'Teen Mom' and 'If You Really Knew Me' reviews: Life is hard, happiness is possible, but elusive

No matter what you may think of the choices the young people in Teen Mom have made, you can’t accuse the series of taking the easy way out: As the Tuesday-night season premiere proved once again, everyone has his or her reasons, and we all, as viewers, worry about those babies, don’t we?

In following up the documentary story-lines of Maci, Farrah, Amber, and Catelynn, each of them seemed trapped in distinctly different ways. Maci had to seek legal action to get her boyfriend Ryan to pony up some child-support. Catelyn and Tyler are practically zombies after giving their child up for adoption — that is, when they’re not fighting, him calling her a “leech” and enlisting his mother to get Catelyn to move out of his house. Farrah proved to be more grown up than her own mother, who didn’t want to discuss the court-ordered restraint the woman brought upon herself after hitting Farrah. And Amber agonized through much of the opening hour thinking she might be pregnant again.

It would be foolish to think that some of these narratives aren’t manipulated a bit for the cameras. That pregnancy scare was drawn out too long, and I get the feeling that Tyler plays up his tragic-hero mopiness when he knows the camera crew will come upon him looking at photo albums of his now-adopted infant. But that doesn’t mean all of these stories don’t pull at your heart and your mind: Don’t you find it almost impossible to fathom how any of these people are going to pull themselves out of their complex, vexed situations?

Following Teen Mom, the determined uplift of If You Really Knew Me was compelling in a different way. The series is filmed in coordination with Challenge Day, a social program in which trained leaders visit high schools and, in one intensive day, try to break down the cliques and emotional barriers that keep students from getting to know each other.

Again, it would be easy to be cynical about this show: Once the group-therapy sessions begin, the tears flow easily. “I’ve heard everyone always cries,” one girl said before the session… and then later, sure enough, she and everyone around her was pretty teary as they owned up to their deep-rooted feelings and prejudices. Jocks and nerds, straight and gay, black and white — If You Really Knew Me tackles conflicts big and small by breaking down everyone’s defenses quickly.

In fact, that’s why I think the program works to whatever extent it does: When the Challenge Day leaders took the kids through a series of intimacy exercises, it all happened so fast and with such positive energy, most of the students seemed unable to resist its allure. I’m not sure how long-lasting the changes in students’ behavior lasts, but for this night, it seemed like an undeniably positive experience.

Or am I being too gullible about Teen Mom and If You Really Knew Me? Did you watch either? Both?

Comments (140 total) Add your comment
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  • etm

    Sophia and Leah are soooo cute. It is really sad how alone Amber and Farrah are. Although, if I were Farrah, I’d rather be on my own than have that psycho for mother!

    • Sherry

      I don’t think Farrah’s mom is a psycho. I think she has been trying hard to support her daughter and her granddaughter. Violence is not the answer. It’s sad to see how Farrah doesn’t understand how much she needs her mom.

      • Frank Anderson

        Farrah’s mother has been both emotionally and physically abusive on the show in the past, and Farrah herself is irresponsible and just as prone to lashing out as her mother. The scene after Farrah moves into the guest house and got so angry at her daughter was sickening. Either way that baby is destined to be just as screwed up as her two pathetic role models. This show is obviously manipulative, but my wife and I started watching after we found out we were going to have a baby. It has been a valuable and emotional show to watch, especially in terms of what never to do.

      • love teen mom

        I agree Sherry. Even after her mom returned home, Farrah was still looking to her mother to find somewhere for her to live! Farrah needs to grow up – which includes finding somewhere to live yourself if you don’t want any of your mother’s help.

      • jeff

        they need to get rid of Catelynn and Amber. Maci and Farrah are the ones with the interesting stories. Amber and Catelynn seem to play it up to much for the cameras. The other two seem more real

      • Sm

        anyone else notice that Sophia was ear to ear smiles when in her grandma’s presence… and miserable and crying when alone with Farrah?

      • Ferris

        No. That mother is batsh*t crazy. Even back in the 16 and Pregnant episdoe. She smacked Farrah over a debate about a car Farrah said she may have wanted. That mother has serious issues.

      • bianca

        I don’t agree with what Farrah’s mom did but come on… Farrah didn’ take much care of her daughter during the first season. She probably did something to deserve it. It was obvious Sophia would rather be with her grandma than with Farrah

      • hannah

        I don’t think Farrah’s mom is psycho at all. Throughout the entire first season all Farrah did was complain about everything her parents said/did. Her parents are constantly trying to help her i.e. her mother still gave her a place to live after the incident, and Farrah acted like she was entitled to have it. BS! That girl turned into an adult the minute she got pregnant. She needs to grow up and move on with her life if she thinks she’s so bada** and needs no help. Clearly she needs major help. The way she treated Sophia when she was crying was disturbing; she turned the lights off and walked away. Imagine how she acts when the cameras aren’t there. She probably swung at her mother first and her mother probably popped her one in self defense. Maybe her mother should have started disciplining her before she got too big to handle. Farrah’s nothing but a spoiled little brat. She needs to be a mother and quit worrying how awful the world’s treating her. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if the problem is you.

