Thursday, March 1, 2012

How Auditioning for a Reality TV Show Made Me a Better Parent, Briefly

I don't watch much TV.  We haven't owned a set for about 12 years now.  But because of the magic of the Inter-Net, I'm watching more now than I have since we ditched our old Zenith: maybe an hour per week.  Even to me, it's pretty obvious how reality TV works.  Participants are manipulated, tape is edited, drama and humiliation inevitably ensue.  Very few come out unscathed.

Unless there's a lot of money in the offing, it doesn't seem like there's any reason to get involved.  That's what I've always maintained anyway.

A while ago, an old friend who has been almost famous for most of her adult life (she was just on a reality show herself), found out that there was a casting call for a show about stay-at-home dads.  She signed me up.  She hoped I didn't mind.  Of course I didn't.  It would be a lark. 

When I talked to the casting agent on the phone, as I was walking around Sea World with the kids, he laughed at the responses I gave to his questions.  He had read my blog.  He found me interesting, which I find irresistible.

Of course I would never actually allow a film crew to set up shop in my house and follow my family around.  Would I?

I mean, what kind of life is that for a couple sensitive little kids?  What profit would there be in it?  Not much--if any--money, most likely.  I have no desire to become a TV personality.  More pageloads on the ol' blog?  Well, yeah, that's something I have an unhealthy interest in.  Maybe a big-time writing gig?  Somehow?  Yeah, right.

Mostly, I just wanted to go as far as I could with the process, up to the point of being asked to do the show, so I could learn more about the behind-the-scenes chicanery.  Without actually, you know, allowing my family to be turned into a sideshow.  Unless...

More to the point, my wife wouldn't hear of it.  She doesn't even want her image to appear on my blog.  So, even if I were seduced by the siren song of pseudo-fame, she would wisely put the kibosh on it.

I answered some questions on an email survey.  There were a few thinly-veiled queries that amounted to how much are you and your wife going to fight, and about what?  Of course.  Well, in that regard, we would make for pretty boring TV.  With some diligent editing, someone could make it look like all we do is nitpick and roll our eyes at each other, and maybe the right musical cues could make that seem ominous; but the drama would be sparse and offer little catharsis to viewers.  So I invented some gnawing conflicts to include in my response, just to keep the game going.

Next, we had to make an audition video.  That ended up being kind of fun even though my wife initially wanted nothing to do with.  My nephew pointed the camera at us and asked questions supplied by the casting director.  Talking about our relationship to an 18-year old, shaggy-haired hockey player was so absurd that we all giggled our way through it.  You would think it was hella-cute if my wife allowed me to post it here.  There was also plenty of footage of the kids riding their homemade bikes, cruising in the dogwagon, and clambering on their parents.

Then I waited for a response.

Here's where it gets weird:

For the next two weeks, I felt like I had cameras on me at all times.  And I think it briefly made me a better person.

I've talked before about how blogging has, in a weird way, kept me accountable as a parent.  Not like I don't omit a lot of stories about my worst moments, or embellish the ones about my best.  However, having this compulsion to report on my own progress does keep me, if not honest, at least self-vigilant.  So I can only imagine what having a camera crew on me 24/7, and a producer bent on controlling the narrative, would do.

My kids are closing in on three now.  They can push my buttons like no one ever has in my whole life.  All the buttons.  The one that makes me squish them and smother them in kisses because they're so unbelievably cute and hilarious and sweet; but also the one that makes me seethe and growl and grind my teeth.

I have yelled.  I have thrown things (toys, cheese sticks).  I have held them firmly and clenched until I can see floaters in my peripheral vision.  Of course these reactions do nothing but mildly disturb the children and make the old man feel like a piece of shit.  I see it all happening as it happens.

But in the days when I was "rehearsing" for my TV debut, I was the picture of patience and reason.  All the angry buttons had been disconnected.

You don't like those socks, honey? Well, let's just keep looking then.  I'll bet pair number 54 will be just perfect!  

