Thursday, August 25, 2005

Reality Bites: Family Channel's Kicked Out


Reality TV is a iffy venture. Some views of the real world are innovative, exciting, and informative; some are depressing, disgusting or alarming. Examples of the latter include The Surreal Life ("When the stars fall from sight... this is where they crash.") and Family Forensics.

Kicked Out, though, belongs firmly in the former set.

The premise is that parents of an adult son or daughter living the slacker lifestyle at their home, sponging meals, gas, and maid service, finally snap and kick the kid out. The debut episode had 24-year-old Verion Payne kicked out by his parents, Walter and Velida Smith. Payne had it good: Mom picked up after him, cooked his meals and did his laundry. He had a wide-screen TV and video games, a car and a wannabe approach to his desired career designing handbags. What he didn't have was a job or any motivation to get out and get one.

His "kicking out" was managed carefully, though. A la the Discovery series While You Were Out, the back-scenes crew brought three storage containers, into which Walter and Velida loaded all Payne's belongings, except for one pillow and one suitcase of clothes. He returned home to find his bedroom converted to a home office.

Worse news: as they bid him goodbye on the doorstep, Mom took away his cell phone, credit cards and all his cash. He was provided with keys and directions to a small apartment, and a sleeping bag for the first night. Payne's stunned reaction must have been wrenching to his parents, but they stuck with the program.

His new apartment was small, but seemed larger because it contained no furniture. The next day, he got his first assignment (delivered by his parents via a closed-circuit TV). He had a budgeted amount of money to go get "something to sleep on, something to eat off of, and something to sit on." Payne had no time to sulk or be depressed about his changed condition—he had marching orders!

Outside, though, he found his car out of gas. Under the rear bumper was a note from Walter and Velida, reminding him of all the times he'd returned their cars empty. Next to it was a small gas can. He had no choice but to hoof it to a gas station and buy enough to fill his tank. Finding furniture within his budget and getting it up the stairs to his apartment and assembled took the rest of the day.

His next assignment was to shop for groceries and make his own meals according to menus prepared by his Mom. She said, "Left to himself, a meal is a bowl of cereal," to explain why this planning was necessary. He walked away from the store after an $84 payment with new respect for the cost of eating well. This was nothing, though compared to his reaction to an additional assignment: to do his laundry, which had been left at his parent's house. We watched the crew speed by and drop four large bundles at his door as his Mom dropped the challenge on him. "Oh, by the way, I've put some of your Father's things in as well," said Velida. "They're on your front doorstep."

Payne's distress and confusion at the laundromat was obvious, and woke new respect for the job his Mom had been doing. Back at the house, he tried making a meal, and finally sat down to eat at midnight. As he picked at the gummy pasta, he confessed to feeling his failure, and began to sniffle, "I took so much for granted that I shouldn't've."

This could have been just as uncomfortable for the viewer, but it wasn't, for the same reason that the acid criticism and embarassing candid video of the "victims" on TLC's What Not to Wear aren't. We put up with the shock value because these are people who need the motivational kick and guided reorganization they're getting.

And like the "burgled" homeowners in It Takes a Thief, the shock has a curative effect. To break free of a comfortable habit of slacking, a major boot to the rear is required. Tough love, indeed.

This one's worth watching.


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Blogger samraat said...

4/03/2010 11:06 PM  

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