Here’s the primary problem with trying to be the least bit mad at ABC’s new Bet On Your Baby: You have to be mad about watching adorable babies. OK, they’re toddlers, but still. You have to be mad about adorable toddlers doing pretty adorable stuff. And, unless you do not like children one bit — and no matter how saccharine and over-caffeinated their parents are — that is awfully tough to do.
The premise of the show is far more off-putting on paper than it turned out to be on the air. One parent heads back to a playroom called the “Baby Dome” to convince their little darling to perform kid-friendly tasks like stacking, making animal noises, turning in circles and briefly ignoring a cupcake while the other one must predict how well the child will obey. At stake is $5,000 toward the child’s college fund and the chance to return to vie for up to $50,000 more in the college coffers by smashing oversized piggybanks.
Originally I had feared a much more competitive, why-would-you-do-this-to-your-kid kind of situation, but what went on in the Baby Dome in the episode I saw amounted to parents and children interacting endearingly. Out in the studio, on the other hand, the betting parents tended to take their fifteen minutes of TV fame a tad too seriously, shrieking with laughter like the nervous new kid at a party, loudly demonstrating their kids’ most endearing habits and racing around to glad-hand audience members.
Mercifully, Bet On Your Baby’s host, actress Melissa Peterman (Here Comes the Boom), does a grand job of contributing just enough comic spice to keep the sponsored-by-Luvs sugar from becoming insufferable. The snippets of Peterman interacting with the kids are the funniest things on the show — she hands one intense little fellow the receiver of a toy phone and asks him to pretend call Barbara Walters and book Peterman on The View, and tries to give another tips on looking like a celebrity to which he replies, “I want to go home now.”
All in all, Bet On Your Baby is probably a love it or hate it proposition. But for parents and grandparents of little ones — and folks craving more family-friendly television like the network’s America’s Funniest Home Videos — it should make for a welcome addition to weekend TV time.
Catch the 2-hour premiere of Bet On Your Baby Saturday at 8/7pm ET/PT on ABC.