In the 1983 comedy Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton's auto engineer gets laid off, so housewife Teri Garr goes back to work at an ad agency, leaving dad to run the house and watch the kids. (Remember "Kenny, don't paint your sister!"?) Mayhem, many laughs and some tears ensue. NBC's new reality contest, Meet Mister Mom (premiering tonight at 8pm/ET), delivers a similar scenario and payoff by whisking real-life family matriarchs away for a luxury spa vacation, leaving the fathers to lord over their manors solo. The results, as you can imagine, aren't always (if ever) pretty, but Mister Mom is more about laughs than, say, the angst of its reality-TV cousin, Trading Spouses.
"This is different in that [Spouses] was more of a docu-drama, which we do have elements of," Mister Mom executive producer Jamie Bruce tells TVGuide.com, "but we also have a game-show element, and that is much more more emphasized."
The game show element in question posits a pair of families robbed of can-do moms playing against each other; at the conclusion of each dad's reign of terror, a winner is chosen by producers in conjunction with experts and consultants. "It's not really played for angst and drama at all," reiterates Bruce. "It's more sitcom-reality. The whole idea is for people to identify with these people's stories, as opposed to watching a train wreck."
Some "wild cards" thrown into the mix include wild animals to take care of, midnight family fire drills, last-minute dinners to be cooked up for mom's friends, and sleepover guests. "All traditional 'mom stuff' — nothing huge, but little things to put dad under the same pressure mom faces," says Bruce. "But all that is really an excuse to put two really likable families and two likable fathers in fish-out-of-water situations."
Fish, as we all know, do not much like being out of water — and Mister Mom's dads aren't very different. "The men were very emotional, and I was very surprised by that. Ten out of the 12 cried," Bruce reveals. "The week alone with the kids is a cathartic experience, in a sense. They not only realize everything that the moms do, but they also have this whole new experience with the children."
Hmm, a spa getaway? Leaving the hubby alone with the kids? Once Mister Mom begins airing, where do the other beleaguered housewives of America sign up?! Bruce laughs at our query. "They just need to make sure they watch it and make the ratings go up," he responds. "And maybe they will be able to do it [during a second season]."