Network: Lifetime Television
Genre: Reality TV
TV Rating: TV-14
Other Choices: Gilmore Girls, My So-Called Life, Degrassi
Common Sense Says: Gritty reality show inspires discussion for parents, teens.
Common Sense Rates It:
Parents need to know
Parents need to know that Teen Trouble chronicles the rehabilitation process of at-risk teens and their families at the hands of a specialist's controversial, in-your-face methods. Strong language is rampant, drug use and drinking are visible, and teens' sexual behaviors are analyzed for the purpose of making them see the error of their ways. Viewers may not agree with the host's tactics -- which include taking teens to a morgue, having them sleep on the streets, and spending time behind bars -- but he does manage some success stories. As for viewers at home, the show may shock you, but it's just as sure to inspire conversations with your teens about the issues it presents. Because it's so gritty, you may want to watch it without your teens first to decide whether they're ready to see and hear all that goes on. If not, seeing the subjects' experiences can still guide your talks with your own teens.
- Families can talk about alcohol and drug use. Teens: How big (or small) a problem is this among your peers? Where do you see it happening? What are the risks involved? How can this behavior influence your ability to make good decisions about other potentially hazardous situations?
- How "real" is reality TV in general? Do you get the sense that this series is entirely off-the-cuff? Why do you think the participants agree to be involved? What do you think of Shipp's tactics? Did this series change your opinion about any of the behaviors you observed?
- How has our sensitivity to issues like teen drinking and sexuality changed in recent years? Do you think our society is becoming more accepting of behavior that used to be taboo? Does the media play a role in these changes or is it a reflection of them? How do shows like this one fit into this change?
What's the story?
TEEN TROUBLE is a reality series that follows behavior specialist Josh Shipp as he counsels out-of-control teens and their parents, helping them lay to rest long-held animosity, conquer addiction, and ultimately move forward to a brighter future. Using unorthodox tactics that bring the families face-to-face with the likely results of the teens' actions -- whether it's living on the streets, serving time, or even death -- Shipp attempts to inspire both parties to change their ways and chart a new path of hope for their future.
Is it any good?
Teen Trouble is not an easy show to watch as a parent or a teen. These kids are off the charts of defiant, self-destructive behavior, abusing drugs, drinking, sleeping around, stealing, destroying property, and intentionally putting themselves in life-threatening situations that cause their parents sleepless nights. Parents call on Shipp out of sheer desperation, and far from having a calming effect, he fans the flames of discord between the teens and their parents. Sure, it's in a supposed effort to air and deal with grievances, but it's hard not to believe that exploiting the family drama has a sensational effect on the show's ratings as well. What's more, Shipp -- who draws on his own troubled youth of foster care, abuse, and addiction -- makes no attempt to hide the fact that he's biased toward the teens, clearly assigning blame to the parents for their kids' actions, regardless of the adults' repeated attempts to help. Yes, he holds the teens responsible for changing their ways in the future, but he's much harder on the parents for the mistakes of the past.Will Teen Trouble raise issues you can discuss with your teens? Absolutely. The subjects' candor -- from the troubled teens to the prostitutes and homeless people Shipp interviews to try to talk sense into them -- will hit a nerve with both teens and their parents and might have the desired effect on viewers at home. Despite the sensationalism, these are sad-but-true stories of families in real trouble, and their experiences (and Shipp's advice) could help keep your own on the right path. But ultimately no TV show can fill the void of communication between parents and kids, so this series is better used as a tool for opening those lines than as any form of entertainment.
The Good Stuff
Messages: This eye-opening show sets out to inspire and educate viewers with tales of teens and parents rising above their pasts and making a fresh start toward a happier future, and some of the stories do end well. But to get there, it exploits the subjects' pain and emotional turmoil and plays up family drama, often at the hands of the opinionated host.
Role Models: The participants are on screen because they're failing miserably at relating to each other, and the teens do drugs, steal, engage in dangerous sexual habits, cut school, etc. Some of the families try hard to change, but some don't. Josh is devoted to helping them, but his methods aren't appreciated by everyone.
What to watch out for
Violence Teens discuss violence in their pasts, including physical altercations, sexual abuse, and rape, and how they relate to the troubles they have now.
Sex: Sensitive areas like breasts are blurred when they're visible, though they don't appear in a clear sexual context. Teens' sexuality is a frequent topic, and participants talk about practicing unsafe sex and being involved with multiple partners.
Language: When tempers flare, so does the strong language. "Damn," "hell," and "frickin'" are audible; "s--t" and "f--k" are bleeped. There's also a lot of name-calling like "idiot."
Consumerism: Shipp's work gets plenty of publicity from the show, as do a handful of rehabilitation programs that he recommends to clients.
Drinking, drugs & smoking: We see teens drink heavily, do drugs to get high, and smoke, but their presence on the show is testimony to the painful physical and behavioral toll these activities take on them. Some talk about drugs in a positive light ("I love heroin more than anything," a girl says); others recognize their negative effects and express a desire to quit their addictions.