LOS ANGELES - Much like Bravo uncovered ratings gold with its "Real Housewives" franchise, TLC has concocted its own formula for reality TV success: an unassuming couple, a boatload of babies and a heavy helping of chaos.
"Sextuplets Take New York" premieres Tuesday night on the network that launched tabloid superstars Jon and Kate Gosselin on "Jon and Kate Plus 8," the Duggar family's "19 Kids and Counting" and the seemingly normal-by-comparison Joneses in "Quints by Surprise."
But Jon and Kate, they are not. For starters, Victor and Digna Carpio, parents of America's first Latino sextuplets, actually like each other. Sitting side by side on the all-too-familiar couples couch, the Caprios share a painful past -- as a young girl, Digna's divorced parents sent her to work in the Ecuadorian mountains -- and the enormous difficulties they face as immigrant parents raising their six babies and 9-year-old son on a single income.
Fans will applaud TLC for spotlighting the economic reality of raising sextuplets in a daunting recession without the help of advanced product placement. However, those seeking a lighthearted show with a predictable silver lining should look elsewhere. The teary-eyed pilot will leave viewers second-guessing their fertility treatments as the network captures the grim reality of multiple births. Not only did the Carpios suffer emotionally when the children were born 15 weeks premature, but at 22 months old, a few of the babies still are battling medical disabilities.
With seven children and little help, a day at the park is far from relaxing -- for the Carpios or the viewers. During one particular outing, Victor explains that in order to leave the house as a family, they need two cars. One small problem: they only own one car. A possible solution? Attaching leashes to each harnessed baby and attempting a massively disorganized walk around the neighborhood.
Making matters worse is an ill-timed Latin music medley that attempts to drown out the more serious issues the family deals with, as cameras capture the adorable but mischievous toddlers climbing up and down the walls of the Carpio's Queens home -- screaming, crying, laughing, hitting.
The Carpios are relatable, loving and honest. But the overwhelming need the network has to tie up each episode in a pretty bow not only takes away from what could be an honest reflection of a multiple-birth household, it also appears to be truly disingenuous to the Carpio family's reality. (please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)
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