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S.O.B.: Socially Offensive Behavior
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 hidden-camera series contains scenarios that aren't always kid-friendly and has some iffy language ("ass," etc.). And since young children might not understand that the people saying offensive things to unsuspecting "victims" are actually actors who were paid to be rude, parents will definitely want to make that point clear. On the plus side, the show could serve as a catalyst for conversations between parents and older teens about racism, sexism, and other types of socially offensive behavior.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Imagine walking into a restaurant you've never been to before and being greeted by a smiling hostess with a stack of menus. But instead of asking how many are in your party -- or even whether you prefer to smoke or not -- she cheerfully asks you your ethnicity. If you're African American, you'll be seated along with other \"colored\" diners; if you're white, you'll be ushered into a separate section. There are even designated zones for Hispanics and Asians (who, as the hostess points out, typically like to eat with chopsticks at the bar). This unthinkable situation is just one of many scenarios explored in S.O.B.: SOCIALLY OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOR, a hidden-camera series designed to test how average folks respond when directly confronted with racism, bigotry, and other offensive acts.
Is it any good?
Any points S.O.B. earns for its sense of social responsibility are sadly outweighed by its actual entertainment value. It's hard to pinpoint exactly why the show falls short of its noble aims. For one thing, the segments introducing each sketch, which are hosted by actor-comedian D.L. Hughley, come off as slightly strange and inauthentic, in part because they're randomly taped at night in front of a dramatically lit bridge that's nowhere near the action in question. But it's the serious mood of these segments that's especially off-putting. They evoke the somber severity of a show like Unsolved Mysteries rather than the lightheartedness a viewer might expect from a hidden-camera show hosted by a comedian.
Then there's the content. S.O.B.'s sketches are certainly provocative, and the actors who've been hired to say offensive things to unsuspecting victims are extremely good at what they do. But the hijinks never seem to reach a satisfying level of outrageousness, and the victims' responses typically prove underwhelming. Maybe reality TV has trained us to expect human drama and hype on a scale that's simply forced and unrealistic. And maybe that's why S.O.B. seems kind of boring in comparison to other shows of its ilk. In short, S.O.B.: Socially Offensive Behavior isn't a bad show -- and it could actually help you talk to your kids about a long list of worthwhile issues. But it isn't a program with serious staying power. It's as simple as that.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the show truly reflects the way people behave in modern society, or whether certain "bad" behaviors have been inflated for comic effect. What aspects of each situation are realistic and unrealistic? And do you think any of these scenarios could actually happen? Kids and parents can also share their own stories about times they might have felt offended or disrespected by a person they didn't know. When someone hurt your feelings by saying or doing something rude, did you choose to speak up, or did you keep quiet?