Teen Sailor Abby Sunderland’s Dad Ditched His Reality Show Dreams

Yesterday, while 16-year-old sailor Abby Sunderland and her boat, Wild Eyes, were getting rescued in the Indian Ocean, her father, Laurence Sunderland, told The New York Post he signed a contract for a reality TV show, “Adventures in Sunderland,” about his kids. “The show might be about family, it might be about Abigail’s trip. It’s something that was shopped around,” Sunderland told the Post.

But then Laurence Sunderland announced he had cut ties with Magnetic Entertainment, the California production company behind the show. “There is no show at this time, nor will there be,” Sunderland said, acknowledging the company did some initial filming. “They were assuming Abigail was going to die out there,” he said. “They were relying on her dying, and so we cut the ties.”This should come as a relief to finger-wagging naysayers, who pounced on the Sunderland reality show deal with comparisons to the fame whorish Heene family of Balloon Boy notoriety. For example, the parenting blog Babble.com called the TV deal “sinister” and said the show should be called, “Watch and See If My Kid Dies Doing This Stupid Thing I Should Not Have Allowed Them To Do.” Ouch!

But personally, I don’t see the big deal with a reality show. Abby’s been training to sail around the world since she was 13 and she actually had the balls to go after it. That’s way better than Lauren Conrad and Whitney Port and all the “Housewives.” What do they do? Shop, talk about boys, stab their friends in the back, design “clothing lines.” It’s vapid, mind-melting crap.

The Sunderlands are a unique family — not because they’re nut jobs like the Heenes, but because they have passion. Abby’s dad is a sailing instructor and his six kids are all home-schooled, presumably so they can sail more. The eldest son, Zac, briefly held the record for the youngest boy to sail around the world solo last year. Mr. Sunderland told the Post yesterday the family thought an “Adventures in Sunderland” show would be “a good idea if it was encouraging to kids to get out there and do things.”

A brave, talented young sailor like Abby Sunderland would be a great role model for kids, especially teen girls. Achieving your dreams — even if, like Abby, you end up having to get rescued by a French fishing boat— is not a “stupid thing” in the slightest.

[New York Post]
[Los Angeles Times]