    • KLH

      I just finished looking at last season but it is obvious that the show is not “real” time. The letter from the adoptive parents congratulated Catelynn on her engagement but she wasn’t engaged yet. I feel sorry for all the girls but Farrah is insufferable and selfish, and I do belive poor Amber has some mental issues.

      • Myrna

        Letting go of attachment to oesspssions is something I’ve been working on. I have now reduced my clothing by 75%. It’s wonderful to have lots of space in my closet, although I admit to saving some high heeled shoes that I will NEVER wear again for my shrine to Imelda Marcos. Paper (books, magazines, mail, etc.) is my beate noir. But even there I’m making progress.I think it’s a question of being here now. Not saving something I have no use for until I do have a use for it. If I receive a charitable appeal, unless I’m prepared to write the check now, it goes in the recycle bin. Ruthless tossing of magazines (yes, someone at the hospital, cafe9, dentist, etc. might enjoy the but it I’m not taking it there today, I’m not saving it). I would vote for throwing the unmatched socks away, because it lightens the load practically as well as psychologically.If we live in the now rather than in the past (often associated with sentimentality) or the future (often associated with fear) we can strive to be authentically ourselves.

  • Simon

    Why didn’t the Amber chick learn to use birth control again? Come on. There are some stupid decisions here, but let’s get real. How do you forget, if you don’t want to have another kid, again? That’s just beyond stupid.

    • Kristen

      She needs an IUD. If she’s too stupid to follow up with condoms, she should get something idiot-proof.

      • Burak

        I definitely went tgoruhh this when I’d take J into the daycare and he’d immediately get excited and start reaching for his room teacher (a grandmotherly lady who has rocked a lot of babies in her day) or the owner (a woman who loves children so much she has five of her own, ranging in age from 21 to 5).It hurt. It hurt a lot. And then I realized how happy he was and how much they love him there. And that has helped me feel immensely better about the situation. Because now, when I show up, he lights up to see ME and he toddles over to ME. And yes, he does still want to go visit them when he sees them, but I know it’s because he feels safe with them. So I don’t let myself feel bad about that.((hugs)) to you.

  • Gerard

    I love watching everyone on “Teen Mom.” I think all the girls are great. “If You Really Knew Me” was very inspiring and emotional. Hopefully everyone was really changed and people watching the show will be too.

  • Christina

    I want to know why it took Farrah’s mom so long to slap her. She deserved a beating long ago. What a spoiled rotten waste of space!

    • Pamela

      I could not agree more!! And when she was in the guest house and yelling at Sophia, oh I wanted to come through the screen and slap her!!!!!

      • bianca

        I totally agree with pamela

    • Karen

      Agreed…

      • alex1982

        i agree with karen, about agreeing with bianca, about agreeing with pamela, that she agrees with christina, about wanting to know why it took farahs mom so long to slap the shit out of her daughter

    • Ty

      I don’t agree that her mom should have slapped her and maybe this show is just a snapshot but Farrah always comes across as nasty and unappreciative. I would never talk to my mom the way she does but the one time I did I certaintly did get popped in the mouth. On top of that she expected her mother to provide an alternative living situation. At 18 or 19 your parents are no longer obligated to provide for you and if she could no longer live under her mothers roof then I think it would be her own responsibility to find a place to move. Also maybe her mom was just unwilling to discuss the situation on camera. She has to be really embarrassed that the whole country and people she knows have an idea of what happened. While she appears on the show it isn’t about her and she isn’t obligated to share her whole life with us.

      • sara

        Really Ty? You think Farrah’s mom should make her daughter and her granddaughter homeless? That’s nice of you…

      • Riss

        Sara – my mom made it clear to me and my two sisters that she would support us until we were 18 and then we needed to move out and take responsibility for our own lives. One of my sisters was pregnant when she turned 18, but that was her choice to have unprotected sex and she still had to live by the rules. She found a place, learned how to support herself and her child, and is now very successful. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to push them to take care of themselves, otherwise they can become greedy little jerks like Farrah.

    • KLH

      I don’t go for violence. that said, I have wanted to smack Farrah for a long, long time.

      • confidential

        The problem with Farrah and her mother is that Farrah is insanley spoiled, unappriciative brat and her mother should have kicked her out as soon as she turn 18. She also shouldn’t be co-signing car loans or helping with her tuition. What she needs is to be completely cut off to learn how to provide for herself and her child. She will never learn otherwise.

