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 series -- which follows couples in crisis as they attend a nontraditional marriage-counseling boot camp -- focuses on healing and problem solving and isn't intended to be exploitative. But watching the couples as they discuss (and argue over) everything from infidelity and domestic violence to porn addiction and substance abuse definitely has some voyeuristic qualities.
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What's the story?
Reality series MARRIAGE CAMP follows troubled couples as they participate in an intensive four-day \"boot camp\" to learn the skills they need to keep from ending up in divorce court. In a group setting, the couples partake in a series of nontraditional games and drills designed to help them self-realize and find reasons to stay together. With the assistance of facilitators Jim Carroll and David Bishop, they spend 12-hour days talking, arguing, and role-playing in order to develop a new sense of what marriage is about. At the end of camp, the couples exchange ring boxes in front of the group; the boxes' contents will determine whether they'll stay together.
Is it any good?
The show brings up a variety of mature/sensitive topics, including infidelity, pornography addiction, domestic violence, and substance abuse. But unlike other couples' therapy shows -- such as Decision House -- Marriage Camp doesn't go into a lot of detail about these issues. Instead, it shows people trying get past them. Yet, while the show's focus is on healing -- rather than exploiting -- the pain that these couples are experiencing, it's still uncomfortably voyeuristic. Participants are shown confronting painfully intimate issues in a very public setting. Adding to the discomfort are their video diaries, which reveal their candid feelings about their marriage and their spouses.
The series' subject matter alone, even without the gory details, makes the show a bad fit for tweens and younger teens (of course, chances are they won't be clamoring to view it anyway -- unless they find people talking and crying to be good entertainment). But it might appeal to adults who are interested in learning about relationship building and problem-solving tools that fall outside of mainstream therapy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about televised therapy. Do televised interventions and counseling sessions really help people? Do these kinds of things ever cross the line and become more about being entertaining than helpful? If so, who determines where those lines fall? What's the appeal of a reality show like this one? Families can also discuss the challenges of long-term relationships. Why is communication such an important part of any relationship? Do the show's exercises help people communicate? How? What are the benefits of seeking nontraditional medical/therapeutic help? The risks?
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