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Series / Supernanny

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Reality TV show which originated in the United Kingdom about parents struggling with their children's behaviour. The UK version aired on Channel 4 from 2004 to 2012, and the US version on ABC from 2005-2011.

Professional nanny Jo Frost devotes each episode to helping a family where the parents are struggling with their child rearing. Through instruction and observation, she shows the parents alternative ways to discipline their children and regain order in their households. Frost is a proponent of the "naughty chair" theory of discipline, and is strictly opposed to spanking.


This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Jo has called a few parents out on corporal punishment or using hot sauce to keep a child from talking back. She also took one dad to task for calling his son a "little whiny brat." But the worst case was with the Davis family, where the father made a habit of using his belt on his kids and calling his daughters "bitch," "whore," and "slut." The Supernanny wiki states that Phil, the father, has been arrested a number of times since the show aired for domestic violence.
    • The Fernandez parents are extremely verbally abusive before Jo finishes her work. Mom is particularly guilty. She threatens to knock her kids' teeth out or bust their lips. She also uses the police as a threat, and points out random strangers on the street to her two young sons. She then tells them that the stranger (a man in the case Jo observes) "takes away little boys who don't listen to their parents...he takes them into the kitchen, chops them up, and eats them."
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    • The Mann family falls under this before Jo's intervention; Mom Melissa is especially guilty. They spank their children forcefully with wooden spoons, wooden forks, and their hands. Melissa explains their church advocates this, and constantly says, "Trust and obey" before spanking a child (while simultaneously saying "I forgive you" and spanking more). Melissa also has some disturbing things to say about Naomi in particular, such as, "I want to smack her across the mouth" and "I don't want her in my house."
    • In one of her Spin-Off series, Jo actually called CPS on the Spivey family after the camera footage showed the father appearing to beat one of his children with a belt. The actual discipline took place off-camera, but the belt is seen beforehand and the child can be heard screaming.
  • Adult Fear: Quite a bit. Many of the families Jo helps suffer from tragic situations, such as the death of a parent, the loss of a child to crib death, or extremely premature births.
  • Affectionate Nickname: A few. The Schwartz girls call their Aunt Donna "Nonnie." The Young parents have nicknames for their two youngest boys, Makai (Kai-Guy) and Crew (Crewbie).
  • Alliterative Name: Some families have these, especially those with twins. The Keilens have twins Maile (pronounced "Miley") and Malia, while the Uva family has seven-year-old Trevor and five-year-old Travis. The Goins family has this as well; it overlaps with Family Theme Naming since all three kids have K names (Kallan, Kolben, and Kadance).
    • The Simmons family has a unique situation where their two sets of twins have one P and one S name—Payton and Sophia, and Parker and Sydney.
    • Also the Quinn family: Cally, Casey, Corey, and Carli. The Drake family had Josie, Jordan, and Justin.
    • The Mann family also has a unique example. Parents Melissa and Mark share their M name with one of their triplets, Madeline. The other children are Nathaniel and Nora (triplets) and Naomi (not a multiple, oldest child).
    • The Kerns family: Brandon, Bryce, and Brenna. They get bonus points because the parents are Shannon and Shawn.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Jo is good at saying exactly the right thing to say to get through to oblivious or resistant parents.
  • Asian and Nerdy: The parents of the An-Duan family seem to want their kids to become this. Thus, they overload them with activities like Chinese school, sports, ballet, writer's workshops, and more. Jo gets them to shape up, though.
  • Aside Glance: Often, Jo will softly speak directly to the audience while in a family's home. A lot of this happens during observation. Sometimes she simply gives the camera a look that says, clearly, "You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!"
  • Becoming the Mask: In a particularly dark and sad example, one boy featured on the Extreme Parental Guidance spin-off spent most of his time dressed up in superhero costumes, and hinted at genuinely believing he had superpowers. The reason for this? His younger sister is a sufferer of Rett Syndrome, and the diagnosis devastated his parents so much that they flat-out refused to talk to him for several months at a time, and found it easier for him to lapse into fantasy. As a result, the boy believed that one day, he'd 'fix' his sister's brain, and began to believe he had superpowers.
