Why Can't I Be You?

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Why Can't I Be You? TV Poster Image
Offbeat reality show helps build self-esteem.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Although it's not always evident, the show's overall goal is to help people be more comfortable with who they are by giving them the chance to learn what it's like not to be themselves. While the "mentors" are paid for their time, most of them ultimately take a genuine interest in helping out the person who's seeking their guidance.


Some mild sexual innuendo, including conversations about flirting and "sleep overs" with people of the opposite sex. One participant was told to "be an adult" after he assumed that his male admirer was gay. Another was called a "pimp" as a compliment.


Words like "hell" are occasionally heard.


Southern California businesses and hot spots like the Spider Club, Canter's Deli, Dolce Restaurant, and Equinox Gym are visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Consumption of alcohol (beer, mixed drinks) is sometimes visible. In one episode, the host offers to act as a designated driver if somebody drank at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality series -- which follows young adults as they spend 48 hours with someone who seems (to them) to have the "ideal" life -- is a little offbeat, but the overall goal is to help people become more comfortable with themselves. While the show is pretty mild overall (especially for MTV), expect some mild sexual innuendo, occasional strong language (mostly along the lines of "hell"), and drinking.

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What's the story?

WHY CAN'T I BE YOU? gives people a chance to meet and spend 48 hours with someone who appears to have the life that they want. The goal? To help the subjects learn to be more comfortable with themselves by stepping out of their comfort zone. Host Nick Zano facilitates as the subjects spend two days with their chosen "admirees" -- who get $1000 to answer prying questions and have their every activity monitored by folks who admire them. Without the help of therapists, stylists, or other professionals, the newly appointed mentors offer pointers about things like flirting, dating, and picking out a new wardrobe. At the end of the 48 hours, the "followers" have to decide how they feel about the experience -- and about themselves.

Is it any good?

While the show's ostensible purpose is to highlight the importance of being comfortable with your own individuality, the focus often seems to be more on capturing the awkward moments between the admirer and the admiree. In fact, some of these moments are so uncomfortable (like when the mentors try to explain the odd project to friends -- or, worse, dates) that they seem a bit contrived. As a result, it's a little hard to appreciate the show's overall message until the very end.

But even though the show's approach is a bit unusual, its attempt to promote positive self-esteem is definitely a good thing. It's possible that younger tweens may not be mature enough to understand the connections being made here, but older tweens and teens can definitely benefit from the message.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether this show actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. Does the show's "experiment" really help people feel more comfortable in their own skin? Can you think of another way that a reality show could make the same point? Would you be willing to share 48 hours with a person to become more like her or him? What about to help someone be more like you? Families can also discuss the people that they admire. What kind of qualities does a person have to have in order for you to look up to him or her?

TV details

  • Premiere date: May 24, 2006
  • Cast: Nick Zano
  • Networks: MTV, MTV2
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 19, 2019

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