My Dysfunctional Family

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
My Dysfunctional Family TV Poster Image
Family fixer reality seems well-intentioned, but intense.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The message is that families in trouble can and should find help, but that the solution might not be easy. There's not much discussion about the lack of professional training the "family fixer" brings to the table.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dave Vitalli is well-intentioned, and wants to be a mentor. But he's not a licensed therapist, and uses personal experience and security and investigations tactics to help families resolve issues. Featured parents have often given up on parenting, while their children are often disrespectful, but these behaviors are viewed as negative ones. 

Violence

Yelling, screaming, fighting, hitting, etc. is frequent. Brass knuckles and other weapons are sometimes shown. Bullying is discussed. Kids are taken to gyms to box and find other outlets for their aggressive tendencies. Vitalli is an abuse survivor. 

Sex

Promiscuous behavior, as it relates to teenagers and single parenthood, is discussed. 

Language

Words like "hell," "damn," "bitch," etc. audible; curses like "f--k" are bleeped. 

Consumerism

Vitalli's company's, Vortek Security logo, is prominently featured on his clothing. He drives a Chevrolet SUV. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Underage drinking (hard liquor, beer, etc.), marijuana use, and other behavior visible, but in a negative context. Some of the consequences of possessing and consuming drugs is also discussed and sometimes shown. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that My Dysfunctional Family is a reality series that features families struggling with a wide variety of issues, from drug use to teen promiscuity, and being mentored by a guide who uses tough-love tactics to set folks on a better path. There's lots of screaming, yelling and fighting between family members, as well as references to violent acts. Words like "damn," "bitch," are audible, while stronger are bleeped. Underage drinking and marijuana use is also shown. Parents may want to consider watching with their teens to discuss some of the issues brought up here. 

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What's the story?

MY DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY is a reality series about families in crisis, and a self-proclaimed "family fixer" who gives them tough wake up calls. It stars television personality Dave Vitalli, the owner of a New York-based security and investigations company, who travels across the country to spend a week with families who are dealing with a wide-variety complex issues that are tearing them apart. Using drug-sniffing dogs, lie detectors, and various commando-like scare tactics, he works with families to help them figure out what is creating the problems, and suggests ways that they can help themselves fix them. After he leaves, updates are offered about how the family is doing.

Is it any good?

From temporarily throwing family members into jail, to offering kids a constructive outlet through going to a boxing gym, Dave Vitalli mixes tough love, heartfelt conversations with individual family members, and family workshops, to help parents and kids begin resolving the issues that are impacting their families. Throughout it all, he shares his thoughts about what he believes are the problems and the ways that they can be fixed. 

It's hard to tell whether or not some of these tactics will make a difference in the long-term, given that they are happening in front of cameras, and that the families being featured volunteered to be on a reality show. Meanwhile, while Vitalli is well-intentioned, his lack of professional therapeutic training makes you wonder if his interventions are actually useful. But his passion for mentoring troubled kids is apparent, and there are some important lessons to be learned here. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what would motivate a family in crisis to begin resolving their problems on a reality series. Do you think doing this will improve a family's chances of resolving their issues? Does appearing on TV make them more accountable for their actions?

  • Can shows like this one really help viewers learn more about these kinds of problems and how to fix them? 

TV details

For kids who love reality shows

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