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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

TV Series Review

"I love being a mom,” Melissa Radke tells us in the first episode of her new show. “And it took me a lot of years and a lot of heartache to finally realize that … I’m not that great at it.”

That may be partly true. But if Melissa sometimes falls short on the parental front (as, let’s face it, all of us parents do), she is great at one thing: making fun of herself for doing so.

Melissa has parlayed the dual disciplines of inspirational self-confidence and wacky self-depreciation into, if not a full-blown media empire, at least a nice principality. Now, the blogger and author (Eat Cake, Be Brave) has parlayed her Texas charm, bawdy humor and some witty viral videos (her “Red Ribbon Week” has reportedly been viewed about 100 million times on various social media platforms) into a new “reality” show on the USA Network featuring her whole family. And just like Melissa’s first stint on a horse, The Radkes looks like a pretty bumpy ride.

Radke Family Values

To call The Radkes a reality show does a disservice to the word “reality.” USA calls it an “unscripted sitcom,” which feels more on point: The show may introduce us to some people really named the Radkes, and the characters we see on screen may share some similarities with the real people behind them. But the show contains the strong scent of caricature, and the episode plots themselves often feel like they owe more to I Love Lucy than, y’know, reality as most of us typically experience it.

But USA isn’t clamoring to sign us up for our own “unscripted sitcoms,” is it? And The Radkes—featuring boisterous funnywoman Melissa; her slightly-more-grounded hubby, David; and her two longsuffering children, 12-year-old Remi and 9-year-old Rocco—seems like it’s making a pitch to claim the same audience that made Duck Dynasty such a hit.

First, Melissa and her fam, located in Lufkin, Texas, are as down-home as they come: They barbecue briskets (wonderfully). They renew drivers’ licenses (horribly). Melissa works up a singing duet with her mom which (naturally) begins comically sour and winds up honey sweet. Melissa’s extended family shows up plenty, too, adding their own sense of character to the mix.

And then there’s the fact that Melissa Radke is an outspoken Christian—though not, perhaps, one you’d turn to for by-the-Book spiritual guidance. “I love Jesus and Oprah,” she says at the outset. And this is a show, like Duck Dynasty, that truly values family.

None of the colorful personalities we see onscreen—not even Melissa herself—overshadows the show’s obvious reverence for that nuclear unit. The Radkes may present themselves as an extravagantly messy family, but it’s one whose members love each other deeply, sacrificially and, yes, loudly.

But while the show offers up some traditional values and homespun sensibilities with its tasty brisket, The Radkes’ sense of family entertainment sometimes doesn’t just push the envelope: It picks said envelope up, wads it up and tosses it out the window.

Fixer Upper?

Granted, the show is in its earliest stages as of this writing. But still, I was surprised that the pilot episode—in which Melissa struggles to give young Remi “the talk”—was quite so graphic. Melissa and various relatives discuss sexual positions, explain suggestive emojis and unpack what “motorboating” is to the 12-year-old girl. “Boy, this takes me back,” says Remi’s aunt Melba as she leafs through a sex education book.

Bathroom humor can be an issue, too: In the trailer, we hear young Rocco asks what happens when a dog eats feces. When David asks him where it came from, Rocco says it came from him. (Methinks that the Radkes may want to set aside a little money for counseling later on.)

These may be exceptions to the “fun for the whole family” sort of vibe The Radkes seem to want to convey. But even so, you never know what you might get from episode to episode. The show echoes Melissa herself: well-meaning but crass, capable of triggering both laughs and winces. On one hand, it’s great to see a Christian mom not afraid to let it all hang out. On the other, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to see a Christian mom who’s not afraid to let it all hang out.

The Radkes gets to the heart of a tension many of us have in our own Christian walks—the tension between being “real” and being a role model. I keenly appreciate that tension. But when it comes to the tension of Melissa graphically explaining the birds and the bees to her own daughter on camera—and thus transmitting that deeply personal conversation to my living room—that may be a tension I can live without.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

June 4, 2019: "Melissa Explains It All"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Melissa Radke as herself; David Radke as himself; Remi Radke as herself; Rocco Radke as himself

Director

Distributor

Network

USA

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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