Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How's Your News?


THIS JUST IN...

FROM THE NETWORK THAT BROUGHT YOU DATE MY MOM, FROM G'S TO GENTS, SUPER SWEET 16 AND A SHOT AT LOVE WITH TILA TEQUILA, NOW COMES AN TOUCHING, INFORMATIVE SERIES ABOUT PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL AND MENTAL DISABILITIES. THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE OFFENSIVE FOLKS, WE JUST WANT TO "PROVIDE A POSITIVE EMPOWERING VIEW OF LIFE WITH A DISABILITY!!!"

Sure you do.

Recently I received a vague message from the Williams Syndrome Regional Chairperson to tune into MTV on Sunday night because there would be something about Williams Syndrome. Now, a rationally thinking person would have thought, "what the heck could MTV possibly have to say about Williams Syndrome?" But as we all know, I am a parent, and when it comes to your children, parent's don't always think rationally. The fact that MTV isn't necessarily known for its journalistic integrity eluded me as I sent text messages to everyone in my address book to tune in at 10:30.

I'm not completely dense, I assumed it would be some sensationalized documentary about a teenager with WS who was looking for a prom date or some young 15-year-old parents who had a baby with a genetic disorder, but I was still surprised to find that the show, called "How's Your News" is a news show where all seven reporters have different disabilities such as Bobby and Sean who have Down Syndrome, Larry with spastic cerebral palsy, and Jeremy, Lucas and Brendan who all have Williams Syndrome.

The HYN website states:
"How’s Your News first began over ten years ago at a summer camp for adults with disabilities in Massachusetts. We were working in video class and searching for a format which could include as many people, with as wide an array of disabilities, as possible. So we began making our own news shows."

Apparently, the show started as a documentary which was financed by Matt Stone and Trey Parker (creators of South Park), has won several film festival awards, and has been broadcast on HBO and PBS. In 2006 they pitched the idea of a series to some networks which is when our beloved MTV decided to finance a pilot and 6 episodes.

The first show featured the HYN team on their tour bus doing interviews with the band Plain White T's, picking up John Stamos as a hitchhiker, interviewing residents on Venice Beach and approaching celebrities on the red carpet at the Grammy's. Jeremy Vest, who has WS got a lot of airtime in the episode. He was really cute and funny. He's a drummer and asked all the celebs he talked to about the drummer in their band. When you think about it, a beat reporter/interviewer is probably a great career for a person with WS, whom often have little social inhibitions and flowery conversation.

So as a parent with a child with WS, what do I think? If this show was on any network OTHER than MTV, I might be more able to accept this. But when I look at MTV's Sunday night lineup, and see that How's Your News fall somewhere between The Girls of Hedsor Hall (where America's rowdiest girls will be sent to prim-and-proper England for a complete transformation) and Real World Brooklyn, well, I start to question their motives. If the show was on let's say A&E, PBS, maybe Bravo, HBO or even a prime network, although I'd still be skeptical, I'd be more likely to believe that the show is actually meant to bring about some kind of understanding and acceptance, instead of just making fun of people. I don't want to stereotype, but when you think about MTV's target audience, its hard to believe the same folks that are into Real World/Road Rules Challenge, are going to be the ones donating to the Williams Syndrome Association. Just saying.

For now the jury's still out, I've only seen one episode, but watch the show and let me know what you think. Next show is Sunday at 10:30pm. Right after Nitro Circus (a stunt show modeled after Jackass). Ha.

***UPDATE:
Let me clear this up...Its not the show or the group that I have issues with! In fact I think that the group is phenomenal. I LOVED Jeremy Vest in the episode I saw. I was very emotional and literally crying tears of joy, seeing a kid with Williams Syndrome on TV. That part I think is amazing.

I guess I was feeling more like MTV was using the group and the show as purely comedic and setting it up to have people view it in the wrong context - one where people would be laughing at their disabilities instead of appreciating the differences. As a parent of a child with a disability, that bothers me somewhat. On one hand, yes I think its terrific that networks like that are having shows with different kinds of kids and adults, on the other hand, like I said before I question the motives of a network that is kind of known for sensationalism.

6 comments:

Noel said...

I agree with much of what you said. I think if it had been on a different channel, other than MTV...maybe it would have more of an inpact instead of just another comedy show. Maybe it will surprize us. Maybe it will get picked up by a more mainstream channel in the future. For now, at least it is out there, good or bad it will make some people think....of course there are just as many people that there is no hope for their true understanding of the point that is supposed to come across.

Nancy said...

I have been saving it on my DVR for my premiere party on Sunday. I am really excited about it because from what I have seen so far, it really is amazing and funny. I think what loosened me up was hearing Jeremy's mom talk about it in such a positive light. At first, I was really not sure what to think. We'll see how I feel after Sunday. Frankly, I'm glad to see that young people with disabilities are included on MTV with their peers.

Proud parent said...

I've been following this group for years and what they do is really great. I think we shouldn't be prejudiced against it simply because it is airing on mtv. Seems a little unfair. The show is outstanding and frankly I think it's going out to the audience who most needs to see it. Why not mtv? This is major step forward in my view.

Ginneh Akbar said...

Let me clear this up...Its not the show or the group that I have issues with! In fact I think that the group is phenomenal. I LOVED Jeremy Vest in the episode I saw. I was very emotional and literally crying tears of joy, seeing a kid with Williams Syndrome on TV. That part I think is amazing.

I guess I was feeling more like MTV was using the group and the show as purely comedic and setting it up to have people view it in the wrong context - one where people would be laughing at their disabilities instead of appreciating the differences. As a parent of a child with a disability, that bothers me somewhat. On one hand, yes I think its terrific that networks like that are having shows with different kinds of kids and adults, on the other hand, like I said before I question the motives of a network that is kind of known for sensationalism.

Elline said...

Ginneh, I agree with you that this show is amazing. As the sister of a young man with Williams I totally understand your desire to be protective of the cast on the show and not see them laughed at by an insensitive audience - but I do disagree that MTV is a bad place for it. I agree that mtv has some god-awful programs, but they also have some good ones, and the truth is lots of young people watch the network. It seems so important to me that they learn more about their peers with disabilities. Perhaps some will start out laughing for the wrong reasons, but I can't see that lasting long once they watch the show. And having worked at a TV network before, I can't honestly see anyone making a calculated decision to exploit people with disabilities - it would be corporate suicide. Let's give mtv the benefit of the doubt here and embrace this great show for what it is: a huge step in the right direction.

Heather said...

I love it...and most of the comments left on MTV.com are positive. In my personal opinion i think it is great that MTV was willing to give it a shot. A few kids my oldest son knows in middle school are watching and they love it.
Did you see the letter from Jeremy to the doubters on the WS list? He said it all.
There are always going to be jerks that just don't get it no matter what. Can't please everyone all the time. Tell you the truth, this is the only show on MTV I can stand. I understand you apprehension totally. It's natural motherly instinct.
I hope the show catches on in a big way! :)