It seems I’m destined to be in the news again, though this time hopefully the story will be more complete and less full of controversy and I’ll be in like-minded company… maybe. A few weeks ago a film crew and producers from ABC’s 20/20 came to visit; spending two and a half days to film some b-roll of my family, inundate us with interview questions, and see and what our normal lives are like, how we interact as a family, and what our views are on parenting, traumatic YouTube events aside.
This Friday at 10 PM on ABC, the episode will air on television. I just got my glimpse of the footage myself, so like you, I’ll be watching with interest to see how it all turned out.
Previous ABC Coverage
This won’t be our first coverage on ABC, but hopefully will be the one to finally move forward from the tone of previous ABC roastings. On February 11th, three days after my video went viral, ABC’s Dan Kloeffler tells the story, but his producers sure seemed Hell-bent on telling it with a slant. Both the on-the-street segment of his spot as well as the in-studio interview with Child Psychologist Michael Bradley certainly put the laptop-shooting incident in negative light. Most of you probably remember a much longer interview from Dr. Phil on the Today show six days later. The ABC one wasn’t as bad, but it wasn’t great either. Then they wondered why I didn’t want to go on their show when asked. Really? Seemed to me they already had their minds made up by that time.
Following that news segment by about ten days we were the subject of yet another ABC broadcast. On February 21st we were the subject of George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America. I just noticed in his piece that he says “and he’s defending himself now to ABC’s Andrea Canning.” For the record, I never spoke to either Andrea Canning or George Stephanopolous. It’s a nice play on words he uses there though. Still, you shouldn’t lie like that on national television, George. You’re supposed to be above that. However, whether I spoke to her or not, it remains true that Ms. Canning did a decent job of reporting the actual news, without a lot of political slant thrown in. She was even kind there towards the end, which I sincerely appreciate.
Closing the Book on the Story? Maybe.
Imagine my surprise when Muriel Pearson, a producer for 20/20 calls me and say she wants to do a piece for their show, but not a piece about the “Laptop Dad” she promised. After hearing what they wanted the piece to be about, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to think it over and talk to my wife and kids about it and let her know our answer.
We talked over the next few weeks a few times and in the end, we agreed to do the interview. Great (insert sarcasm here) more cameras!
Having had to be on the other end of the camera as much as we have recently, I now understand why families who have been on television interviews always look so harried. After two and a half solid days of people saying “can you do that again” and “wait while we get set up” it can be a lot to deal with. They’re everywhere. Thankfully ABC only brought down one videographer and one sound man.
Muriel herself was awesome to get to know in person. She had a really good personality and tried her best to make us feel as normal as possible throughout the process. Moreover she seemed to really to capture “us” being “us” more than asking us to stage things for the benefit of the camera, which has happened before, though we always refused. Our approach has thus far been “if you want to experience our life, turn on your camera and follow us around. We’re not going to put on a show for your benefit.”
On the final day I got the chance to meet Sharon Alfonsi, the correspondent who be the on-screen presence during the piece.
Fast forward three weeks and guess what? It’s on the air tomorrow! I’ve been feeling good about it all along, but I’ll admit to a little apprehension tonight when I saw the advertisement for the episode airing tomorrow.
They are calling the episode “Xtreme Parents.” I’ll admit… that’s a little scary, but there’s nothing I can do about it now except hope that what we were told this story is going to be about and what it’s actually about will be the same thing. During two and a half days of b-roll footage there are a lot of opportunities to create spin for any number of stories, no matter what the premise was for their arrival.
The idea was supposed to be about what normal life here was like for us, how we parent our kids in general, and letting people see behind the “Laptop Dad” and the “Rebellious Daughter” and see our family as a whole; healthy, happy, and rarely possessed of a dull moment.
A lot of disavowing occurred during the interview. For example they were under the impression that everything around here is “Tommy and his kids.” My wife, who has apparently had enough of that idea being permeated, was quick to just about come across the table and set the record straight. Talking about getting her dander up. Whew. That was… intense. I just sat back and kept my mouth shut during that part. We parent as a team. We always have and we always will. I really hope that comes through.
And we’re normal. That’s the key thing we hope shines through all this. We have a normal house, normal yard, normal pets, normal problems, and normal kids. They have their great days and their less-s0, but so do we. At the end of it all though, we’re a wonderfully happy family. The initial impression I got, based on the request for the interview, was this was going to have little to do with the laptop-incident, but I guess I’ll find out tomorrow with the rest of you whether that’s the case.
Why am I telling you this? Well, for two reasons really.
First, I hope you’ll all tune into watch. We certainly will be. I’ve never got to actually see any of the interviews except on the Internet, so it will be interesting to see my living room from the vantage point of, well, my living room.
Second, I have a natural distrust of the media, though I do get a good feeling from Muriel and Sharyn both, irrespective of the scary logo show on their preview. I know what I can do with an editing both and my skills are amateurish compared to theirs. If this turns out to be another Tommy-bashing episode from ABC, then I’ll have been here first to set the record straight, rather than following up with a lot of “but they said…” comments.
Well, there’s nothing to do now but sit back and wait for the DVR to cue up. Remember to watch tomorrow. All three of us, and maybe even Bonnie and Piper, will be on.
Watch 20/20’s Xtreme Parents Friday May 4th, 2012 at 10 PM Eastern on ABC