  • Blowing a Raspberry: The eldest Bowersock child does this when her mother tells her that she should be embarrassed of her messy room.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: The younger counterparts, either boys or girls, to the Bratty Teenage Daughter trope.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Sometimes. Actually averted with several, such as the teenage Chapman girls and fourteen-year-old Morgan Davis.
  • Bribed With Food: The Federicos of Las Vegas were notorious for this, handing out cookies and candy for every example of good behavior their kids exhibited. A few other families fall into this too.
  • Broken Record: Jo lampshades this trope when discussing Dylan Van Acker's constant demands for a diaper (he's over three years old and refuses to be potty-trained). Jo repeats "Diaper, diaper, diaper" in the confessional, in a somewhat robotic fashion. That, coupled with her British accent, makes this a funny moment.
  • Buffy Speak: Some little kids justifiably use words like "baba", "binky", or "paci" (pacifier). Because they have small children, the parents use these as well. There are, however, cases of legitimately confusing Buffy Speak. For example, little Dominic Federico whined that he was hurt in the episode featuring his family (he basically wanted attention). Dad takes him in to Mom and says Dominic wants a "hurt prize", or translated, a piece of candy meant to pacify. Jo's look says it all: The heck?
  • Bumbling Dad: On Supernanny, if you're not a workaholic dad or a Drill Sergeant Nasty, you might be this. These are mostly the dads who prefer to sleep, play on the computer, or watch TV rather than being involved with their kids. Jo makes it clear that she doesn't appreciate it.
    • Some of the dads are bumbling in the sense that they want to be their kids' buddies, leaving Mom to handle all the discipline. What results is a good cop/bad cop scenario on which Jo immediately puts the kibosh.
  • But Now I Must Go: Jo leaves a family after about a week at minimum when the family she's helped is capable of continuing her techniques and being happier.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Jo once did this with the word "crap," when telling beleaguered wife Kate Johnson to stop taking excessive criticism from her husband. At the time, they were in a coffee shop full of little kids, with one in time-out nearby.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Peterfreund dad liked to discipline his boys by placing hot sauce on their tongues—for any infraction, not just bad language. Unusual in that up to then, viewers had only seen parents who did ineffective time-outs, spanked, or just didn't discipline period. Jo makes clear that this is crazy and will not work, but the Peterfreunds act like it will.
  • Cool Old Guy/Cool Old Lady: A lot of the grandparents featured on the show.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Lord, some of these cute little kids can SCREAM. Adam Gorbea, age 2, and Dylan Van Acker, 3, were two of the biggest offenders. Charlie Woods from the UK seasons, age 2, was another offender.
  • Dad the Veteran: Jo has helped a couple of families where the dad's in the service, notably the Merrills and McMillions.
  • Darker and Edgier: The other series Family SOS with Jo Frost is, in some ways, a reincarnation of this show, but often deals with much more serious issues. The kids are usually older, and parents generally have deep-seated marriage, abuse, and other problems. Some older kids are downright violent with family members. Social issues tend to be deeper and more controversial as well; a later episode had Jo helping a teenager who had recently come out as a lesbian.
    • The British original series is this to the American series. The British version doesn't have any goofy sound effects, and keeps the pervasively 'funny' music to scenes where children are actually doing good things, and is often released without any swearing being censored.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Played with in "The Davis Family". To get Phil, the father, to better understand his emotionally abusive language towards his three youngest daughters, Maddison, Tiffany, and Tori, Jo makes him throw darts at pictures of them. Because Phil really does love his his daughters deep down, he delibrately tries to miss hitting them in their pictures.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Many of the sterner parents act like this. It's usually the dad, but there have been a couple of mothers, too. The Bowersock mother, who literally made her kids eat soap, was one. The Bixley mom from the U.K., who responded to picky eating by forcing food into her son's face, was another.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In the Bixley family episode, the parents are reprimanded for giving their food-phobic son a fast-food meal which he happily gobbled up, even though if Jo hadn't helped them in the first place, he would scream at the sight of it until he would physically retch and vomit.
