Very little was “incredible” about “Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage,” beginning with the birth video that Fox teased at every commercial break as “the footage you won’t believe exists.” But this was nevertheless a compelling, pretty straightforward documentary that exposes and yes, exploits so-called “Octomom” Nadya Suleman. Chock full of promos for Fox’s fall lineup, the special served its purpose for the network. As for Suleman, no amount of image reclamation can save her from a life destined to be lived as a circus oddity.
Suleman’s deal with RadarOnline clearly granted almost unrestricted access to her and the 14 children. Still, if there’s a hero in this mess, it’s her mother, Angela, who in a joint interview chides her daughter and says she can’t “frivolously keep procreating” — an admonition that comes as too little, too late, as does Suleman’s subsequent confession that “I screwed up my life, and I screwed up my kids’ lives.”
Then again, that’s just one of the Captain Queeg-like moments that Suleman experiences during her direct-to-camera confessionals and interactions with her six older children, a few of whom appeared to be auditioning for the next remake of “The Omen.” At those times, everything seemed to be shot in Fellini-esque close-ups, the better to capture the chaos that inevitably follows having kids by the litter.
Nothing is really new here, except perhaps hearing “Octomom” deliver a few catty comments about that other famous tabloid-saturated mom of eight, Kate Gosselin. Yet there is something fascinating about seeing the media maelstrom swarming around Suleman from the inside out — even if it’s seen, surreally, through the lens of an ever-present camera crew that she has invited in while decrying the paparazzi that surround her.
Along the way, Suleman gets a tattoo, frets that her house might be haunted, calls 911 (apparently a favorite pastime), has plenty of Scarlett O’Hara-like “I’ll worry about that tomorrow” moments, and voices concerns as to whether one of her nannies can be trusted. The special doesn’t engender sympathy for her, exactly, but does feed a depressing sense that even when the media moves on to greener pastures, this is a story that will keep resurfacing — and not happily.
Fox and the producers won’t win any humanitarian awards for their part in perpetuating this free-for-all, but it’s not like the rest of the media have behaved better. Besides, much like Suleman’s admission that she didn’t contemplate the future in her compulsion to keep having kids, a network with all those hungry new series to promote can’t be bothered by the details.