Oh, my goodness.  Did Daddy just accidentally lick the top of your yogurt cup? I can see how that would make you to scream and sob and throw your spoon across the kitchen.  Let me just get you a whole new yogurt.  There, there.  Let me hold you while you scream it out. 

Now, now, sweet pea.  We don't bite our sister.  Let's just gently pry our jaws open...

Of course I would be happy to carry both of you up and down the stairs all day long while you scream and kick each other.  Daddy LOVES to hold his little princesses!


I submitted the audition video in mid-January, and haven't heard back.  I'm not surprised since, really, we're pretty sensible, composed (boring) people, and probably wouldn't yell at each other on national TV.  There was nothing in the video or the completed survey that would give the casting director any reason to believe that I sometimes engage in epic power struggles with toddlers.  And the truth is, I probably wouldn't if I saw a camera pointed at me.

The feeling I had in January, that my every move was being scrutinized, has long since dissipated.  I know when I'm not being the best parent I could be, and sometimes imagining that I'm being observed helps me make better decisions.  Sure, that sounds immature, but who among us hasn't refrained from using gratifying sarcasm toward a bratty kid, or tempered what might have been a scathing response to some bit of childishness because we were in public? 

Maybe the TV guy will call tomorrow and ask us to be on the show, despite our lack of wackiness.  I'll have to consider the possible benefit to my parenting that being on the show would confer, as well as how many years of the girls' college it would pay for.  And if he doesn't call, I might just put a bunch of nanny-cams around the house and post the videos on YouTube.




  1. I thought about the show, but there is no way that anything good would come out of it. There is no way that we would come across as competent parents... How exciting could a show be if we all looked normal? I can only assume that in the editing process we would look like buffoons.

    1. Yeah, buffoons at best. I probably wouldn't watch a show called "Good Dads," especially considering that about half of my total TV viewing time is dedicated to "Hoarders."

  2. Funny. Do you worry that you actually are on the show? Right now.

    1. Oh, snap. I hope not. It would just be a super long shot of me staring at the computer and swilling coffee while my kids run around the house naked, probably with toxic household chemicals in their sippy cups.

  3. I'd watch (via the inter-net)!

    1. You could neglect your own kids by watching me neglect mine! So meta.

  4. Excellent idea on those nanny-cams. Then you can start your own internet-based reality show!

    1. It'll be bigger than Toddlers and Tiaras!

  5. Sounds like one hell of a what-was-i-thinkin?- idea... The disruption, as well as the crew probably destroying things around the house due to their I-don't-care-if I break a toy attitude... My friend got paid to loan her house for a movie and they totally destroyed her landscaping.. DON'T DO IT... unless you and your family want to go insane...

  6. Yeah for some reason I keep having the producers of Intervention keep calling me. And I'm always like "Stop bothering me I'm trying to drink".

    1. I keep getting solicited to try out for a show about cheating spouses. I must have gotten on a mailing list for casting directors. Unless they know something I don't...

  7. oh jeez, I could never allow cameras in my house, we are insane. No one would get us and my parenting is insane lol.

    I will say I'm curious about this show though because if my husband stayed at home I'd worry about my house LOL.

  8. This is really insightful. Almost everyone acts better when they know they're being watched... so as for those who do fight on camera, what does that mean? They enjoy acting up for the camera? Enjoy the attention? It baffles me, honestly.

  9. I have a friend who does production for reality shows and has done so for years. Knowing her makes me watch the shows because it brings them (the contestants) back to life, but also knowing her I realize how much is actually scripted and how they take 8-10 hours of footage and break it down to 30-60 minutes. It's scary what they can do to make you the person they want even if it's not exactly what you're giving them.

    All that being said, I hope you get a little further in the process as this is unbelievably interesting to me.

  10. Similarly, I am a fantastic parent in the boot room of the daycare.

    I kind of hope you DO get picked.

  11. I would love to do a reality show, unfortunately every show that ever gets re-made for Canada turns into a season of Degrassi Junior High. I'm pretty sure we only have one director/producer for every Canadian show.

    Anyway, I hope you get it, there's only so much Storage Wars one man can watch before he needs something else!



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