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 features orchestrated pranks designed to generate laughs while offering some observations about various aspects of American society. Some of the pranks are intended to embarrass and/or humiliate unsuspecting "victims" who are engaged in irritating behavior (like talking too loud on a cell phone). While the language is generally mild (though words like "hell" are occasionally heard), some of the pranks feature crude humor and iffy behavior (like stealing cars and making people strip down to their underwear). Beer drinking and cigarette/cigar smoking are occasionally visible.
What's the story?
MABE IN AMERICA is a hidden-camera show designed to poke fun at some of life's most annoying moments -- and create trouble for those who are causing them. The series stars comedian Tom Mabe; with the help of \"partners-in-crime\" Jim Clark and Ron Reimer, he stages outlandish moments intended to prove a point to people who talk too loud on their cell phones, ignore \"no trespassing\" signs, and engage in other irritating behavior. Some of these pranks are also designed to offer commentary about some of America's social issues, including how the medical establishment deals with the uninsured, the federal government's efforts to curb immigration, and America's lack of patriotism.
Is it any good?
While the practical jokes are generally harmless, some of them are clearly intended to embarrass people in order to make their point. In some cases, the pranks (like posing as an ambulance driver who leaves a patient at a gardening store in order to transport fertilizer to his house) seem so over-the-top that it's hard to believe people actually fall for them. But what motivates these far-fetched moments are relatively thoughtful observations about some of this country's social ironies. Mabe also comments on these issues when he introduces each pre-recorded scenario to his studio audience. And as an extra, he airs some of his trademark stunts that specifically target telemarketers.
Mabe in America will generate laughs, but some of the humor isn't intended for young viewers. Some of the tricks feature iffy behavior like forcing people to strip down to their underwear (under the pretense that they've been contaminated by a radioactive fishing pond) and pretending to steal cars. The animated shorts featured after each commercial break contain some crude humor, and while the language is mild, some of the subject matter is a little strong for tweens. Overall, though, Mabe in America offers some funny moments for those mature enough to understand their underlying messages.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the difference between harmless pranks and playing jokes on people that can potentially have very serious consequences. When do pranks cross the line from being funny to being inappropriate or even harmful? Are hidden-camera TV shows ethical? What does it feel like to be the "victim" of a practical joke? Should a prank be used to embarrass someone, even if it's intended to make a point? Families can also discuss using comedy as a way of providing social commentary. Do you think humor is a good way of shedding light on serious issues, or should comedy shows only be created for entertainment?