Jo Frost is here to save the day again!
The former "Supernanny" has a brand-new show on TLC called "Family S.O.S.," which premieres May 28 at 9 PM. But this time, she's not just helping parents with their kids; she's helping entire families that are in crisis.
We chatted with Frost about the format of the show, her strategy for difficult situations, and how real "Family S.O.S." gets.
When you first start working with a family, do you develop an approach before meeting them?
I don't. I don't develop, and I think that's what's important … When I receive the footage for a family that needs my help, I will observe and see a two-minute tape of what they believe their issues are, but when I meet them for the first time, it's very instinctual for me.
[It's not] something you can put on paper, it's not something you can preplan — it's about instinctually connecting with the families that you just met.
In "Supernanny," we saw you work with a lot of kids. But in the premiere, you're dealing with a bunch of teens.
That's what's so wonderful about doing "Family S.O.S." It's a format that I wanted to develop and create to show my expansion of experience. There's no mistake that "Family S.O.S." will not only have issues between the parents and the dynamics between married couples or generational issues, but teenagers as well, and tweens and toddlers.
Watch a preview:
So we'll see more of a focus on marriages and generational conflicts?
All I've done is allow through this format for the American viewer to see what was going on behind the camera. With my previous show, you saw me helping the parents with the children. A lot of the work I would have to do with the parents or with the grandparents or with the extra family members — that stuff would always have to be done … it just wasn't shown. The format was centered on children needing help.
This format allows me to show the homework that the adults have to do in order to not just fix themselves, but to create the harmony they want with their children. I think that's the beauty of this format. That's what I'm so excited about.
In the premiere, you work with a blended family that is falling apart.
Our team is looking at 21st-century issues; we're looking at problems that are relatable to American families. As you see with this blended family, it's about the dynamics between all the kids together, and the issues with this married couple holding on to so much hostility, and the reality of a real-life tragic situation happening.
It's candid and raw. The style of the show is very — factuality, that's what I'm calling it. Factuality. It's not shiny, or buff, and polished on the edges.
You even show one of the kids in the premiere saying that it's just reality TV and it's all for the cameras. We haven't seen much of that before.
With "Supernanny," it wasn't put in there. And I wanted it put in there — that's part of the format. If you don't think this is real, we've got no problem with that. We'll film it as raw as it is. I want people to feel like what they are watching is the real deal, because it is.
I don't blame Americans thinking that way, because when you think of some of the reality television that is on screens today, who can blame them? Who can blame thinking that it's scripted, or think that I don't care? But this is real, and you'll eventually see that.
Watch a preview clip:
Can you describe the show's format in more detail? How much time do you spend with each family?
It's loose. So I may spend three days with a family. In my head, I'll be like, right, I'll spend three days with this family; we'll do an 18-hour day, easily. I'll give them a week or two weeks, and then go back and see how they're doing. I'll pick up the phone and have some phone calls with them, and then go back. … But it's loose. If I spend three days with a family, and I need another day with them, that's what I'll do.
The process also starts a lot earlier from the time that they are accepted. We have a very diligent production team. … We understand as a team that this is a big deal for parents. They are in crisis. They're not ringing me up because they want to meet me, have a cup of tea, and a slice of cake. … So we make sure we cradle these families right up until I arrive.
What other kinds of families can we expect to meet this season?
You're certainly going to see families that have had to come together with respects to adoption. You're going to see couples are just in a disarray in their own marriages, and the impact that it has on the rest of the family. We're going to be looking at families that have moved from one state to the next. There's a whole array — that's what's so beautiful; it's not just kid-centric. It's the whole family.
Do you get hit up for advice by people you see out in public?
Yeah, absolutely! I think over eight years of being in this country and helping families and feeling so passionate about what I do, I've become comfortable in people's living rooms. They know and respect and trust that they can talk to me, and that the advice they're going to be given is going to be good for them.
Do you still keep in touch with families you've worked with in the past?
Yeah, I do! I keep in touch with them when they reach out to me — I don't encroach on anybody unless they contact me. One of the families I helped in Florida just yesterday tweeted me. It was really lovely to hear from her.
These families are not calling me because they have a few little problems. They're in crisis. They're really falling apart. … And you have to go and walk the mile that is necessary and do what you have to do.
With that particular family [from the premiere], the mom felt like, "Oh I don't know if I want to take a privilege." It's like, what are you thinking? You have to do what you have to do. You have to be able to have a nice balance of being firm and fair, and reaching out to kids emotionally and have them feel like they can lean on you.
And we will be looking to help more families.
Frost compares her new show to "Supernanny":
"Family S.O.S." premieres Tuesday, 5/28 at 9 PM on TLC, and you can follow @Jo_Frost on Twitter.
- Family & Relationships
- Jo Frost