Invasion of the Superninny

OK, we admit it. The title of this weekly column is an unabashedly provocative attempt to boost our ratings. Hey, if the producers of Nanny 911 and Brat Camp can rope in hapless viewers with a snappy title, so can we.

But before any of you Jo Frost fans start flaming us for taking aim at Britain’s latest invader into Americana, we have reserved some complimentary words for Jo-Jo, the star and lone authority figure on the original reality-parenting show Supernanny. Jo Frost is beyond all doubt a celebrity, and for anyone to have elevated the often thankless job of child-rearing to Hollywood status is something that should neither be overlooked nor under-appreciated. (Eat your heart out Dr. Spock… you never had a television series!)

Moreover, it is no simple task jumping headlong into the whirlwind of pre-psychotic rage exhibited by all those Meghans, Dylans and Codys; pulling their families back from the edge of the abyss; wrestling with the dysfunctionality of each; and, within the confines of the forty-two minute format, tying it up in a ribbon and putting it in a box for syndication. Let’s face it — there just are not too many people in the world who can pull off what Jo Frost does on a weekly basis. Dr. Phil couldn’t do it in a two-hour special. Not even once.

That said, we do find it disturbing that Jo-Jo is today the world’s most recognizable expert on child raising, with some 9 million weekly viewers in the US and another 2.5 million in the UK. Compare Supernanny with the most popular (and important) parenting guide of all time, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care byDr. Benjamin Spock, which has sold some 60 million copies and has gone through multiple editions since its first hit bookstores in 1946. The loyal readership that Dr. Spock’s primer has developed over the last 60 years is about equal to the number of impressionable viewers that Jo-Jo reaches over the course of 5 weeks!

That so much — say the word with us — power should be vested in one rubenesque, Mary Poppins-like figure who never received her official British nanny-license is akin to electing a first-term junior Senator with no real legislative or administrative experience to the most powerful executive position on the planet. Bad example (we love you, Barack! — really) but you all understand what we’re getting at.

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