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 show has the same brand of criticisms and jokes aimed at contestants' shortcomings that we've gotten used to from reality TV competitions like American Idol. At least here the cruel comments are delivered with an air of comedy that even the ousted competitors take in stride. While the series is lots of fun for parents, tweens, and teens, younger kids won't be familiar with most of the celebrities being impersonated.
What's the story?
THE NEXT BEST THING: WHO IS THE GREATEST CELEBRITY IMPERSONATOR? invites average citizens to put their mimicry skills to the test for a panel of professional judges -- and the viewing public -- as they compete for the title of the most talented impersonator. (In addition to bragging rights at the next office party, the winner receives a $100,000 cash prize.) In open auditions in cities around the country, impersonators take on everyone from Lucille Ball, Whoopi Goldberg, and Donald Trump to George W. Bush, Captain Jack Sparrow, and, of course, Elvis Presley. Comedian judges (in that magical, Idol-esque 2-to-1 ratio of men to women) Lisa Ann Walter, Elon Gold, and Jeffrey Ross evaluate and critique contestants' performances on voice quality and overall appearance, giving a thumbs-up or thumbs-down vote on each impersonator. Ten finalists will ultimately compete for the title and the cash -- the champion will be picked by viewers' votes.
Is it any good?
The open auditions draw plenty of outrageous characters mixed in with the truly talented competitors; not surprisingly, the series gives these hopeless cases plenty of airtime -- and the judges lots of liberty in their criticisms. In the spirit of comedy, their feedback is often humor-laden cruelty, like Ross' blunt reaction to one young man's performance: "I would rather sleep in a bed with the real Michael Jackson than sit through that act again.
Bottom line? If your tweens understand the nature of reality competitions like this one (and most probably do, due to their omnipresence on the airwaves), there's probably little here to surprise or concern you. But if this is your child's first experience with a reality contest, you'll want to be there to explain the judges' seemingly rude responses to the competitors' efforts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how competition is portrayed on television. What do you think of this show's judging style? What are the criteria for the judges' decisions? Do they actually rely on those criteria or just go by their personal feelings? Do you think their critiques are helpful to the contestants who end up going home? Does this seem like a serious competition? Do any of the contestants appear to be taking it more seriously than others?