Brats on the Loose
After returning from vacation, I held my own TiVo marathon to catch up with ABCs hit summer reality show, Brat Camp, and am suitably hooked. It throws nine disturbed, hostile or otherwise problem-causing teens into a harsh wilderness therapy program the Oregon-based SageWalk where the rigors of outdoor subsistence get them to face their issues. The show feels honest and is unexpectedly moving the pain these kids are in is heartbreakingly palpable but what sticks out is what the producers dont do: throw emotional basket cases into an elimination scenario with trumped-up drama. I was reminded of what bugged me about NBCs The Biggest Loser, which worked as hard as a treadmill rat to set up its overfed and fed-up participants as sympathetic weight-loss hopefuls, only to crudely graft onto the already dramatic situation a Survivor-ishcompetition in which people vote each other off, whether theyve made progress shedding pounds or not. A whole show about abandonment issues could be formed from such ousted contestants alone. Brat Camp certainly has a tension element: Will Jada curb her obsessive lying? Will Frank control his penchant for violence? Will nine sets of parents get a more focused, less self-destructive child at the end? But at least a viewer can feel secure that Brat Camp isnt out to strike fear into a troubled soul that theres one more group they might be ostracized from.
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