Thursday, July 9, 2009

Documentary looks to tame two unruly British teenagers

REGIONAL—Can an Iowa family transform two unruly Brits?

Producers of “World’s Strictest Parents,” a documentary-style reality series developed by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Twenty Twenty Television certainly think so.

Each hourlong episode of the London-based show documents a 10-day stay of two British teenagers under the rules and roof of a host family.

While past episodes have sent the Brits to collide head on with the daily discipline, educational values and parental strictness in international locations like Jamaica, Ghana, India and South Africa, as well as state-side destinations like Alabama, California, Tennessee, Georgia and Arkansas, producers think it is time to bring the show to the Midwest — more specifically, to Iowa.

“We generally think Iowa would be a beautiful backdrop for any of our episodes,” said David Cheesman, assistant producer of Twenty Twenty Television. “It’s an area that we don’t have on screen that much in the UK, so it will be interesting to give it some screen time, to see what’s going on there and to get our teenagers involved in a farming community.”

One girl and one boy between the ages of 16 and 18 will travel to Iowa for the in-depth segment, to be filmed July 17-26.

“They would pretty much be taken on as an extended member of the family,” Cheesman said. “They would be expected to live under the house rules, partake in the family and farming chores and very much just embrace their new family, get involved and enjoy it, finding out what a family is all about.”

He said the teens that will embark on the journey from the United Kingdom to Iowa have lost their way with their birth families and have stopped respecting any sort of familial hierarchy.

“We just want them to go back to thinking about the opportunities that a family has to offer, and we feel that will come from an Iowa farm family,” Cheesman said. “We want kids to see how a family operates, and as a result, become better individuals.”

Although producers are not favoring any particular area in Iowa, Cheesman said mainly larger counties have been expressing interest, but that should not deter any interested families in N’West Iowa.

“We’d be more than happy with anywhere,” he said.

Cheesman expects the experience will be a culture shock for the two Brits.

“We don’t really have matters of land in the UK, certainly not land that’s used for farming, so it will be interesting for the teenagers to see the hard work that goes into farm, how families do that together and how people are often born into the farming world. It’s not a lifestyle choice,” he said. “We really feel it will be a shock for our teenagers to see what else is out there, especially in more rural areas.”

During filming, Cheesman suggests the host family be themselves, not worry about the cameras and go about general day-to-day activities.

“It would just be like having four extra hands around,” he said.

Producers will encourage the family to offer guidance to the two teenagers as they have never worked on a farm before and will undoubtedly have some complaints.

“If they’re moaning about it, just tell them to saddle up and get on with it,” Cheesman said. “Just be on hand to be a parent, because obviously, that’s what a family is all about.”

All of the expenses for the filming and the board of the two teens will be provided for by Twenty Twenty Television, and the host family also will be given an extensive reciprocation for the cost of any food, water and other expenses during the week.

“We just want them to learn to love again,” Cheesman said.

This article appeared in the June 20, 2009 edition of The N'West Iowa REVIEW.

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