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, like The Bachelor, this reality dating show focuses on women competing for a man's attention. It objectifies them, implying that a lasting, loving relationship can result from a contest in which the man calls the shots, sends women through competitions to win time with him, and dismisses hopeful mates on a whim. Plus, there are lots of make-out scenes with cuddling, stroking, and close-ups of French kissing, as well as quite a bit of strong language ("damn," "bitch," and bleeped variations on "f--k,"), most of which comes out as the ladies talk trash about each other in individual confessionals. Also expect drinking, references to sexual expertise, skimpy/provocative outfits, and frequent comments about the ladies' sex appeal.
What's the story?
GIRL MEETS COWBOY puts a twist on reality shows in which women compete for a hunky guy's affections (a la The Bachelor) by taking four city-slicked women and dumping them on a ranch for a crash course in the country life. Only by turning on the charm as they learn the ranching ropes will one of the hopefuls beat out her opponents and lasso the heart of her cowboy cutie. Each episode introduces four beautiful new female competitors, who hail from cities around the world and most often have never had a close encounter of the livestock kind. The ladies arrive on the ranch, quickly shed their stylish stilettos and Prada purses for shapely Wranglers and cowboy boots, and head off to meet their Prince Charming, a handsome cowboy looking for love.
Is it any good?
After initial introductions, the competition takes off with a series of contests in which the ladies can earn individual dates and increasing amounts of one-on-one time with the cowboy. Cameras roll as the couples head off for secluded romantic escapades, chatting it up and, often, kissing (sometimes quite passionately). The contestants are also expected to pitch in on chores around the ranch, and the cowboy often wanders by to check on their progress -- and to comment on how the manual labor suits their city-dwelling style. After a few days, the cowboy narrows the field from four to two women, sending the losers home with canned words of comfort ("I love that you're outgoing and fun," for example). The remaining hopefuls are given one last chance to impress him on a date before he makes his final selection.
More than just another reality copycat, Girl Meets Cowboy actually steps up some of the iffy stuff viewers are already familiar with from other shows. It narrows the contestant field, promoting the idea that any man can find love among four drop-dead gorgeous (and shapely) women. It also shortens the length of the contest, assuming that the same man can adequately judge a woman's character based on a few brief encounters. Like its dating-competition cousins, the show puts the man in the driver's seat, giving him the power to end relationships on a whim and send contestants home brokenhearted (or as brokenhearted as you can be after knowing someone just a day or two). The set up breeds plenty of resentment and hurt feelings among the women, who resort to sabotaging one another's dates and talking trash behind their opponents' backs -- all of which just fuels the controversial fire that sells reality TV.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages this series sends about women, relationships, and marriage. What, if anything, about this method of finding a mate seems realistic? What doesn't? What do you think are the most important compatibility issues in a relationship? Can major lifestyle and opinion differences be overcome? How long do you think it takes people to get to know each other well enough to make a commitment? Teens: What do you think of marriage? Does this show represent how young people feel about finding a partner? Why or why not? Would you ever consider competing in a contest for someone's affections?