Our favorite modern-day Mary Poppins, Jo Frost, is celebrating the 100th episode of Supernanny, airing on ABC tonight at 9 p.m EST. That’s 100 episodes of tantrums, struggling parents, and tough discipline from the suit-clad, London-born childcare expert enforcing “time outs” with families across America.
In tonight’s 100th episode, Frost revisits some of the most memorable families from the show’s past: the McMillions of Arlington, TX (mom raising three boys while her husband served in Afghanistan); the Weinsteins of Amherst, OH (truckdriver dad David was a raging bull while his wife was a pushover with their four kids); the Lewises of Claremont, CA (Mom had to cope with her husband’s death and raising two toddlers); and the Newsomes of Tallahassee, FL (divorced mom struggling with her kids, a crazy work schedule, and downsized house).
EW.com caught up with the Naughty Step Supremo to talk about those suits, her fear of flying, and what she thinks of kids watching TV.
EW: As you celebrate 100 episodes of Supernanny, what has been the hardest day on the job?
JO FROST: I work so closely with families, every day is a tough day. But that’s part and parcel of what I do. You know going in that you’re not having ice cream. There are days when it’s incredibly tough. Emotionally it takes its toll, physically, mentally. I come home and I am “knackered” as we would say…
Also, I’ve been travelling to meet families for over six years, hotel to hotel. I don’t really like flying. That’s been a challenge for me. But I love what I do. And I have a purpose of what I do and I’m very passionate about what I do…This feels right for me, it feels like what I’m supposed to be doing.
How long will you keep doing Supernanny?
My expertise is in child care, in extreme situations or not, and being a family advocate. I want to continue to do that…But who knows. Everyone has to evolve.
Do you keep in touch with families from the show in the past, or any kids that have now grown up and called to say thanks?
The families have a choice, sometimes they keep in touch and sometimes they don’t. It’s the same — we don’t always have regular chats with our pediatricians. With some families, they regularly email or I’ll get a phone call and the kids will say “hi.”
So, what do you think of fictional nannies? Mary Poppins, for starters.
Mary Poppins was a bit fictional. A bit Disney. I think the message of Mary Poppins was important, really…take away all the song and dance – the message behind it was important. She came in to do a job and make people realize what’s important: Parents release the magic. That’s what we need to focus on.
I notice that the families you visit don’t really have TVs playing. Are you against kids watching TV or movies?
Nine out of 10 times on the show, we have to have the TVs off because of the sound issues. I don’t sit [a parent down] and say “your children shouldn’t watch TV.” I don’t think there’s anything wrong with TV for entertainment purposes. DVDs that have sing and song time are great. If you think about the animated movies that are out, they are good fun to watch, that’s perfectly fine. And shows that you know are appropriate for a certain age, where they can sing and dance and learn phonics.
[The problem is] when the 21st-Century TV becomes a babysitter…you can’t sit the kid down in front of the TV for five hours and think everything is going to be okay. It’s parental control. It’s just about being sensible. It’s about having a responsibility of what you are showing…you have to be mindful of that.
What do fans say to you on the street? I’m sure you get your share of “naughty step” jokes.
Yes (laughs). They also tell me that I look younger when they see me in boots and jeans — chilling and relaxing with my hair down. Guys shout out that I’m prettier [in real life]. I’m going to fire my makeup artists (laughs). People say, “The accent is real! You’re just like you are on telly!”… I spent the first two years here telling everyone I wasn’t an actress. There’s no grommet in my ear telling me what to do.
They come up and talk about the show, they talk about the techniques, they give me an incredible amount of wonderful support. Everybody’s in unison when it comes to families and children.
Do you ever want to wear those jeans on the show and ditch the power suits?
The suit serves a purpose. Originally the suit was there to distinguish myself from the parents. It was a way to brand the show by having the signature suit. I got to choose the style and yes, the glasses are mine.
Anything else to add as you look back on 100 episodes?
I’d like to thank everybody in America really, the people who have tuned in and the people stopping me in airports or central park. To the 100 families who rang up and trusted me and really allowed me into my homes. I do feel very privileged to help them. I feel like there is a larger purpose to what we’re doing. Our children then become parents… Everyone is a part of it.
And I’d like to tell parents about my website JoFrost.com. It’s not a blog it really is catering for parenting. It’s not a social networking place, you go there and just talk about kids and family…