Oh, what hath “The Osbournes” wrought? Well, “The Anna Nicole Show,” for one (rest her soul). But ever since, TV networks seem to believe that virtually any celebrity life is worth examining—whether they’re on the A-list (Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson), the B list (Paula Abdul), the C list (Tom Sizemore) or the D list (Danny Bonaduce, and the self-proclaimed D-lister herself, Kathy Griffin).
But what’s new this summer is a cavalcade of male celebrity train-wreck shows, which, at first glance, feels like one big, sorry midlife crisis. Self-helping their way into our living rooms are Chachi, the dude from Poison, two of the “Lost Boys,” and four boy-band guys whose names you probably don’t remember.
Forget therapists, affairs, red convertibles or cultivating a sudden interest in bungee jumping. If you’re a male celebrity and your love life or career has hit the skids, here’s what you do: Get a camera crew to follow you around, find a gimmick (e.g. life coach helps you through an existential crisis), and pitch it to a cable network—preferably VH1. But are all the shows as pathetic as they seem? Here’s how they stack up.
SCOTT BAIO IS 45 ... AND SINGLE
10:30 p.m. EDT Sundays
SCOTT BAIO IS 45 ... AND SINGLE
Who: Baio was a big TV star in the 1970s and `80s, best known for playing Chachi on “Happy Days” and the title role in “Charles in Charge.”
Gimmick: Baio hires a life coach, Dr. Ali, to help him figure out why he can’t commit to one woman. Doc Ali wants him to stay celibate for eight weeks. And if after that time, Baio’s not ready to step up and propose, his girlfriend, Renee, will cut him loose.
Why: When it came to women, Baio was a bit of a ... how do you say? ... pig. Baio dated everyone from “Happy Days” co-star Erin Moran to Pamela Anderson and Heather Locklear, and he’s been using his early fame as an excuse for his philandering and borderline sociopathic treatment of women. But now that he’s with Renee, whom he finds “basically perfect,” he wants to know if he can ever step up and marry her—or anyone.
Reality quotient: For the contrived nature of the show, the emotional component seems authentic. Baio was never that brilliant an actor, so when we see him being humiliated by ex after ex after ex, it feels real.
Show villain: Johnny V., Baio’s colossally irritating buddy who takes patheticism to new lows. He’s so hell-bent on Baio staying single (“It ain’t gonna happen, and I’m gonna make absolute sure of it”) that he’s gotta be a plant.
Supporting players: A posse of cigar-chomping, poker-playing golf buddies that includes Jason Hervey of “The Wonder Years,” who’s also a producer on Baio’s show.
Philosophical moment: Baio tells his therapist his most primal fear of committing boils down to: “If I don’t get married, I’ll never die.”
Key pathetic moment: One of Baio’s exes, comic/former Playmate Julie McCullough, heckles him from the stage at the Improv; Baio eventually turns tail and leaves.
Supporting actor Emmys go to: Erin Moran, Henry Winkler. In the most gracious, wise and loving ways possible, Baio’s former “Happy Days” co-stars let Baio see that he’s been making excuses for his relationship failures.
Line that belongs in “Rock of Love”: “You didn’t even see my pasties.”
Bottom line: For a guy with a misogynistic streak, Baio seems earnest in his quest to figure out why he is the way he is, and the journey makes for some interesting TV.
THE TWO COREYS
10 p.m. EDT Sundays
THE TWO COREYS
Who: At their peak in the late 1980s, Corey Feldman and Corey Haim were two of the hottest Tiger Beat pinups around. They starred in seven movies together, one of them being “Lost Boys,” the rest of them being ... bad. They’ve both battled obscurity and addiction; Feldman was most recently a cast member on “The Surreal Life”; Haim has gone bankrupt and is a general mess.
Gimmick: The setup is meant to be comedic and mimic a modern-day “Odd Couple” (complete with a steal of the theme music), this time with the slob (Haim) moving in with the neatnik (Feldman) and his wife.
Why: Yes, why? Ostensibly, if Haim moves in with Feldman and Feldman’s (second) wife, Susie, he can clean up his act and get his life and career back on track. Remember, that’s ostensibly.
Reality quotient: Although there could have been something interesting here about the ramifications of teen stardom, nothing about the show feels real (or funny). They’re not living at the Feldmans’ place—they’re living in a house in Vancouver, rented just for the show. In fact, both Coreys have half-joked that the show is “scripted reality.” If so, it needs a rewrite.
