NEW SERIES: MONSTER-IN-LAWS
9 p.m. Mondays
Most folks who are married have a mother-in-law, and sometimes it works out well. That said, I know there are those mother-in-laws who seem like the spawn of Satan. Women can wind up like that for a whole host of reasons: jealousy, fear of growing older, general bad disposition, a need to control their child's life or even just never being able to get over the idea that somebody is diddlin' their baby within the bonds of matrimony. Whatever the case, when a mother-in-law relationship goes bad, it generally goes REAL bad, with the woman's child caught right in the middle and forced to decide between mom and the person they married. In this new series from A&E, cameras go into the homes of those locked in the age-old sitcom-fodder battle of nature vs. nuptials. Turns out, in real life, it's not all that funny. A recent episode I caught featured Brian, a 350-pound newlywed who was being relentlessly tormented over his weight and eating habits by his live-in mother-in-law Teresa, with wife Christine caught in the crossfire. Teresa seemed to just be the monster-in-law from hell, eavesdropping on conversations, barging into Christine and Brian's bedroom at all hours of the day and night without knocking, and generally saying things to her son-in-law that most people wouldn't say to their worst enemy. The couple had been driven to the point of divorce by her constant needling, and Christine was rapidly reaching the moment when a choice would have to be made. The shtick of "Monster-in-Law" — kind of a hallmark of A&E's reality fare — is to bring in a psychologist to try and figure out why folks are butting heads. Once the shrink was on premises, the truth revealed itself: Teresa's husband had died young of a massive heart attack after years of neglecting his health, and she was terrified that her daughter would have to go through the same anguish she did if Brian didn't change his ways. As a generally caustic and non-emotional person, the only way she knew to do that was by belittling him at the dinner table to try to shame him into putting down the fork. While a lot of "reality" shows are scripted to the point of ridiculousness, A&E has generally been better than most at capturing what looks — at least on the surface — like real stories of real people with real problems. While this isn't the kind of show that would become must-see TV for me, I could see where it could be "there but for the grace of God go I" viewing for many married folks. You can watch the whole Brian/Teresa episode and others by visiting: www.aetv.com/monster-in-laws.