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Spending time upstate with my family usually means three very specific things to me:

  1. Desperately searching my parents' refrigerator for something edible, as a means of avoiding small talk.
  2. Controlling the minds of my very young nephews by making them say things they would not otherwise say.
  3. And, of course, staring at the latest crop of MTV reality shows, dumbfounded, as if bearing witness to a slow, cruel train wreck that also totally wants to get up in your daughter's bubble, yo.

While Lisa slept on my parents' couch, I was able to experience MTV's brand new nadir without fear of rebuke. I can't say which program I liked best, but it was either MY FATHER IS RICH AND POWERFUL AND I TOTALLY CONTROL HIM, or I'D TOTALLY DO YOUR DAUGHTER AND/OR SON. Oh, who am I kidding? MTV's most essential new show is, without question, YO MOMMA!

So what's Yo Momma all about? Well, if you've ever thought to yourself, "man, I love snaps and dozens! But if I had one complaint about people indiscriminately making fun of each others' mothers, it would be that it doesn't take long enough. It's usually a couple of quick snaps on the basketball court, and then a fistfight breaks out. Why can't it last 21 minutes, with commercial breaks? And if I had a second complaint, it would be that the art form of snaps is too informal. Why are 'yo momma' jokes always restricted to a park bench or a stoop? I think they would totally benefit from being staged on a unionized production set designed to look like the parking garage in 8 Mile, and then presided over by Wilmer Valderrama from That 70's Show, and two other snaps officials while a paid audience stands by and screams very loudly." Well, lucky you!

Yo Momma is really just that—a round-robin competition of posturing suburban brats who are basically reading entries from SNAPS: The African-American Art of Verbal Warfare.

In between rounds, Wilmer visits the homes—excuse me, "cribs!"—of the two final competitors, and cracks wise on their sneakers, baseball caps and dust ruffles. From what I saw, Wilmer has a really unique way of busting on the competitors. His secret snaps formula seems to consist of picking up an object in someone's bedroom, waiting for one of the show's writers to come up with something mean to say about it off-camera, and then repeating that mean comment on-camera. Wilmer's line readings are so wooden I heard he stutter toothpicks. OH SNAP, WILMER! YO MOMMA!

Then, during the final round, the contestants wait while Wilmer drives up in a very expensive sports car, gets out, and stands in between a white guy (best friend from performing arts camp) and a black guy (African-American verbal warfare consultant) and explains the rules. Then the white guy explains them. And then the black guy does, too. I'm not kidding. Here's a loose transcription of the lead-in to round one of the Yo Momma finals:

WILMER: This first round is Yo Momma snaps only. Scotty, explain how this works.

WHITE GUY: Yo, for this round, only Yo Momma snaps. Drell?

BLACK GUY: So, yeah, this round we'll judge who tells the best Yo Momma snaps. Hit it!!

But the best part of Yo Momma? The contestants' actual mommas are there, standing on the sidelines. The cameras constantly catch their reactions, whether they're pleased ("My son just delivered a wonderful snap!") or pained. ("Oh dear, I have been snapped!")

Having their moms there is probably intended to heighten the snapitude of Yo Momma, but it only makes the show seem that much more ridiculous, and here's why: we get to see, immediately, why the snaps are not on-point. In the episode I saw, one of the contestants made a fat joke about the other kid's momma. (I think it was, "Yo Momma's so fat, she tried the subway diet and the C Train disappeared" or "Yo Momma's so fat, she was knighted at Burger King" or something else about a mom being fat.) Then, after snapping the mom with fatness, they cut to a mother who must have weighed about 110 pounds soaking wet with Extra Value Meals stuffed into her pockets. It made no sense. You can't snap on a woman's weight when she clearly takes care of herself. It's untenable! At least snap on her greasiness. Or her glass eye, or brain cancer, or her desperate bid to win the respect of her children. But save the weight issues for when they count. There is such a thing is the rule of proportionality with regards to snapping.

And Wilmer did nothing.

After watching this show, and many others, it's easy to conclude that MTV has a hard time producing original, compelling content but an easy time wrangling 100-200 screaming teenagers.

WE FIRST MET ON 04.17.2006

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