Show villain: Haim, who, at 35, still thinks he’s as cute as the dickens, when in fact he’s an infantile jerk doing a transparent performance of an infantile jerk
Supporting players: If there were more of these, the show might be halfway bearable.
Philosophical moment: “I know you’re an actor; I’m just having trouble remembering what shows you were in,” a driver, to passenger Haim.
Key pathetic moment: To paraphrase movie critic Chris Hewitt, trying to pick just one pathetic moment out of “The Two Coreys” is like trying to identify which parts of a cue ball are white. We’ll settle on Haim whining about Feldman’s wife: “She’s not part of the Coreys, and she never will be!”
Line that belongs in “Rock of Love”: “I’m thinkin’ PETA girl, I’m thinkin’ hairy armpits, and really, really angry, but this chick is HOT.”
Bottom line: If it doesn’t feel improvised, then it’s acted. And there’s better acting on the Centrum commercial where people are dressed like giant vitamins.
ROCK OF LOVE
9 p.m. EDT Sundays
ROCK OF LOVE
Who: Bret Michaels, 44, solo musician and lead singer of metal band Poison
Gimmick: Think “The Bachelor” with glam-metal groupies
Why: Michaels wants to find the perfect “rock star girlfriend.” He told Newsday: “That fuse of singleness is crazy and fun, but it burns out really quickly. And then you want to find somebody you can hang out with on a Tuesday night and flip a movie on, and lay in bed.”
Reality quotient: With such an artificial construct, you don’t really expect reality. You expect very unladylike catfights, drunkenness and dimwits. And you get `em.
Show villain: Lacey, of Dallas, who’s got a brain and some musical talent. She’s billed as the show’s “Instigator.” She pushes another woman into the swimming pool and derives much glee from picking off the other contestants one by one.
Supporting players: Too many women, too little time to get into all the skanktastic-ness.
Philosophical moment: “It is extremely important to me that the girl in my life is also creative,” Bret says.
Key pathetic moment: In one challenge, the women were dispatched to engage in phone sex with Bret. The various attempts resulted in train-wreck TV at its finest. (Click! “Hello? Hello?”)
Line that belongs on “Rock of Love”: “We’re here to win Bret; we’re here to date him. And if you like him, of course you’re gonna try to go in his room. It’s not rocket science.”
Bottom line: Hey, the show has no pretense: Michaels wants a hot, steady rocker chick—not to marry, but to party with. It’s not everyone’s cup of Jack, but it is watchable if, you know, you ain’t lookin’ for nothin’ but a good time.
MISSION: MAN BAND
10 p.m. EDT Monday
MISSION: MAN BAND
Who: Singers from four defunct boy bands: Chris Kirkpatrick, 36 (`N Sync); Rich Cronin, 31 (LFO); Jeff Timmons, 34 (98 Degrees); and Bryan Abrams, 37 (Color Me Badd)
Gimmick: The four will live in Kirkpatrick’s Orlando, Fla., crib together for a month and try to create a new pop group.
Why: For some, it’s a desperate stab at finding work again. For others, it’s a new way to make music and perhaps reclaim some of their former glory. Kirkpatrick drinks because he misses `N Sync; Abrams tries not to drink, and while selling tires, sees this as his life’s crossroads; Cronin is battling leukemia, and wants to see if this group of guys “can make lightning strike twice.” Timmons, who’s been writing and producing for other musicians, is ambivalent and ultimately anxiety-ridden about the project.
Reality quotient: Again, it’s an artificial construct, but the guys’ anxieties, demons and aspirations feel real and raw.
Show villain: No discernible antagonist yet, as the guys are all somewhat likable and, in their own ways, vulnerable.
Supporting players: Tough-talking manager Katie McNeil and Grammy-winning producer Bryan-Michael Cox—neither of whom is overly impressed with the guys upon first meeting.
Philosophical moment: “God, please tell me what I’m supposed to do,” Abrams says. “Is it supposed to be music? Or am I supposed to give all that up to be this working-man type of guy and just be there for your family?”
Key pathetic moment: Abrams, the recovering alcoholic, can’t handle the social pressure at a party and falls off the wagon.
Line that belongs in Rock of Love: “Huge boobs,” Cronin says, referring to the only thing he notices about their new manager.
Bottom line: It should have all the earmarks of great cheeseball TV, but there’s actually darkness to the show, and it makes you wonder how things turn out for each of the guys.
"PopMatters (est. 1999) is a respected source for smart long-form reading on a wide range of topics in culture. PopMatters serves as…READ the article