By Gerri Elder
Reality television continues to push the limits of poor taste further and further each season and no one knows more about being distasteful than Fox TV. The only problem that reality television producers have is finding topics that will really grab viewers' attention. Fox has done dysfunctional families, marriages between strangers, divorces of formerly happy couples, elaborate hoaxes, spoiled brats, revenge plots, physical challenges and talent contests. You name it and there has been a reality show to cover it, so the challenge for producers is to raise the bar - or lower it - each season in an attempt to shock viewers and convince them to tune in.
Now Fox is reportedly considering a pitch for a new type of reality show. Titled "Bad Dads," the show quite literally targets deadbeat dads and puts bounty hunters out on the prowl for them. Fathers' advocates are outraged by the idea and are trying to stop the show from ever seeing the light of day.
Real life bounty hunters do hire themselves out to collar deadbeat parents and collect back child support payments, and take up to a third of the proceeds as their fee for finding the non-custodial parents and extracting the money.
In the pilot episode of Bad Dads, the director of the National Child Support Center helps a struggling single mom locate her ex-husband. The woman's ex-husband is tracked down at the country club and confronted about child support while the cameras are rolling.
Jim Durham regularly does this kind of thing, usually without a camera. He says that when he can not convince a deadbeat parent to pay the unpaid child support, he investigates assets and takes whatever action is necessary to secure the overdue child support payments. Durham goes as far as having mortgages foreclosed and cars repossessed in order for he and the custodial parents to get paid.
The National Review Online reported that the description of the show says that before a deadbeat parent is confronted, they are called several times and urged to get current on the child support payments. When calls to the deadbeat parent fail to spur action, the child support bounty hunters spring into action.
The executive producer of Bad Dads says that the show is justice in action. However, it is questionable as to how exactly this type of program could possibly be beneficial to families.
First of all, the parent who is owed back child support is basically robbed of a huge chunk of the money that the court had allotted for them to take care of their children. Then the child has to either see or hear about their parent being humiliated and degraded on a national television show; one that the network would hope has millions of viewers. This type of thing is not likely to promote harmony between the estranged or divorced parents, which can only make the life of the child more difficult.
So who benefits from the Bad Dad show? The producer and the network do if the ratings are good. The bounty hunter does, since he or she will collect a chunk of cash. Television viewers could also possibly benefit if they are entertained by this sort of gutter programming. However, the custodial parents, the children and most certainly the deadbeat parent will never see any long term benefits or justice as a result of Bad Dads.