Attention, America: There is a very real network TV show called "Bet on Your Baby," where parents bet on what their babies will do. On television. For money. It's like one of Jack Donaghy's ideas escaped into the wild and began breeding with the late-afternoon lineup.
The idea is simple. So, so simple. Parents bring their toddlers onto the show, and the toddlers complete tasks like carrying a cup of water through an obstacle without spilling, or unrolling a roll of toilet paper within 90 seconds. One parent accompanies the child; the other stays behind and bets on what their child can/will do. Each of the families is competing for the chance at a "college fund" worth as much as $50,000, so that's how the student loan crisis is going, in case you were wondering.
Apologies to anyone disappointed that the show is not literally a baby battle royal, where chubby babies still struggling with motor skills grapple helplessly with one another.
It's basically "The Newlywed Game," but with babies. Adding those babies, though—it changes everything! I can't even bring myself to call this dumb. It's maybe even a little bit genius? "People love game shows. People love babies. How about a baby game show?" — some mid-level ABC exec whose well of fucks has long since run dry. It's like something from the wacky early days of television. Next up, it's What's My Line, then Bet on Your Baby, then I Love Lucy, then you stumble to your twin beds in a cocktail haze.
And please note that this show has been successful enough it's on its second season!
This show first came to my attention when host Melissa Peterman appeared as a judge on Miss America. Best known for her role in Reba, she currently appears in ABC Family's Baby Daddy. And she's actually pretty amazing on "Bet on Your Baby," because you can practically hear the cash-register noises ringing in her head as she delivers lines such as:
- "Are you ready to... BET ON YOUR BABY?"
- "Welcome back to ABC's Bet on Your Baby, where we've got little kids, big money, and a few diaper changes in between."
- "If there are two things America loves most, it's babies and pets. And when the two get together, it can be the most adorable thing you've ever seen."
I picture her bolting whisky shots in the back during commercial breaks.
Contestants and their parents are obviously selected for sheer Shirley Temple adorability. Here is a clip where a small child does impressions of her mother doing impressions of celebrities. It is called "Celeb-u-tot."
And here is an adorable child answering the telephone adorably:
In my favorite challenge, twin boys were told to hold a pair of balloons. The producers then released a remote controlled car WITH A CUPCAKE ON THE BACK into the room. It's like somebody turned that marshmallow study into pure entertainment.
These games, by the way, take place in something called the "Walmart Every Little Step Baby Dome." Frankly the whole show feels like some ham-handed piece of sponsored content. Each child is introduced with a "Luv's Baby Bio," and the children await their moment of stardom in a greenroom surrounded by very obviously positioned Johnson & Johnson products. There is a Walmart logo painted on the door of the Baby Dome. Occasionally, Peterman delivers reminders that you can buy any of the products seen at... you guessed it, Walmart!
Now, I would be lying if I said "Bet on Your Baby" was not periodically riveting. You really want those babies to get that college money! Get money, babies! But it's only entertaining for ten minutes, tops. Let's face it, there's a reason YouTube loves children and animals and it's because they're only mesmerizing in five-minute bursts. And yet "Bet on Your Baby" is AN HOUR LONG.
Then again, it does air at Saturdays on 8 p.m. That's basically a parallel universe that exists alongside prestige dramas and trashy reality TV and even singing competitions. Clearly, the audience for this show is exhausted parents of small children who are literally too tired to follow DVR'd episodes of American Idol. I've never not wanted kids, but contemplating the existence of Bet on Your Baby is enough to inspire serious second thoughts.
America has finally created a television show that is beyond parody. We did it, guys!
Satire is dead, and Bet on Your Baby pulled the trigger.