Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Termite Television: Parental Control

Every detail is attended to, so every episode is the same. A template has been pounded out in what I'm sure were endless test screenings with the hormonal horde. There is something lulling about the sameness, it comforts and soothes my tempestuous soul. The world outside may scoff at my aspirations at love and career, but Parental Control is there as an anchor: parents will always despise their spawn's beloved, and the beloved will spit in their drink. Or some variation thereof.

For those unaware, PC is a dating show, with one glorious difference: parents select two dates for their child - and then watch said dates on video with their child's spouse, whom they treat with regal disdain. The child must pick her favorite at the end. Bon mots fly with calming regularity - tones never rise too high, and no line is spoken with conviction. All are acting out the roles proscribed for them - but nothing is ever at stake. Everyone is uncomfortable, fake smiles combat with put-on disdain - and it all comes off like a coming of age ritual that everyone wants to end as soon as possible.

This is what must happen: parents interview prospective dates, asking about career, attitude, passions, and then one wild card question. Something about dance moves, sexual proclivities, special talents, etc., that cause these charming contestants to engage in physically embarrassing activities. Climbing on the table is a popular option. These climbers are never selected but are forever treasured. The parents squirm, smirk, say a sarcastic "oh really" to wacky answers, and generally convey a disturbing amount of reserve. Then they flip through a photo book, point to a page, and pick a mate. These sublime faces are kept from us with a merciless cut to commercial.

On to the couch they sit, this makeshift family of young lovers and finger waggers. It is the peak of the whole flawless operation. The lazy punk, that video-game playing, trucker-hat wearing layabout sits next to his golden haired, spindle waisted lady. The parents inevitably ask if he is nervous - and irregardless of his response, dastardly say he should be. Zing! But the worry is there on his face and on his creased brow. I hate him and yet I sympathize with him. The green eyed monster devours us all at times. Doorbell rings, the lady rises to open the door...the door opens a crack and....will the face be pockmarked, chubby, chiseled? I don't know. Commercial.

Door opens, hand shakes. The stud is muscular, an Abercrombie or weightlifter type usually. Sometimes the boyfriend refuses to shake the interlopers hand, I cringe and anticipate the veiled homophobic slurs to come. There they are! He looks like a girl, he says. And yet, I can't disagree. The boyfriend and I have connected once again. The two blind dates scamper off, the boyfriend stews in boiling juices, the parents giving him screwfaces the entire time. Theme dates ensue. Dance lessons elicit "He's just trying to grab her ass" (a popular refrain, and undoubtedly true). Or it's tennis where grabass is defended by Pops as "at least he's teaching her something." Small talk on dates is all veiled references to the current beau's shortcomings: "so you like to work out", "you have a job", "you shower regularly". Many shots of parents nodding. Then the bombshell of some nasty thing the lover did to the parents, like the aforementioned spit in cup, or it's laxatives in coffee or some such iteration of the ol' switcheroo. The kids are fond of the ol' switcheroo. Date over, come home, lady lists reasons she likes guy. Another important detail - the section of the couple going on the date always remains optimistic and never criticizes her dates - always takes her parents side on every issue until the final decision. Pump up suspense and all. Commercial.

Another date. Repeat previous scene. Commercial.

At this point the fun is over for me, as everyone has risen from the couch - that cauldron of teenage insecurity and parental arrogance. But anyway, the lady chooses - and inevitably they stay with their man. The status quo reigns supreme, the earth remains on its axis, and I anxiously await the next thrilling installment. It's probably on right now and that warms my inner organs.

Also, the review on IMDB is excellent and much shorter than mine:

"I'm only 16 but I usually don't watch MTV. But this time is different. Parents who are unsatisfied with their daughters boyfriend so they're going to pick two guys out of many hopefuls, they each take her on a date and the she has to decided to stay with her old boyfriend or go with one of the new guys. Their decisions are very mixed. Some stay and some go. The girls boyfriend is always a conceited jerk who treats her like complete poopy. (cant say the s word on this site, besides poopy sounds funny) I got a question. Why are all of MTV's shows done in California? They should do some in Florida or a cool place to be, There's more to life then California MTV!!!!! The girl is usually a dumb blonde who had a guy a beautiful blonde would never date. A lot of these girls are dating loser guys like me. The show is a bit unrealistic but still fun to watch. They should come to Connecticut in the summertime, it's really nice here, but ONLY in the summertime."



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