    • I bet your kids absolutely love you. Freakin’ tyrant. That’s right, when a kid doesn’t listen, beat the hell out of ‘em. Don’t speak to them like a human being or try other solutions. Of course not. That makes too much sense.

      • Erica

        Have you been watching the show? Farrah is an unappreciative spoiled brat who expects everything in life to be handed to her. She had a child, that means you don’t get to be a child anymore, she needs to grow up. Maybe her mother shouldn’t have hit her but it was a long time coming.

    • Ferris

      If Farrah is a brat, it’s because her mother raised her that way. Yes Farrah is snotty and very self absorbed… but it’s not like she had a wonderful role model of a mother to learn from.

      • me

        True but that doesn’t make me want to clobber her any less.

    • MST

      AMEN!! I do not believe Farrah’s account of what happened. When she was telling the case worker what happened, she looked like she left out half the story. We never heard her mother’s side, so I think that it is foolish for people to assume that her account was true. I know her mother isn’t perfect, but I got beat 50 times worse than that little tap her mother gave her in the first season and I have never talked to my mother the way she does a day in my life. She is spoiled, she is ungrateful and has a smart mouth. That baby lit up at the sight of her grandmother. That’s all that counts.

      • noor

        Thanks for your posting. One other thing is when you are dssnoiipg your property on your own, one of the problems you need to be aware of upfront is just how to deal with house inspection records. As a FSBO owner, the key towards successfully shifting your property plus saving money upon real estate agent commissions is knowledge. The more you know, the smoother your sales effort might be. One area when this is particularly important is assessments.

  • gracie

    I just felt so bad for farrah’s daughter, when she just moved across the street in that guest house, I just felt so bad for Sophia, and she left her all by herself in the dark, and told her to stop crying, I mean thoe poor baby obviously wanted attention. I feel so bad when it’s not the kids fault, and babies don’t know any better. Poor baby.

    • Sm

      not to mention curse at her.

    • sara

      didn’t you EVER THINK FARRAH IS STRESSED OUT and maybe Sophia crying for no reason was adding to the stress?! Oh jeez, don’t act like you’re all perfect people here, you know when you’re stressed, you can act not yourself. Give the girl a break, her mom beat her up and then made her go sleep in a dusty dirty house with no bed. I mean, come on, wouldn’t you be just a little bit stressed?

      • JustMe

        Please, one smack is not beating up, and you know what, Farrah can leave. Of course she won’t. Like the rest of the entitled spoiled brats, she’ll take absolutely everything – money, time, energy, etc – from somebody and b*tch about them every second while they’re doing it.

        If the mom would grow a brain, she’d be out in the streets. She’d see real quick what real life was like.

      • me

        Stressed out. My baby had a tumor and didn’t sleep fo 4 years. I had a job, worked around my husband’s schedule, went to doctor’s appointments and showered when he finally passed out. I didn’t dump him on anyone. That’s stress.

  • misty

    I just watched “If you really knew me” for the first time tonight. The most amazing show I’ve ever seen! Positively amazing!

    • Hayden

      We did the “If you really knew me” exercise when I was in high school. It was very effective, and in our case, it did make a difference — at least for the rest of the school year. It is definitely worth doing.

    • dee

      The show brings me to tears. We need more of this “group therapy” in our schools. What a powerful exercise.

    • Suratiya

      Anonymous, I almost know what you are insyag here. I have struggled with my weight for years and nearly every health issue (major and minor) I have had has been attributed to extra weight. I felt resentful of that attitude, until I did lose weight and guess what? Those health issues disappeared. So turns out that it was a good defensive attitude that helped me justify why my weight wasn’t the problem. Nice defense to hang on to, when I didn’t want to make a tough change in lifestyle! And where exactly did I say that smoking caused her cancer? I am well aware that many nonsmokers get lung cancer, as anyone can see if they read the stats.But the fact is that my mother has smoked a pack a day, every day for almost 50 years. You want to tell me that has nothing to do with lung cancer and the various breathing related problems she has had over the years?Sorry for the rant. I have given your anonymous, defensive comment more than enough time and energy.Lou, Thanks so much for the channeled thoughts.

    • Samuel

      I have, in some ways, an opposite expcrienee My dad died when I was 6. I get one of two responses when the subject is inevitably first brought up.1. the person who (usually inadvertently) bought it up seems to feel very guilty about mentioning it, and apologies both in the condolences’ sense and i’m so sorry for bringing it up!’. Most then change the subject very few are brave enough to ask any further questions, such as how he died, as if I might immediately burst into tears. It was over 13 years ago, I can talk about it quite comfortably. In fact, I like talking about my dad.2. The person (usually someone who has had a similar expcrienee) states that i couldn’t have remembered him much then’. This is the most hurtful comment I ever receive, as it implies that somehow, my young age means it didn’t really affect me that much. it takes everything in me not to say YES, actually, I DO remember him, though not as well as I’d like and more memories slip away from me every day. But I’ll thank you not to patronise me, or my feelings, about something you, actually, seem to know NOTHING about’.

