WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 10 and 10:30 on A&E

REASON TO WATCH It's video Visine, clearing your eyes to really recognize how family aggravations escalate -- and how to head off the big blowup.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The word "Monster" might make you think in-law-zillas. But A&E's serious new half-hour series is more like in-law rehab.

Tonight's first episode puts cameras in the house of the Ciccone family of western New York, where 30-ish daughter Kim is caught between her husband, Anthony, and her always-there parents, Richie and Pam, with whom he's opened a restaurant. Richie rides roughshod over everybody, forever decreeing things his way, while sprightly music oddly underscores simmering tensions. Kim responds by wielding access to doted-on granddaughter Nina as a weapon to keep her folks in line.

Bullies and wimps, bystanders and escalators. They're a combustible mix. Until "relationship expert" Mel Robbins enters the house, I'm tempted to say -- except things only really explode when she does. There's a screeching, slamming, very nearly physical skirmish that's discomfiting to eavesdrop on -- especially if, like most of us, you've been there with your own parents, spouse, in-laws or adult offspring.

Maybe Robbins shouldn't have pulled out the duct tape and ordered Kim to shut 'em up.

MY SAY The first part of the premiere seems like standard bad-behavior TV, all "Bridezillas" for us to cluck over. But Robbins means business, calmly prodding family members -- and not just the apparent aggressors -- to truly comprehend where others are coming from. She calls people on their bull, eliciting not just tears from stress but tears of realization.

"What happened yesterday was actually awesome," Robbins enthuses of the giant fight that seemed so damaging. Its intensity forced family members to stop and face their behavior. "This family's a classic example of what happens when you do not talk about the small stuff that bugs you," Robbins says. "It builds and builds, and all of a sudden, there's a massive, insane and unnecessary explosion."

BOTTOM LINE "Monster In-Laws" feels very necessary indeed.


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