    • Jo often deals with parents who engage in this. Whether or not they're actually abusive, they give discipline that doesn't fit the issue at hand, or misuse Jo's techniques. One example is the Benton mom, who got so mad at one of her boys that she started giving him time-outs as much as an hour long.
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: See Abusive Parents, especially the Davis family.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Some mild examples. In early seasons, when Jo said something like, "That's unacceptable behavior," it came out sounding like "unacceptable" had two soft C's, being pronounced as Unuhsseptable. In fact, a nine-year-old kid very rudely called her on it. It improved markedly in later seasons. In some early episodes, Jo does not fully explain all techniques, or she may perform a technique slightly differently than she was known to in later years.
  • Education Mama: The An-Duan mom is a mild version. We don't see her insisting on perfect grades, but she gets rather upset when Jo suggests that one of her sons stop seeing a language arts tutor (he and his siblings were already loaded down with activities). The reason he was seeing a tutor? At nine years old, he apparently didn't have a perfect grasp of "sentence structure" and "descriptive paragraphs."
  • Enfant Terrible: The children, while disrespectful and aggressive, are very rarely this. In some cases, the parents are so overwhelmed that they think their kids are this, and say so. In others, however, there have been children who acted out so much they even shocked Jo.
    • Special mention goes to three-year-old Kaiden McKinney, whose behavior was so aggressive Jo didn't use time-outs; instead, he was given a "one strike and you're out" policy.
    • Special mention also goes to Megan Cooke and Maddie Porter, two nine-year-old girls who could and did out-tantrum kids a third their age.
    • Special mention also goes to the practically-insane Cameron from the fourth season of the UK Series. Allowed near-complete control over his family due to the unfortunate loss of his younger brother to cot death, Cameron violently attacks other children, his parents and his surviving brother, who's only 1 year old. His father spends the episode with one of his hands in a cast, and it's heavily implied his son broke that hand. To add insult to injury, this kid attacks his father's cast at one point in the episode, forcing him to nearly leave the house due to the pain. And all of this came about simply due to the grief of his parents. If there ever was a true Enfant Terrible in the series, Cameron definitely holds that crown.
  • Family Theme Naming: Sometimes, as with the Froebrichs, all of whose children had E names (Emerson, Emmett, Emma Jo), and a couple of others.
    • Sometimes the kids have rhyming names, as in the case of Jordan and Jayden Hallenbeck.
  • Go to Your Room!: Jo discourages having children do time-out in their bedrooms, as it is the place where they sleep and play.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Quite a few of the kids and parents are shown to have volcanic tempers.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Sometimes.
  • Happily Adopted: The Merrill kids are all adopted, two from Ghana and two from Guatemala. Some families, like the Walkers, are also raising a niece or nephew along with the biological kids.
  • Iconic Outfit: Jo's purple jacket and skirt, paired with glasses and a hair bun, which she wears on her observation days when she meets families.
  • Ill Girl/Boy: The mom from the Tsironis family justifies letting her toddler twins do whatever they want because they almost died shortly after birth. The parents from the McGrath family don't discipline five-year-old Aidan partially because of his diabetes; the maternal grandfather died from this disease, and Mom was scared her son would succumb as well. The Bruno family has a fifteen-year-old, Mariah, with cerebral palsy, but she is not a discipline problem. Jo has also dealt with autism and Down syndrome, but the parents there are not so much using the disabilities as excuses for bad behavior; rather, they are asking for help on how to relate to their kids.
  • Innocent Swearing: Subverted big-time. Some of these kids, most shockingly the little ones, not only swear like crazy, but know exactly what the words mean and why they are using them. In the American version of the Collins Family episode, the latter half of one the kid's sentences in a scene where they are making riot in the garden is censored after "Ben can go -." In the British original version, this is actually "Ben can go fuck the dog's arse."
  • In-Series Nickname : "Supernanny" for Jo, of course, which is usually used in the submission reels. Jo also introduces herself to younger kids as "Jo Jo".
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Averted. When Jo meets the Baulisch parents, both of whom are deaf, she makes clear that deafness should not affect the effort and quality of parenting. In the cases where a family has a disabled child, Jo respects modifications, but otherwise treats him or her like any other kid.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Wendy Agate went a little overboard by calling her bratty daughter, Maryann an "arsehole" but Maryann had been misbehaving a little too much prior to that point.