  • Mighty

    Haven’t seen “Teen Mom” but I have seen “If You Really Knew Me” and I have attended Challenge Days as both a participant and a facilitator.

    The TV show didn’t quite provide the impact of the day long experience but it might have been the most positive, optimistic show I’ve ever seen on MTV.

    If this is making so they program less episodes of “Jersey Shore” then it’s already making the world a better place.

  • Callia

    I just finished watching “If You Really Knew Me,” and I’ve gotta say that it was really emotional for me. It really made me think about things.
    I just wish that people took my “challenge day” as seriously, it was nothing that I wanted it to be.
    I really want to try it again.

  • Trixie

    I didn’t watch either show, but I participated in Challenge Day when I was a junior, and it was an amazing experience. People took it very seriously, and I honestly don’t think that by the end of the day, there was a single dry eye in the place. It’s a really special memory of mine. I hope more kids in high school get to participate.

  • M

    “If You Knew Me” was so inspirational. I cried so much watching it and I wished we had had a program come to my HS. A+ to MTV for having a program like that amongst so much depressing crap on tv.

    • jamie

      Being an outcast as a child because I have epilepsy, I related so many issues some teens have. I love the show and can’t wait for the new season to start(if there is one). I would DVR each episode and watch them over and over night after night. I am a 28 yr old man and I would cry during each episode because I know what it’s like to get teased for nothing. I think every teen should watch this because at least once in their lives, they were getting teased or they were the ones doing it and this would help them see what dammage one and that it is possible to be resolved. Please keep the show going. This show is a hell of a lot more entertaining and moving than Jersey Shore.

  • Tracy

    Parents need to watch this show with their kids. I watched the show and did participate two years ago as a parent volunteer. It was very similar to the episode. There were some kids who opened up to their emotions and some who did not. Even as someone who was there to support, I needed support from others including students when facing “crossing the line.” What I took away from the episode and experience was that most people are honest and worth knowing personally. There are always a few that aren’t so much. It becomes pretty clear to everyone who is in that category. It also becomes clear that some people will never step out of their small comfort zone (Nerds are you paying attention? Two way street here) But the few who take a risk and share are worth knowing and trusting. This is a real world skill that carries over to college, and career. To practice these concepts, you must have maturity. Not every high school student, jock nerd, stoner or princess has these skills at the same time. So the change in attitude toward each other may come in their own time, or never. But it is a message worth repeating again and again. First off, I applaud MTV for this show. However, how can this show be on the same network as Jersey Shore? Personally, I think that the MTV executives are so guilt ridden over the success of Jersey Shore – they brought us this show so they could balance out their conscience. So, EW has always been fair when reviewing shows. I would love to see a “Watch this Not That.” column. But please don’t let Steven King write it. Have fun

  • sadia

    I think she has been trying hard to support her daughter and her granddaughter. Violence is not the answer. It’s sad to see how Farrah doesn’t understand how much she needs her mom.

  • Julz

    I am really proud of MTV for having a show like If You Really Knew Me. Whether you have gone through a Challenge Day or just watch this show, maybe you don’t change your ways entirely, but I hope it would make you at least stop and think before making that disparaging comment.

  • Kat

    LOVE Teen Mom! So glad it is back!! Every teenager should have to watch this show!

  • toast

    while i don’t ever condone violence, its not hard to see why farrahs mom snapped. i don’t think i’v ever seen someone so rude and disrespectful and ungreatful. pity she’s from my home town. when she told sophia, a freaking BABY to “look at yourself and see how bad you look” and then went on to turn off the lighs and leave her there crying on the floor….oh man i was yelling at my tv. and then the baby was so glad to see debra, i’m sure she thinks thats her mom. farah GROW UP.

    • Claire

      Yeah I completely agree. I can definetly understand that Farrah’s stressed but honestly yelling and cussing at her daughter was not the right thing to do at all. Seriously I was really mad at her. And Sophia’s almost a year old shouldn’t Farrah know what to do when a baby cries? Debra should not have punched her but she is really whiny, bratty and unappreciative. That doesn’t mean she can hit her though. And as for Amber having unprotected sex what the heck was she thinking????!!! That’s how she got preggers in the first place! I kinda wanted her to get pregnant so she would really learn. I also have no idea why she would want to have sex with Gary but that’s just me. Erlack he is icky. As for Maci I really like her I think she’s a good mom. It’s sad that she has to take Ryan to court to support his own son. I feel bad for Catelynn having to move back home with April and Buck because I know she doesn’t get along with them so that’s why she moved in the first place.

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