An email dropped into my inbox the other day, sent from the local parenting association.
"The casting director of ABC's Supernanny is looking for families in XX (name of our town) to appear on the show. If you are interested, please take a look at this flyer".
Intrigued, I open up the flyer and have a read. It informs me that: We are sending our producers around the country over the next few weeks to find the next amazing families for our show, and will be in the New York area for the next few weeks. If you are interested in appearing on the show, please email the Casting Team ASAP. If you are one of the lucky families that don't need Supernanny Jo Frost's help, but you would like to anonymously refer another family, please feel free to pass their contact info on to us.
Now, the more I thought about this, the more I wondered; who would subject their family to Supernanny? I found the last sentence particularly surprising - because, if you did get referred anonymously, wouldn't your reaction be fury rather than 'oh, yes, that's rather a good idea, what thoughtful friends I must have'?
I haven't really watched Supernanny for a few years, but I have definitely seen a fair few episodes in my time. I have nothing against Jo Frost per se; I'm sure she's very good with kids and indeed, if she were to come and offer me some free advice, not for TV consumption, I might even take it. (If she could persuade Littleboy2 for instance to stay in bed once he's been put there, or actually take part in his swimming lessons, that would be fabulous).
But the show always seems to follow the same formula, whatever the problems with the kids. Family in crisis, Supernanny comes in, points out that the parents are doing it all wrong, changes a few things and Wham!, the kids are suddenly much nicer and more well-behaved.
So, basically, your whole parenting style is immediately opened up to scrutiny, with Supernanny pointing out exactly where you've been going wrong, whether it's weak discipline or not paying the children enough attention. Now, I'm not a perfect parent - and I have two spirited little boys who can behave extremely badly on occasion- but I wouldn't want the whole ABC primetime audience, not to mention my friends and neighbours, being party to my failings. Would you?
Of course, this is a well-worn reality show formula - Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares follows pretty much the same model, with Gordon magically coming in and sorting everything out. I've always wondered, again, why anyone would subject their restaurant to this treatment - OK, you might get a short term lift from the fact that Gordon's changed the menu, but surely what everyone will remember in the long term is that you were a useless restauranteur who didn't know what they were doing. However improved the food/decor/service, you would be 'that restaurant that was on Kitchen Nightmares' for the rest of your days.
Similarly, if you appear on Supernanny, you must run the danger of forever being known as 'that family with the awful kids who had to get Supernanny in'. And what would your children think, when grown up, of their childhood tantrums being played out on on the screens of the nation?
Clearly there are large numbers of people who do not feel like this; maybe they'll simply do anything to appear on television, or perhaps desperation, (either with their restaurant or their children), has driven them to the point where they can't think rationally about it. I'd be interested to know if anyone out there has ever been tempted.
In the meantime, I'm sorry Jo Frost, but I don't think we'll be needing your services just at the moment. In any case, my children just won't stay on the naughty step, so I know in advance that it wouldn't work.........