Tommy Baynard, NBC
Alicea Davis and Cory Davila practice parenting a borrowed baby.

"The Baby Borrowers" (8 p.m., Ch. 5) probably ought to be required viewing for any teenager who thinks he or she is ready to be a parent.

It will rather quickly disabuse them of the notion that, as one teenager said, "I don't think it's hard. It shouldn't be hard."

Of course it's hard. And if teens had any idea how hard it is, they'd be far less anxious to become parents before they're ready.

(Not that anybody is really ready to become a parent. But teenagers are certainly less prepared than adults.)

NBC is probably a little over the top when it advertises this show with, "It's not TV. It's birth control." But only a little.

The premise of the show, borrowed from a British format, is that five teenage couples, ages 16-19, from various parts of the country travel to Boise and borrow babies to practice parenting. They deal with the infants morning, noon and night for three days and discover it's not as easy as they thought.

There's lots of crying and whining — almost as much from the teens as there is from the babies.

Yes, I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of parents turning their infants over to teens who are clearly out of their league. But it's not like the parents have abandoned their children — they're in a neighboring house monitoring everything that's happening through a video link.

And there are professional nannies on site.

The parents can and do step in if they think it's necessary. The teens arrive without any training and do some extraordinarily stupid things. Like trying to put one baby to bed without bathing or changing her.

Some of the teens take the advice and do better. Some of them, in teenager fashion, are resentful and petulant.

One mom intervenes when she sees her baby hasn't gotten much of anything to eat all day and his caregivers don't equate that with the infant's fussiness. The mom is anything but overbearing, but teenage Alicea Davis is a huge snot, complaining about the mom's "attitude."

"I don't want to deal with the kid at all, just because of the mom," Davis says before heading off to the bedroom for a self-pitying cry.

No, she's not ready to be a parent.

"Baby Borrowers" is not by any means a perfect show. It falls prey to many of the reality-show traps that have become cliches — the overly dramatic music and narration; the sense of self-importance; the abbreviated storytelling.

But nobody is getting voted out, and some of these kids, at least, seem to be learning.

And they'll continue to learn in coming weeks when they have to take care of toddlers, teenagers and senior citizens.

The biggest question is whether the teenagers who could get something out of watching this show will do so.

I'm going to make sure my teenagers watch an episode or two. I'd advise other parents of teenagers to do the same.

AS THE FATHER of twins (as well as one "single"), there's part of me that wanted to see these teenagers try to take care of two babies at a time.

But that would be just too cruel.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com