  • Kiddie Kid: A lot of the children who misbehave act much younger than their biological age.
  • Magical Nanny: Every aspect except the actual magic. Jo enters troubled households, lays down the law, teaches the parents and bonds with the kids. After she feels that the family is under control and happier, Jo leaves to help another family.
  • Mama's Boy: It's not always a boy, but some of the kids are quite attached to their mothers, to the point that they don't use life skills they are perfectly capable of executing. An egregious example is seven-year-old Travs Uva, who expected his mother to wipe his bottom every time he went to the toilet.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: A couple of times. The Costellos had ten kids (and the mom wanted two more!); the Millers had six. Often the case in blended families.
  • Missing Mom/Disappeared Dad: Often because of death.
  • Multigenerational Household: Fairly often, a family will have parents and grandparents under the same roof or in close enough proximity to be with the kids 24/7. Single mom Jency Williams even had help from her kids' great-grandparents.
  • Music/Age Dissonance: In "The Amouri Family", it is revealed that 4-year-old Hayley listens to gangster rap on her mom's MP3 player. When Jo finds out, this is one of the things she confronts the parents, Tamara and Michael about.
  • My Beloved Smother: A couple of the moms are like this, often because they feel their kids are growing up too fast. The Gormley-Brickley mother took this so far as to have her four-year-old twins still wearing diapers at night and drinking from bottles.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Lisa Daniels blamed Jo (who had just brought in family rules) for 2-year-old daughter Brynleigh's temper tantrum even though it was because she had not ever disciplined her previously. Even as Jo flat out told her why it happened, she didn't try to discipline Brynleigh and broke down.
    • In "The Uva Family", Rosemarie blames her two sons, Trevor and Travis learning swear words on television shows and other people, when it's made very clear that she swears around them. Jo is not fooled one bit.
  • New Media Are Evil: In a recent interview to promote the show, Jo blamed violent video games for the riots in London in August 2011. In one episode, she blamed video games for a child's behavior even though he didn't own a console and had no friends where he could've played video games.
    • Jo even went so far as to create an experiment where kids would play different video games for an hour and then watch a newsreel of violent events and record their reaction. This experiment was heavily flawed, as Jo stated without any scientific evidence that the children who played a violent video game were almost immediately desensitized to violence, although if you were to take those children and pop in a real war zone, It's pretty obvious what their reactions would be. This video points out all the flaws in the supposed experiment.
    • Popped up again with the Amouri family, but was subverted. The parents allowed their four-year-old daughter to listen to explicit songs on an MP3 player. After making clear that this was not okay, Jo suggested more appropriate music and applauded the parents for using it.
  • Odd Name Out: Gianna DeMello is the only member of her family, including parents, whose name does not begin with D.
    • The Larmer family: mom Judy, kids John, Justin, Jessica, and Joey... and dad, Ed.
    • The Swift family: Jack, Josh, Max, Mia, and... Sean. However, Sean gets points because Sean Swift is an Alliterative Name.
  • One Steve Limit: Commonly averted; a lot of families give their kids popular names. Names that fall under the trope include:
    • Sean
    • Emma
    • Madison
    • Dylan
    • An interesting case sometimes pops up when Jo meets a dad who's also named Joe.
  • Parents as People: At least before Jo works her magic. Jo can also be quite sympathetic to stressed-out parents who want to do the best they can for their kids but are falling short due to extenuating circumstances, such as Dad the Veteran situations or situations where one parent is gone.
  • Parental Neglect: There are some parents on the show that are so wrapped up in their kid's bad behavior that they end up neglecting the more well behaved children.
  • Picky Eater: Jo had to deal with one occasionally. Three-year-old Dylan Van Acker was so picky an eater that he had anemia as a result.
    • Brandon Bixley is a noteworthy example. Due to having gastric flu when he was younger, he developed a fear of eating and would only eat chips while when served any other food, he would throw a screaming fit.
