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'The Baby Borrowers,' premiering Wednesday on NBC

Verne Gay
Newsday (MCT)

THE BABY BORROWERS

9 p.m. EDT Wednesday

NBC

REASON TO WATCH: There was some notoriety over this when the BBC version aired it last year, while the name alone does suggest something untoward, slightly off-center, perhaps illegal ...

WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Oh, yes, that name? Forget it. This is the baby/toddler/tween/teen grandparent borrowers, which isn't catchy but far more accurate. Five couples of young adults over the age of 18 move into separate homes on a cul-de-sac in Boise, Idaho. Over the next three weeks, they take care of babies for a few days, then toddlers, then tweens (and their pets), teens, and finally seniors. At the end of three weeks, they've either grown up or grown stark raving mad. The kids are over 18 because in their faux parental mode, they are also allowed to share the same bed.

You're already asking by now - what sort of parent would leave their baby with complete strangers? Good question, and "Baby Borrowers" doesn't exactly answer it, other than to mollify critics by establishing quickly that nannies, living with the newbies "will step in only in the event of emergency ..."

Diapers are changed, groceries are bought, babies are fed, tears are shed - by babies and by teen caregivers.

BOTTOM LINE: The conceit, and joke, of "The Office" is the idea that a documentary on office life is an absurdity wrapped in an inanity. What happens in an office? Well, people push paper around, and gossip, and go out after work, and ... In a sense, "Baby Borrowers" has embraced this conceit without embracing the absurdity. What is it like to raise a baby, whether you're a teen or adult? Well, it's really hard work, and babies burp and cry and you don't sleep much, and ... Yes, this is life, and yes, as subject matter for television, this is also boring. NBC clearly has serious intentions here (producer Tom Kelly, a "Survivor" alum, is a master of the form). Teenage pregnancy does exist (have you heard?) and this show wants to serve, on some level as a reality check. Such checks are fine. That doesn't make them watchable.

MORE REALITY SHOWS

Thursday:

"Hopkins" (10 p.m., ABC) - Docusoap focuses on residents at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Friday:

"Dance Machine" (8 p.m., ABC) - Six amateur hoofers compete for a $100,000 grand prize.

Sunday:

"The Singing Office" (9 p.m., TLC) - Workplace colleagues show off their vocal chops in this competition hosted by Joey Fatone and Mel B.

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