Friday, September 14, 2012

NEW SHOW: The United Bates of America

There's a good chance that you haven't heard of this show (a TLC series), unless you're a TLC junky or follow fundie families. If you are well-acquainted with the Duggars, you know who the Bates family is, that they live in Tennessee, and that they're somewhat less "privileged" than the Duggars, though both parents have college educations. As TLC sometimes does, they've sped through the eight-episode series in just four weeks, and some sort of system error caused myself and many others to not be able to see all eight episodes. Apparently, in changing around the dates and content (likely taking out Kelly's pregnancy announcement when she miscarried), DVRs didn't pick up on which episodes were "first-run" toward the end. I managed to get seven of the episodes, but from the looks of TLC's upcoming schedules, I don't know when I'll get the missing one ("New Editions," S01E05). When I do catch it, it will have its own post, I guess.

Well, some general thoughts... the family is pretty musical, so they sing their own theme song (I'm not sure if they wrote it or not). One problem I have with the show is that it assumes you know who the Duggars are, and that they're very good friends of the Bates family. I'm generally not a fan of things when they require you to know background from another show, regardless of whether I already know the other program or not. 
Credit: TLC / Charles Garvey
The United Bates of America "Love Times 21" (S01E01): Baby Jeb had fluid in his lungs and spent a week in the NICU. [I thought it was funny that Jeb left out how many children he had when he asked the nurse if his kids could look into the window of the NICU!] By his two-week checkup, he has regained his birthweight and is doing well.

It's Valentine's Day (or, "I Love You Day," as the Bates call it), which is a big deal for the family, as they don't get one another girfts for Christmas (because they get so many gifts from other people). [interesting family tradition.] Everyone draws a name to determine who they will be getting a gift for that year, but it's not a secret draw. [why not?] Each has $10 to spend, and you can't give hints to people over what to get you. They try very hard to keep all of the kids separate, though Isaiah does go on the same trip as Josie, for whom he was buying. [I wonder if they filmed all of the shopping trips and decided this was the best one to show, or how that worked.] They all decorate the house and plan to have a nice dinner. The family jokes about Erin not being able to cook like the other older girls, which she takes a little personally. [I thought that the "Cooking for Blondes" joke was a bit insensitive myself.] Gil and Kelly serve the spaghetti, and after dinner they open presents. [that Callie is so darling!]

The United Bates of America "Papa Bill's Farm" (S01E02): The family goes to visit Gil's parents in South Carolina for three days, which commences with the older girls packing and asking each child to bring down pajamas, outfits, etc. [very different system from how the Duggars pack!] The distance is about 3.5 hours, and they drive through Anderson, SC to see the college where Gil and Kelly started dating and the church where they were married. At Papa Bill's Farm (which has cows, horses, rabbits, and chickens), Gil's one brother and one sister and their kids are also there. Erin, Alyssa, and Tori take turns driving a tractor, then a bunch of the kids learn to plant corn. Jackson, in particular, loved it. [I'm such a worrywart... I can't imagine letting 6-7 of my kids ride in the scooper part of a backhoe-thing!] Beavers have dammed up some of the creeks on the property so a bunch of the kids try to help tear down some, though the beavers will return in a matter of weeks anyway. [I would totally try to set-up a camera of some sort to record the building of the dam, hehe.] This leads to a mudball fight of sorts, which Carlin tries to avoid. They play football and croquet, cook hotdogs over a fire, and reminisce over old times, including when Gil was a sports star in high school. [he had quite a few trophies!]

The United Bates of America "19 Kids, 1 Emergency" (S01E03): Erin, Alyssa, and Tori head off on a three-week mission trip to Peru, and Michaella is left in charge while Gil and Kelly take the girls to Memphis. Michaella also babysits/nannies for a little boy named Brady during the week, normally at his house but today at the Bates' house. [presumably, that's why she isn't going on the trip.] Josie, Carlin, and Katie act as "the older girls" in getting things done without the parents around. [that's a huge unmatched shoes bucket!] Kelly doesn't feel well when they get home, and Gil ends up taking her to the hospital with stomach pains. Her gallbladder has 14 stones in it, requiring surgery to remove the organ. It was three days into the older girls' trip, and they find out via email. The surgery is quick and goes well. The girls are back in a couple more weeks, greeted by the whole family at the airport and returning to balloons and a gift basket at the house. [it was heart-warming to see so much love when the family greeted one another!]

The United Bates of America "Practice Makes Perfect" (S01E04): Everyone gets new "assignments" each month or so, and each person is in charge of a room or hallways & stairwells, the cars, the yard, dishes or laundry (9-12 loads a day!). [the family doesn't sound like they particularly care for the intercom system that the Duggars installed.] Lawson does the grocery shopping because he's the only one who enjoys it. [... or he's the only one who can manage not to impulse-buy, LoL!] He goes a few times a week to do his best at getting deals. When he returns, some kids bring in the food from the truck and others put it all away.

