'Baby Borrowers' Need a Reality Check In NBC's new reality series, The Baby Borrowers, teenagers take care of babies as part of a crash course on parenting. A new first-time dad says the show is saturated with fantasy.
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'Baby Borrowers' Need a Reality Check

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'Baby Borrowers' Need a Reality Check

'Baby Borrowers' Need a Reality Check

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ALEX COHEN, host:

Living on a remote island seems so old school nowadays. Today's reality TV shows feature jumping hurdles on a 40 foot long treadmill. Humans acting like bugs on giant windshields. And tonight on the premier of NBC's "The Baby Borrowers," teenage couples will care for real live babies. The idea was a little too close to home for our own critic, Andrew Wallenstein. He became a first time dad earlier this month.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: About a week or so after my son, Max, came home from the hospital, my wife roused me at about three a.m. Can you check on Max, she asked. To which I replied half asleep, who's Max? True story or at least that what my wife says. I actually don't remember it. A symptom of the sleep deprivation that comes with parenting a new-born. Adapting is tough. Which is what drew me to "Baby Borrowers." If I was struggling, how would people half my age fare? And how would the series recreate the harrowing conditions of child rearing without violating state welfare laws, or you know, the Geneva Conventions?

Unfortunately, the show doesn't really tap into what I find most horrifying about new parenthood. The fact that they let me leave the hospital with Max unsupervised. The people, who for god knows what reason, volunteered to hand over their children to the show are still able to monitor from afar via video surveillance and intervene when necessary. There's also a nanny on set, but off camera at all times. Realism just isn't "Baby Borrowers" strong suit. The show's idea of simulating pregnancy is having its teenage contestants don fat suits, and even such a simple challenge is enough to drive a wedge between one couple, Kelly(ph) and Austin(ph).

(Soundbite of television show "The Baby Borrowers")

Mr. AUSTIN (Contestant, "The Baby Borrowers"): I giggled because it was comical to see my girlfriend wearing a suit that a pregnant lady and she took that the wrong way and got upset. Honestly, girls don't make sense to me. Kelly?

Ms. KELLY (Contestant, "The Baby Borrowers"): How could you laugh at me, how could you laugh at me, it's not even funny.

Unidentified Woman #1: Kelly.

Ms. MORGAN (Contestant, "The Baby Borrowers"): Kelly. Is she there? Kelly.

Ms. KELLY: What?

Ms. MORGAN: It's Morgan.

Ms. KELLY: It doesn't matter, I'm not wearing that. I refuse, I refuse to wear that. I'm not wearing that.

WALLENSTEIN: Yes, there's plenty of crying, whining, and whimpering on this show and sometimes you'll hear from the babies as well. If poor Kelly can't deal with a fat suit, can you imagine her attempting breastfeeding? And yet this need is far and away my wife's toughest task and it's not even covered on the show. A show like "Baby Borrowers," should really function as a gut check for any teenager contemplating early parenthood, but too often it just goes for silly sight gags like stinky diapers, and I do mean gag.

(Soundbite of television show "The Baby Borrowers")

Unidentified Woman #2: Ooh, yeah, it's wet. You got it.

Unidentified Man #1: Oh my God. This is nasty. I've changed pee diapers, but not a poop one.

Unidentified Man #2: Oh man, there's no way I'm doing this. Now what, just open and pull it out.

Unidentified Woman #2: OK, now, just like pull the front down, now grab his - yeah, there. OK now get the bottom like under his back part first.

Unidentified Man #2: Err, this is sick. A poopy diaper is just like throw-up, you know it's all gooey and nasty. I gagged so much from my poop and just the smell of it, the look of it, just makes me sick. Err.

WALLENSTEIN: I don't know if I'll keep watching "Baby Borrowers." There's no prize at the end for one thing, but what's more disconcerting is that in later episodes, the contestants actually graduate from infants to toddlers. Then pre-teens, teenagers, even senior citizens. I'm sorry, but I need to get through the first month of parenthood before I face down the next 50 years.

COHEN: TV critic, Andrew Wallenstein is the deputy editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

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