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 MTV dating series is based on the assumption of an all-out war between parents and their child's current boyfriend or girlfriend. Young adults are rude to parents, and vice versa. Verbal battles sting with nastiness (some exchanges are peppered with insults), and it's clear that no love is lost among all participants.
What's the story?
PARENTAL CONTROL operates under the assumption that the parents in each episode hate the person their child is currently dating. So the parents seek out alternatives, each picking a possible replacement. Then, accompanied by their child's current beloved, parents (via a remote cam) watch their son or daughter go on dates with the two new candidates. This is a situation that can only -- and so far, has only -- bring out the worst in everyone. In the end, the child returns and has to decide whether to stay with the original love interest or choose one of the parents' choices.
Is it any good?
It's almost expected that parents will object to whomever their children date; in fact, it's a cliché that's already been played out in many a movie and TV show. Parental Control plays up this loaded situation, resulting in an obnoxious series in which no one, not even Mom and Dad, is in control. Reality shows are fun to watch when viewers care about participants' "rewards" and have a "hero" they feel invested enough in to cheer to victory. But in this show, it's not clear what the rewards are, and everyone comes off badly. In one episode, a father slams his son's current girlfriend fiercely, taunting her as she watches her boyfriend make a pass at another woman. To which she responds, "Eat me." (One word: Eeew.) In another episode, a dad flashes the "L" for loser to his child's sweetie.
It's also strangely discomfiting to watch Mom and Dad ogle their child on a date, cheering them on when they make out with someone else. What child wants that? Besides, many of the featured kids don't seem like the biggest prizes themselves (one guy rejects a candidate by saying that she seems so into her studies that she won't have enough time to cater to him, a crime so egregious -- in his eyes -- that it makes her bad girlfriend material). A little self-discipline -- and an overhaul -- would go a long way toward making Parental Control more palatable. Perhaps, instead of pitting parents against their children's partners, they could pack everyone off to therapy and let them hash their issues out. Maybe then there would be a happy ending. Or at least a livable one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the tensions that arise when kids date people their parents don't like. How should the situation be handled? How can the girlfriend or boyfriend relate to the parents? What's at stake, and who loses out with dirty fighting? Is it right for parents to encourage their children to break up with people they don't like? Is there another way out of this type of situation?