Later, we see Gil and Kelly teach manners to some of the children, heading to a restaurant for dessert for a test. [interesting. though I didn't seem to see dessert in front of everyone when it was all over...] We also find out that Gil wrote each kid a letter over two days because he wondered what would happen if there was an accident on the job. [I can't decide what to make of this - part of me thinks it's really sweet but part of me feels like it's a death wish in a way... and it doesn't sound like he writes new ones every year, so how will the young kids feel about goofy letters after a while?]

The United Bates of America "19 in Training" (S01E06): [I would argue that some of the older children are no longer "in training" but maybe you say that until they're out of the house and married?] We see a typical day of homeschooling, which starts at four years old in the Bates household. Erin (who goes to Crown College because it's closer and conservative) gives piano lessons to many of the younger kids. Most of the kids have switched from piano to violin or guitar, but they all start on piano for theory. [a lot more sensible than the Duggars on violin, if you ask me. but it's not as showy, and we know how JimBob is about bragging.] Like the Duggars, some of the older kids are on the fire rescue squad, so they teach "stop, drop, and roll" and what a firefighter looks like. Kelly teaches some home economics, which Tori fights by saying she doesn't need to learn to cook because she's not married yet. [she's a bit problematic, that one.] They do up a batter, cut the chicken into strips, then fry it. [ need to learn to make fried chicken. sometime this winter!] Tori isn't a big fan of the process, saying that her "feller" better know how to cook, but Katie and Josie really enjoyed learning. Meanwhile, Gil teaches some wrestling to the boys, for physical education. [do the girls not "need" physical education and the boys not "need" home economics?]

Erin is in her third (full-time) year of majoring in music ministry and learning theory, accompaniment, etc. full-time. [after all of the drama that took place after Gil forced Erin to turn down a scholarship at a good school, I'm a bit unclear over how Erin has been in college for three years... anyone have more details?] Many of the Bates kids hope to go to college, and we see Tori perform for a chapel service at Crown.

The United Bates of America "Bates & Duggars Reunion" (S01E07): It's time for the Big Sandy, Texas homeschool conference, so everyone packs, which is a lot of work for Michaella, who coordinates all of the colors and clothing. After double-checking everything, they wind up loading the van at 8:30pm and taking off at 10:05pm, even though the plan had been to roll out at 4pm. Can't blame Michaella, though... see, at 9am, there were still nine loads of laundry left to be done! After a couple of hours on the road, Zach was following Gil and hits the van after they get off at an exit. [they never really describe how that happened...] The van Zach was driving is really torn up, so they remove the bumper in order to continue. At 3am they pull into Nashville and book four hotel rooms - Erin, Alyssa, Tori, Carlin, and Josie get a room, Zach, Lawson, Nathan, and Trace get a room, Michaella, Addallee, Callie, Ellie, and Katie get a room, and Gil and Kelly take Jackson, Warden, Isaiah, Judson, and Jeb in their room. [yeah, probably a good thing that they didn't book ahead of time because they'd have no idea where they'd end up at what time, LoL!] When the Bates pull into the conference, the Duggars let them know that they already have dinner prepared for them. [aww. that was nice!] The next day, it's International Alert Academy - everyone does different activities, and a lot of the older kids mention that you can meet possible mates there. [notably, Erin keeps mum.] The Bates family is asked to sing a song one night, but they hardly have any time to practice. Kelly and Gil tell the kids to smile if they don't know the words. [not sure what else you'd tell your kids to do... though I still think it teaches that not being prepared is okay... and what was with "the nails of our teeth" instead of "the skin of our teeth" ??]

The United Bates of America "Bates Plus 12" (S01E08): The Paines (with ten children from 10 to 27, with only four under 18) are coming to visit, so Alyssa decorates a room for them and puts in some gift baskets, of course. [I find this odd!] They all plan to ride a train (Blue Ridge Scenic Railway) and go white-water rafting (Ocoee Rafting) in Georgia, about three hours away. [really? this isn't something that Gil and Mr. Paine would have discussed ahead of time?? or was he just playing along like it was a surprise?] They enjoy the views from the train but don't like the volume of the horn. [29 kids and 4 adults isn't exactly accurate... many of those "kids" are "adults."] Erin is scared of whitewater rafting, so Gil tries to calm her. Of course, in true brotherly fashion, experienced Lawson freaks her out a little extra. Kelly and Josie were also a little scared, and Kelly struggled to comfort them through her own terror. Michaella stayed with the ten children who were too young (you had to be 12 years old to go), as she doesn't really like water. [she's kinda the fuddy-duddy in the family, huh?] Nathan rode on the front of the raft but fell off! In the end, Erin had a lot of fun. Gil hopes that maybe they could make this a yearly thing. [Some of the older kids talking about their romantic interests seemed a little off here... why were they not included with other episodes where this is already discussed?]
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