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The Substitute

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The Substitute TV Poster Image
Funny hidden-camera show lets celebrities prank students.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Viewers get to witness some of the special effects (make-up, prosthetics, hair, costumes) that transform the celebrity into the substitute for the day.

Positive Messages

The show's laughs come at the expense of a willing participant who's putting on an exaggerated show for the unsuspecting kids in class. Because the viewing audience is in on the gag, there's no regret in enjoying the hilarity unfold. In some cases, the actor's scam is so good that some kids worry briefly about the poser's overall safety.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The celebrities involved put themselves in somewhat embarrassing situations for the audience's amusement. Because they're active participants in the ruse, the experience can help remind kids of the difference between laughing at someone and laughing with him, as well as illustrate the importance of treating newcomers with kindness.

 

Violence & Scariness

No violence, but some pranks involve the celebrities' physical mishaps like tripping and falling or running into obstacles.

 

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism

As an introduction to the celebrity's work, the show incorporates photos and video clips from movies, TV series, and other projects that launched their careers.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Substitute is a show that lets celebrities like Jace Norman pose as incompetent, offbeat substitute teachers to prank classrooms full of students. Viewers watch as special effects experts transform the stars using prosthetics, make-up, and wigs, leaving little hint of their true identities. As the subs stumble their way through teaching lessons, physical accidents and other mishaps lead to reactions of both laughter and uncertainty from the students -- all of which is intended for the audience's enjoyment. Even so, this show helps illustrate the difference between laughing at someone's expense and laughing with them, as well as the importance of treating newcomers with kindness.

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What's the story?

THE SUBSTITUTE is a prank show in which special effects professionals transform celebrities who pose as inept substitute teachers in schools. With the help of school administrators and teachers, stars like Jace Norman give students their strangest classroom experiences as they bungle their way through lessons filled with mishaps and gags. Each episode ends with a reveal of the celebrity's true identity and the presentation of a $25,000 check to the participating school.

Is it any good?

This series plays out much like you'd expect -- the substitutes put on a show of incompetence and daftness that inspire incredulousness and a lot of hilarity in the classrooms. There are quirky habits, physical blunders with messy results, and curriculum content that's suspicious at best. With expert special effects people on the job, the transformations are impressive enough to give the unsuspecting students little reason to think anything's up, which makes the big reveals a lot of fun.

Shows like The Substitute are designed to get laughs at the expense of two groups; while the students can't help poking fun at the prankster, they're ultimately the real brunt of the bigger joke. Because it's all in good fun and ends with the thrill of the kids getting to meet the celebrity, it's a feel-good show that can inspire conversations about bullying and the difference between laughing with people and laughing at them.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether or not the substitute is believable in his or her role. Do you think any of the students suspect something's amiss as the events play out? How would you react to a similar scenario? Who was the most unusual substitute you've ever had?

  • Kids: Does a series like this one help you decipher when it's OK to laugh at someone and when it's not? What if the celebrity had been a real substitute? Would the students' reactions to the blunders have been appropriate? What is the difference between what goes on in this show and bullying? Is it always fun to pull pranks on other people?

  • Were the celebrities familiar to your kids before this show, or is this their introduction to them? How do opportunities like this one increase a star's visibility? Are your kids more inclined to seek out other work by this star because they have seen him in this capacity? Do you think this is a motivation for the involved celebrity?

TV details

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