A major network is now casting 30-something grandmas for an upcoming reality show about mothers whose teenage daughters are pregnant at the same time.
“If this is your unique situation, VH1 and Ellen Rakieten Entertainment want to document your lives!” says the casting notice, according to FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “This docu-series will follow the exciting and dramatic journey of a mother and daughter who are pregnant at the same time. We want to share the amazing, the challenging, the funny, and the complicated moments in both of your lives; from the pregnancy through childbirth and everything in between.”
What could be the reasoning behind an ever-more-extreme pregnancy show than the ones already available, such as Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant?
“TV producers look for ever-more salacious and twisted reality plot lines,” explains Dan Gainor, Vice President of the Business and Media Institute.
“Reality TV is cheap to make and producers battle to find the most bizarre plot line that appeals to devils of our nature. It would be nice to find something on TV that is uplifting and inspiring, not depraved and abusive.”
He adds: “To the entertainment industry, there is no such thing as ‘too far,’ so making fun of young grandmothers and pregnant teens is par for the course.”
Dr. Jennifer Landa, M.D., author and Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD is also disturbed by the trend, which she says exploits child-bearing.
“For most people, teen pregnancy is seen as a difficult event that causes a lot of upheaval in the child’s life that is having the child,” she told Fox. “But the entertainment industry does what the public wants. As long as people want to watch teen pregnancies and what happens to teen moms, the entertainment industry is doing what’s right for business.”
She’s right. MTV’s Teen Mom has definitely delivered the ratings and continues to win its night in cable ratings with the 18-29 age group. With those kinds of returns, it’s no wonder other networks are jumping on the bandwagon and looking for ever more edgy themes to lure viewers to their show.
“As reality TV producers continue to test their limits, we’re definitely seeing some pretty wild and crazy casting calls coming through our system,” said Alec Shankman, co-founder of online casting service GotCast.com, which lists an array of forthcoming shows of this nature.
According to Shankman, pregnancy-related reality shows are a European import. The first Teenage Moms on TV debuted on the BBC in Wales in 2006 and was such a hit that it was followed by several more shows of the same ilk. Eventually, these programs took a trip across the pond and are now being shown in the U.S.
“Overseas reality TV producers in places like Europe have been able to push the envelope a bit further for years,” Shankman said. “Their American counterparts have gradually been able to get more and more edgy…and the result is playing out before us. Americans tend to love outrageous television and many of these shows rate incredibly well.”
Some say the shows have strong educational benefits and show all the hardship encountered by girls who get pregnant in their teens. While this may have been the intention behind the original shows, they have long since devolved into outright exploitation of the girls and the glamorization of teen sex.
Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, recently told NBCLA that Teen Mom is “normalizing teen pregnancy, creating an acceptance of it. The show sexualizes teenage girls and celebrates the ‘act’ without consequence.”
While Dr. Landa agrees that there could be a small educational upside to this type of programming, she wouldn’t think of letting her own daughter watch it.
“I have a 10-year-old daughter and would hate for her to see the idea of teen pregnancy romanticized,” she said. “Further, for her to think she could get on TV or be famous for getting pregnant would be a tragedy. Young girls need positive role models, which include girls who are making choices that do not cause them to become pregnant teens and teen moms.”
As for the new series about pregnant moms and their daughters, a rep for VH1 told Fox the show does not yet have an air date.
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FoxNews.com is reporting that VH1 is actively seeking pregnant women and their also-pregnant daughters who are willing to share their experience with the world.