Robbing The American Cradle

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American Juniors: Robbing The American Cradle?

Reality TV has now covered just about every demographic out there. The 16-24 set has had their chance to shine through American Idol and Fame. Survivor and Dog Eat Dog give anatomically enhanced individuals the chance to cavort half (sometimes all) naked. Jay Mohr is currently looking for the funniest comic in the land. Even AARP cardholders were given a chance to strut their stuff in a talent show recently. Now come the tweens. You know, not quite little, not quite teenagers?

Highly hyped during the last few weeks of American Idol, American Juniors, the search for a five prepubes who will comprise a new pop group, is now underway. And as a mother of three daughters it has become a weekly fixture in my home. The producers who thought this one up were right on the money. Clay and Ruben may have enchanted my daughters, but give them kids their own age to vote on and a whole new TV dynamic is born.

American Juniors has all the markings of a middle school race for Student Council. My daughters are casting votes based on: Which girl acts too uppity? Which boy has cute hair? Who wore the best outfit? Lipgloss? Earrings? Oh yeah, and that singing part may matter a little too.

As a parent, I have no problem with the premise of the show. Form a new recording group. Fine. There are some supremely talented children being afforded the chance to shine on prime time and vocally, they have all got chops. They also all have parents never more than 20 feet away, whether rehearsing or performing. So a seemingly safe environment as well. FOX appears to have gone to great lengths to make this process as benign as possible for the youngsters involved.

The judges gush over each contestant, something you would never see on American Idol. But then, Simon Cowell is not sitting in front of these children. God knows he could probably stunt someone’s growth with his pointed tongue and barbed comments. Instead these children are being critiqued by former popstar Debbie Gibson, trying-to-be-a-popstar Justin Guarini (of American Idol season one fame), and a true legendary star, Gladys Knight. Praise is heaped, and you can almost see the little egos being made into mountains out of mole hills. And as America begins voting each week, no one will be voted OFF, rather each week’s highest vote getter will be voted ON, winning a spot in the new group.

That is fine with me too, again, these children may be talented, but they are still children.

What I am finding disturbing is the song choices and ensuing performances being allowed. While there were two young ladies who sang theme songs from Disney movies, the rest of the prepimple set were belting out everything from Rainy Days & Mondays by the Carpenters to I’ll Be Watching You by Sting. And when another 11 year old came on and performed To Sir With Love, I had to laugh out loud. "How do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume?" Honey, your school supply sheet still lists Crayolas, not CK One.

The songs are suggestive, the mascara is thick. When the oldest girl, age 13, took the stage, dressed in tight jeans, ripped up shirt, Jennifer Aniston hair and JLo worthy make-up, young boys and pedophiles across America surely hit the record button.

As a parent, that makes me shudder. And as a parent who actually controls the remote in my house, FOX producers may want to take note.

These are my recommendations:

1. Showcase their talent. Give them an opportunity to chase their dream. But do not serve them up as anything but what they are: CHILDREN. Young boys who have yet to encounter their first wet dream. And young girls who are not yet acquainted with the tampon aisle of the drug store.

2. Protect their innocence. Their parents may be 20 feet away, but their parents have bigger stars in their eyes than do the children. They do not need to sing of love, angst and emotions they will not understand for at least another five years. Give them a choice of Disneyesque songs to perform.

3. For God’s sake, limit their supply of lipgloss and leather.

And one last, very important thing . . . how about producing a show called Midlife Crisis? We baby boomers are beginning to feel left out!

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