Interview with TV producer Shannon McCartyWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The producers of internationally known television show, SUPERNANNY are taking the UK version of “The World’s Strictest Parents” and bringing it to the US. Shannon McCarty, the casting producer for the US version of the show was in Toledo this past week interviewing potential teens and families, she took some time from her schedule to do an interview via telephone.
TFP: Could you first share with us a little bit of information about the show, “World’s Strictest Parents” for those who might not be familiar with it?
Shannon McCarty: Absolutely, it’s kind of like that old saying ‘if you don’t like my rules, why don’t you try someone else’s for a little while,’ I know that was sometimes used as a threat, but this is actually a social experiment for teenagers because sometimes they can be very self absorbed, and they are able to put themselves in someone else’s family for about a week. The concept of the show is to take two teenagers and have them live with another family for an entire week. To not just live with them, but to be a member of their family for the whole week, if the family goes to Church on Wednesday, the teens are going to Church on Wednesday. If the family instead of a Friday night movie goes to volunteer at a soup kitchen, then that’s what the teens are going to do. It’s really an opportunity to see is the grass a little greener and it’s also an opportunity for parents to show off their parenting skills. I think we live in a society where sometimes parenting isn’t the number one priority of people and it should be.
TFP: As a parent with five children, one of mine is a teenager, I actually suggested to her that this might be a way for her to see I’m not the strictest parent in the world.
McCarty: Exactly, we’ve been hearing that from parents who find out about the show, and it’s true because when you are a teenager you think about yourself, your future and your community but you rarely get the opportunity to leave everything you know for an entire week and to be thrust into another world. It sounds weird when you first hear about it but it really can be a life changing experience.
TFP: When you did this show on the BBC, the teens from the UK actually went to different countries, is this going to be different countries or is this show planned a little differently?
McCarty: The US version is going to be filmed only here in the US, but you are absolutely right, the UK version of this show it was British teens and they went all over the world, whether it be Ghana, South Africa; Jamaica, they actually did an episode in the United States in Alabama. That episode was deemed so successful as far as helping teens and parents out that they actually wanted to bring the show to America and do an entire series featuring American parents and teens.
TFP: I actually saw that, Ross Torry, was one of the teenagers, correct?
McCarty: Yes that is right, I actually met with the Garnett family from Alabama, they were the family featured in that show, they are still in contact with the teens even though it’s been more than a year ago, they are actually very good friends with one of the teen’s father now. So, they really get an opportunity to forge friendships and really have a bond there that’s still there.
TFP: That basically creates a scenario where some of the teens and some of the parents that would decide to do this in Ohio, that they could have a life long bonding experience with these families?
McCarty: Absolutely, we have already filmed a couple of episodes of the show and you can see already that some things have changed, we’ve gotten feedback that some of the teens have changed and I think it helps with the host families as well because they get to realize, ‘hey what I’m doing as a parent is helpful,’ they get the opportunity to help somebody which is invaluable. The parents if they have an open enough mind with the parents of the teenagers and the parents of the host family, you really can forge a friendship, where two years down the line, “how did you handle that with your kids”…Unless you’ve been the parent of a teenager before, how are you really going to know, while it’s different for everybody it’s nice to have that community. It’s the perfect opportunity for blogs to really thrive, we’ve been doing a lot of information on blogs, not just parenting blogs, with this day and age, sometimes the internet can be scary for teenagers but in terms of blogging and safe blogging it really can be an invaluable resource and an invaluable community, especially if you are a shy kid. Parents are at times nervous about the internet, but I think it can also be a great way for people to express themselves and to have good knowledge.
TFP: Now do you do any kind of a background check or psychological testing on the families that will be hosting the teenagers?
McCarty: We absolutely do, thank you for asking about, we do a complete background check and we also do a psychological exam so they meet face to face with a psychologist to make sure this particular teenager is ready for this type of an experience like this, are they going to benefit from this, are they going to be a danger to anyone in this process? If any of those red flags come up then they won’t move on at all. We are really dedicated to not only choosing families that know this would be helpful for them but also choosing teens that are on the cusp of realizing, ‘hey maybe something needs to change in my life because of my relationship with my parents isn’t going well or I’m not doing well in school, what am I going to do about my future.’ If someone is not motivated to do this opportunity? Then we don’t want to have them participate.
TFP: Another thing I wondered is what do you do when the kids are in school? How do you work that out?
McCarty: There’s a couple of different ways we can do it, because the host families we are looking for have a teenager we can try to arrange for the guest teenager to attend there if the school district allows it, either way we get permission from the visiting teens school district and it can be done where their work is done in a home schooling type environment for that week.
TPF: You’ve been in Ohio since Monday and you’ll be here until Friday, have you had a lot of interest from parents and teens in Ohio so far?
McCarty: We have had some interest so far, and what is beautiful about Ohio, when America thinks of this State, you think family oriented and sports and all of things that come to mind as being naturally American. That’s what we want to showcase in this show, we want to show off America’s best parents and we want to show that there could be a teenager just down the street who’s not a bad kid, they are just having a rough time and they need a different experience. That’s why we specifically came to Ohio, I have family here so I know what it’s like to grow up here and I think it’s a great place to find what you think of great Americans.
TFP: When is the first show scheduled to air?
McCarty: It’s going to be on CMT, which is also known as Country Music Television, and the first US version of “The World’s Strictest Parent’” will be aired on April 16th. I also wanted to mention that the name “The World’s Strictest Parents is from the UK version of the show, I think sometimes in America you think of strict as having a negative connotation, but as far as how the UK version of the show demonstrated, it’s not a bad thing, it’s sometimes a good thing to be strict, I don’t want people to be scared off by that title. It’s a catchy title to create people asking, “what is that about” then once you learn the concept of the show, it’s not so scary.
More information on this show can be found online at www.theworldsstrictestparents.com.