After returning from vacation, I held my own TiVo marathon to catch up
with ABC’s 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 don’t do: throw emotional basket cases into an elimination
scenario with trumped-up drama. I was reminded of what bugged me about NBC’s 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-ish competition in
which people vote each other off, whether they’ve 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 isn’t out to strike fear
into a troubled soul that there’s one more group they might be ostracized from.

LA Weekly