Suburban Moms' Long-Overlooked Stories Finally Being Told

Media Reviews for Media People: Dobrow on 'In The Motherhood'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Last weekend, I inadvertently stumbled upon a novel way to make the wives of my friends dislike me even more than they already do. Upon learning that one was pregnant with her third child, I congratulated my pal/her hubby on his brand-new designated driver. This was said in jest. It was not received in that spirit by his wife. I was later informed that the couple had every intention of stopping at two kids. Hey, it's not my fault that somebody didn't pay attention during hygiene class.
Jenny McCarthy, Chelsea Handler and Leah Remini
Jenny McCarthy, Chelsea Handler and Leah Remini

Hoping to right the situation by throwing money at it, I did a web search for "mommy gifts." In the process, I happened upon "In the Motherhood," an online series of seven-minute episodes starring Chelsea Handler, Leah Remini and Jenny McCarthy as oh-so-put-upon suburban moms. The series, which just completed its second five-episode arc, attempts to wring giggles out of the pitfalls of motherhood and, especially, the toll it takes on relationships.

Not-so-desperate housewives
I don't find "In the Motherhood" especially funny or entertaining -- but then, I'm not supposed to. I have not, as far as I know, ever been in possession of a uterus. But for 30-and-up mothers whose days are dominated by catty playground cliques and grade-school grammar rodeos, its light, gently farcical tone couldn't be a better fit.

"In the Motherhood" works owing to its relatability. The community bake sales, the long plane flights with shrieking pixies in tow -- the show makes the wise choice of keeping its protagonists on familiar terrain. They aren't sent off to Vegas to ogle UFC combatants or stranded in the Jersey hinterlands with only a packet of ketchup to sustain them. The moms do mom stuff. They dress like moms. They're just like you, except with shinier hair and better-lit breakfast nooks. The social marketing site, InTheMotherhood.com, mixes consumer generated ideas with Hollywood production techniques.

Part of the genius of "In the Motherhood" -- and no, I'm not proud that I used the word "genius" in conjunction with anything involving the overcaffeinated Ms. McCarthy -- is how its creators have shaped a functional online community around it. This isn't one of those "quarterlife" set-ups in which young viewers are practically begged to contribute something, anything about how they're, like, sooooo creative but they totally have to pay the bills by working as a stonemason. The conversations here feel natural. The "Motherhood" boards may not feature high-level intellectual discourse, but the posters appear to be genuinely engaged with the content and eager to share whatever wisdom they can. They care.

They also love to spin a yarn, such as the following kids-do-the-darndest-things moment courtesy of Mom2_3CrazyGrlz: "My middle child, Violet, loves to eat anything and everything. ... One day she tried to feed my youngest daughter, Magnolia, dog poop while we were all out in the yard. My oldest thought that she was getting jipped [sic] out of a possible chocolate treat so she grabbed some and took a big bite too." The response to this anecdote was more "LOL!!!" than "hey, does anybody have the number of Protective Services handy?" There's a good reason for the oversharing: "In the Motherhood" holds regular story contests in which the winner's tale finds its way into a subsequent episode.

Engaged brands
Credit for "In the Motherhood," at least from a dollars-and-cents standpoint, goes to backers Suave and Sprint. This is, after all, branded entertainment. I'm not sure how much bang they're getting for their buck, as their presence is limited to a "conceived by Sprint and Suave!" ("conceived" -- get it?) announcement at the start of every episode and mini-sites accessible via the "Motherhood" home page. Additionally, those sites have to compete for the viewer's attention with games, recipes and polls, not to mention a video player that makes my computer wheeze and gasp. Still, the two brands stick with you, which is more than can be said for the ones whose 30-second pre-roll ads preceding content on other sites prompt me to check my e-mail. Plus you can't discount the insight marketers of Suave shampoo and Sprint superphones might gain from the posts and stories that don't involve stealth backyard poop consumption.

The only concern I have, really, is that "In the Motherhood" will spin off a young-daddy equivalent. It will inevitably star Noah Wyle, Emilio Estevez and Orlando Jones and contain numerous scenes in which members of the well-groomed trio will refer to one another as "hombre." Upon its debut, the Internet will be declared broken.

"In the Motherhood" is cute and glib. In this instance, that's more than enough.
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