December 14, 2008 in City

Calling all dysfunctional families

Producer in Spokane to find candidates for ‘Supernanny’
By The Spokesman-Review
Photos by Jesse Tinsley photo

“They’re well-behaved in public,” said Natasha Leal, of Airway Heights, about her daughter Esa, 6, and son Ivan, 9, barely seen behind Esa, on Saturday at NorthTown Mall, where she stopped to talk to a producer about being on the reality show “Supernanny.”
(Full-size photo)(All photos)


“Supernanny” airs at 9 p.m. Friday on KXLY, Channel 4. Parents also can apply to be on the show by calling (877) 626-6984.

Maybe the children of Spokane are model citizens.

Or maybe parents don’t want national primetime audiences to know how bad they are.

Either way, Tim Gilmour, casting producer for the ABC show “Supernanny” did a lot of waiting Saturday at NorthTown’s food court. Gilmour was in Spokane searching for desperate parents with impish, disrespectful kids who have the potential to be rehabilitated with a little help from reality television.

Over several hours, around 10 families stopped to be interviewed by Gilmour. One couple drove from Olympia. Another woman volunteered her sister’s family. Airway Heights resident Natasha Leal came to the interview with her kids, Ivan, 9, and Esa, 6.

“They’ve been grounded two weeks to their room, and it hasn’t worked,” Leal said.

Leal had to be reminded by her kids why they were grounded. It was for disrespecting the babysitter. Turns out, the babysitter suggested coming to Saturday’s tryout.

As Leal explained that her fiancé was with her 2-year-old son, she paused to discipline Ivan, who had wandered a few yards from her.

“I’m just kicking it!” he explained, as if the metal sign were there for that purpose.

Leal said she’s gotten good advice from the program. She’s removed video games and works to spend more quality time with her kids.

“Mommy really needs the Supernanny really bad,” Leal told Esa after the interview.

“I just wonder what (Gilmour) thinks about my kids,” she said. “I’ll tell him the truth if it gets me the Supernanny.” Gilmour later said he was highly impressed by the talkative Esa, whom he labeled “hilarious.”

Gilmour said no situation is ruled out as a possibility, though the program aims to showcase diverse regions and an array of family make-ups.

“Supernanny” is in its fifth season on ABC. It stars Jo Frost, who gained fame on British TV before her stardom took off in the U.S. She arrives at selected homes in a British taxi, for the cameras at least, and over a two-week period provides guidance and tough love to mothers and fathers driven crazy by their chaotic family life. Gilmour said about 20 families are chosen a year.

All the families interviewed Saturday will get a longer questionnaire to fill out. If a Spokane family makes the cut, a producer may visit before a final decision is made. Spokane resident Melissa Rees brought her daughter and her boyfriend’s children for an interview.

“Supernanny” already is part of the family’s regimen, Rees said. The program has helped her handle the children’s rebellion against bedtime.

“We watch it every week, and I always make (my boyfriend) pay attention,” Rees said just before she sat down for Gilmour’s questions.

Her kids seemed calm and too well-behaved to make for good TV, but Rees cautioned that their behavior changes at home.

“The girls, they just … I don’t know how to explain it,” she said. “I wish there was a Supernanny in every town.”

Jonathan Brunt can be reached at or (509) 459-5442.

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