    • The British miniseries Extreme Parental Guidance had some, well, extreme versions of this trope, appearing at least three times. Nine-year-old Max, for instance, would only eat custard cream cookies and had apparently never had a hot meal in his life. Four-year-old Kieran was so picky that she threw up every time she ate anything, and her mother resorted to force-feeding just to get her to take in minimum calories.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Popped up with the Simmons family, who have two sets of twins, one of each sex. In the younger set, age 4, Parker wore blue in some scenes while his sister Sydney wore pink. However, this appears to be unintentional.
  • Promotion to Parent: Happens a lot with older kids. Logan Costello, the oldest of ten, was expected to babysit all his younger siblings at the whim of his parents and act as a third dad; he was so stressed that he confided to Jo he'd had a panic attack. Melissa Baulisch was left with much of the responsibility for the little kids in her family because her parents were deaf and having a hard time with discipline.
    • In the most egregious case, the teenage Chapman girls called Jo for help, rather than the parents summoning her. Jo found that the girls had an insane schedule. They were expected to do a mountain of chores, raise their three little brothers, and homeschool themselves - and their father didn't think they were doing enough! In fact, they were so stressed that the older of the two girls, Brittany, actually passed out on camera.
    • Eight-year-old Marli Prescott is perhaps the youngest example of this. She has six siblings, and on the submission tape, Mom is constantly heard saying, "Marli, could you..." (followed by some chore or favor).
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jo is fairly calm about it, but she will hand these down to families who are particularly out of control. Parents who spank, wash their kids' mouths out with soap, or engage in similar types of discipline are likely to hear one of these speeches—and maybe more than one. Jo has also given this speech to older kids who are ungrateful or especially bratty.
  • Soap Punishment: One mother used a squirt bottle of soap to discipline her son for telling his brother to "smell his own buttcrack". Jo Frost (the titular nanny) was horrified, and tried to convince the mother that she was invoking Disproportionate Retribution and poisoning the boy. Sadly, the mother's ego was too over-inflated, and she saw it as a way to command the respect she thinks she deserves, causing Jo and the mother to cuss each other out. And her poor husband sits there suffering. It really has to be seen to be believed.
  • Toilet Training Plot:
    • In "The Van Acker Family", Jo helps Jessica and Kevin potty-train Dylan, who does everything in his power to avoid using the potty and wearing big-boy underwear.
    • In "The Evans Family", Jo helps Gary potty-train Dylan. It is revealed in that episode that Gary's wife, Jennifer, had potty-trained Michael and Sean before she died, and because Gary was not a part of their potty-training, he isn't sure how to potty-train Dylan.
  • The Unfavorite: Happened quite a few times. This could be a case of outright favoritism or simply overlooking one child because of the bad behavior of another. Examples:
    • The Wischmeyers, where nine-year-old Jared was both ignored because of, and blamed for, his four-year-old twin sisters' bad behavior.
    • The Daniels. Twelve-year-old Halley is a generally good kid, but Jo finds that Mom overloads her with chores to "keep her out of trouble" because of unnamed "issues." Even worse, Halley's younger sister Alexus is allowed to bully her, to the point of spitting in her face, and Mom and Dad do nothing.
    • The McGrath and Van Acker families. Their daughters, both named Emma, are loved, but overlooked because of their brothers' respective diabetes and constant shrieking/bad behavior.
    • In the Minyon family, fairly well-behaved son Frank Patrick is ignored in favor of his bratty little sister Skyler. Frank, the father, calls Skyler "Daddy's little princess" and says that she can do no wrong, but treats his son poorly.
    • A mild case with the Tsironis family. Mom and Dad are so happy that two-year-old preemie twins Nicholas and Teddy are now healthy that they do not discipline them. They also ignore their older daughter Kate, to the point that she fakes foot cramps to get attention.
  • Vacation Episode: Some episodes in the "Beyond The Naughty Step" sub-series involve whatever family Jo visited going on holiday.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Jo has dealt with her share of workaholic parents, both moms and dads. Sometimes this even happens with stay-at-home moms, like the Amouri and Larmer mothers, who are so concerned with cleaning their homes that they don't actually spend time with their kids.


Example of: