The Observer

ABC bets on babies

Drew Scheeler, Film and Television Critic

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Watershed Down

Gambling is illegal in most states if you’re under the age of twenty one. But this doesn’t mean you can’t wager on toddlers! The American Broadcasting Company’s most recent game show is “Bet On Your Baby,” a mistake on so many levels that you can tell that it already has become the black sheep in that channel’s family of programs.

“Bet On Your Baby” was probably conceived in the same way most bad game shows are. A couple of producers get together for a one-night stand, hash out some ideas and nine months later, they’re left with a terrible idea about to go to series that they are now unable to terminate. If you love betting on greyhounds or horses, then you’re sure to love betting on preschoolers like Sky or Bladerunner or Lazer or Kumquat!

“Bet On Your Baby” is a harmless series, but it lacks any sort of fun or entertainment or redeeming quality that might actually make people tune in each week. There is no tension. There are no stakes. This isn’t a feel good show; this is a feel boring show. One parent and their toddler are sent into the “Babydome” where the child is asked to perform a simple task like stacking Oreo cookies or identifying basic foods.

The other parent, wait for it, bets on their baby. Parents can earn $5000 by just guessing the correct answer to an either/or question.

All of the parents return later for a crapshoot of a second round where the children clean up the Babydome, revealing a word puzzle that must be solved to choose the parents to play for the big money.

The final round sees the winning parents smash piggy banks containing between $500 and $50,000. If they like the amount they find they can keep it or choose to throw it away and try for the top prize. With the steep money cliff between the top prize and the second place prize of $25,000 most families will leave with somewhere between ten and twenty thousand.

That sounds like a great payday until you realize that by the time these children make it to college in fifteen years each degree will probably cost at least $500,000. Maybe this money can pay for a year’s worth of books.

Melissa Peterman is a solid if forgettable host. Peterman has prior experience in this genre, hosting the CMT version of “The Singing Bee,” which provided solid entertainment for its couple of seasons on basic cable. But, like her sitcom character on “Reba,” Peterman sometimes thinks that she is funny and hams it for the camera and this is a mistake.

Outside of a certain live program on NBC, Saturday night programming on network television has been a deadzone since the glory days of the early 1990s. Networks use Saturday night’s primetime as a graveyard to bury the festering corpse of whatever elephant is decaying in the queue of new programs. Television has an issue appealing to younger viewers. But the executives really missed the target demo this time around by twenty-some years.

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ABC bets on babies