What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this deeply flawed reality series doles out carefully controlled, neatly packaged inspiration, which comes across as condescending and false. The show has positive messages about concepts like compassion and forgiveness, but they're only concepts: None of the participants actually acts to help the disadvantaged communities they're visiting. Instead of spending their time watching these wannabe speakers wax philosophic, kids should actually get out and do some real good by volunteering.
What's the story?
THE MESSENGERS is a reality show about inspirational speakers. Viewers follow contestants on weekly field trips to locations like the L.A. County Morgue and Skid Row, where they visit disadvantaged people (the homeless, the blind, migrant farm workers, etc.). The contestants are then required to write a two-minute inspirational speech based upon the trip and a specific keyword like "compassion" or "forgiveness." Speeches are delivered to a live audience, which votes the least-effective speaker off the show. The final contestant wins a book-publishing deal and a TV special on TLC.
Is it any good?
While The Messengers shows viewers how other people live and the challenges that they have to overcome, the show's concept is seriously flawed. Viewers are shown a brief glimpse of the different disadvantaged communities, but none of the contestants actually does anything to help the people they visit. In fact, the plight of these communities becomes something akin to a circus show.
The concept is noble -- the opening credits show icons like Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa, implying that those are the kinds of examples the contestants want to live up to -- but the show is condescending and the message feeble at best. Watching 10 well-dressed, educated people spending a night on Skid Row feels insulting to the homeless residents, several of whom voice their disgust with their privileged "neighbors."
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how varied people's life circumstances are and how their family might differ from the ones shown. Issue-based discussion topics abound, depending on the episode's theme. For example: What does it mean to be homeless? Do you have any services or resources that you could give to a local shelter? What could you do to make a disabled person's life a little easier? Also, families can discuss the show itself. Are the contestants helping any of the people they meet by giving their speeches? What's the point of this show?