Famous in 12

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Famous in 12 TV Poster Image
TMZ-sponsored reality experiment sends the wrong messages.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This social experiment creates divisiveness within a bonded family and sometimes puts its members at odds with each other. The show intimates that achieving fame is a goal worth sacrificing everything -- including morals and lifelong relationships -- for and that getting negative press is equally valuable to being known for positive behavior. Body image and sex appeal are recurring points of discussion, and the women especially model their appearances and behavior after celebrity role models such as the Kardashians. The family's younger kids are rarely seen.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Angie manages her brood by encouraging exploits that will increase their exposure without regard for whether the messages are positive or negative. Occasionally the sisters show they have consciences and some self-respect, but most of the time the need for attention overrides any of that. 


Sisters sometimes scream at each other and pull hair. 


Taliah, Jameelah, and Maariyah constantly play up their sex appeal in their quest for fame, usually at the encouragement of their mother. They dress provocatively and flirt shamelessly with celebrities, and conversation often suggests that at least one would consider performing sexual favors or making a sex tape to up the ante. Maariyah often talks about the fact that she's a virgin but that she still wants people to think she's sexy. In one scene, all three women stand on a street corner in bikinis to turn heads. Sensitive areas are blurred when they're exposed.


"Ass" and "hell." Stronger words such as "f--k" and "s--t" are edited.


Viewers are encouraged to follow the story on TMZ's website and on social media venues such as Twitter and Facebook, and the show's stars often talk about how their online presences change as the series progresses. When celebrities' names are shown on-screen, they're accompanied by the Twitter logo and their tally of followers. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mixed drinks and other alcoholic beverages are a mainstay in this lifestyle, and the family members often go to bars and clubs, where they drink. At 19, Maariyah is underage and usually doesn't attend when the older women visit clubs and bars. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Famous in 12 is a reality series that follows a family's quest to achieve fame with the help of celebrity gossip machine TMZ. The participants' lives are put on display in this voyeuristic show that has a major online presence by way of Twitter and TMZ's website, and their ultimate success or failure is determined exclusively by their impact on social media. Their exploits will raise some eyebrows, particularly regarding how the three female siblings (ages 19 to 27) use their physical assets to turn heads and gain access to stars. Sexual topics are frequent, from the youngest sister's virginity to another's openness to perform on-camera to increase her exposure. Expect some strong language ("ass" and "hell," with stronger words such as "f--k" edited) and a hefty dose of questionable messages about popularity, self-respect, and body image. If your teen watches, this is a great opportunity to discuss and reinforce your own values to counteract those on the screen.

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What's the story?

FAMOUS IN 12 is a self-proclaimed social experiment that brings a small-town family to glamorous Hollywood and gives its members 12 weeks to achieve the fame they crave. For erotica writer Angie, her husband Mike, and Angie's three daughters, Taliah, Jameelah, and Maariyah, it's the chance to live out a dream. TMZ TV boss Harvey Levin and his newsroom crew help guide the wannabes' efforts, but ultimately success is in their hands and depends on their ability to infiltrate and adopt the lifestyle of the rich and famous. This they attempt to achieve by staging encounters with entertainment celebrities on the streets and in hot spots such as popular clubs in the hopes that they'll achieve stardom by association.

Is it any good?

If you thought Keeping Up with the Kardashians was as obnoxious as reality entertainment could go, then you haven't given Famous in 12 a chance. The similarities between the two shows are no accident, of course, what with an enabling manager/mom and her three drop-dead gorgeous daughters whose brazenness in front of the camera knows no bounds. But, whereas the Kardashian clan's notoriety is already sealed up, this family proves they're willing to do and say anything to anyone who will help them achieve the same level of intrigue, and that includes viewers like you and your teens. After all, their ultimate success is gauged by how many people find them interesting enough to follow their antics on social media.

The show has one thing going for it: Everyone involved is brutally honest about their intentions from the get-go. Puppeteer Levin is willing to pull strings for the wannabes because, as he says, they're shameless enough to stand a chance of succeeding in a society that measures fame by shock value rather than talent. Jameelah openly covets how Kim Kardashian turned an X-rated tape into global fame and is hopeful for a similar break. And Angie acknowledges that actively parenting her daughters prevents her from furthering their, um, "careers." In other words, family values have little place in this Hollywood home, and these characters have nothing positive to teach your teens, except what not to do. Need another reason to skip it? Its self-serving reliance on social media for the characters' running popularity stats raises all kinds of issues about how the cyber world can be used to make or break a person's impression of self-worth.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fame is assigned. Does a celebrity's personality or talent play any role in making him or her recognizable anymore? Does society easily forgive stars' bad behavior? Is any particular kind of bad behavior worse than another?

  • How is social media used as a tool in conjunction with this show? Do you think it's healthy to measure your popularity by what's said about you online? In what ways do people feel more empowered to voice strong opinions via social media when they might not say the same things to someone in person? Is this ever a good thing?

  • What messages do shows like this send about body image, particularly for girls? Does seeing and hearing women obsess about their looks influence how you feel about yours? Do you ever see characters of different sizes and shapes on the shows you watch? Do their physical appearances receive the same attention that more slender characters' do? 

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