, catch calves, shoot rifles, cook their own meals, and more -- all under the watchful eyes of veteran cowboys Rocco Wachman and Judd Leffew. The aspiring cowboys whoop and holler, wear boots and bandanas, and try their best to fit into the cowboy lifestyle. As on other reality shows, the contestants have varying success with trying something new -- and perhaps even more challenging than the grueling drills is learning to get along with others in a stressful, intense living situation.
Is it any good?
Both aspects of the show, in theory, offer great messages for kids -- but thanks to some questionable language, difficult scenes for animal-loving kids, and gender stereotyping, parents will want to be on-hand to discuss the show with young school-aged kids. Plus, without the pizzazz of the exotic locales of Survivor or the edge-of-your seat suspense of Amazing Race, Cowboy U feels a little bit formulaic and predictable. In the end, it's a Hollywood-enhanced glimpse at the world of ranch life, complete with quirky personalities, hokey music, and "roll up them sleeves" jobs that need to get done.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender stereotyping. How are cowboys typically portrayed on television and in the movies? Are all cowboys rough-and-tumble? Why aren't there more female ranch hands -- or female hosts? Also, are the female contestants depicted differently in the competitions than the guys? Given that much of the ranch work is physical and requires strength, is the stereotyping at all valid? Parents can also point out the courage and determination of the contestants, who are trying something new and somewhat intimidating.