Hammertime, another celebreality show about the family behind a star, is both good-natured and manipulative.


Airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET
Cast: Stanley "MC Hammer" Burrell, Stephanie, A'Keiba, Jamaris, Sarah, Stanley Jr., Jeremiah, Samuel Burrell
Subtitle: Series Premiere
Network: A&E;
Air date: 2009-06-14

Hammertime, another celebreality show about the family behind a star, is both good-natured and manipulative. MC Hammer, a veteran of VH1's The Surreal Life, has apparently learned the value of reality TV as a means to market music and social networking content. If only the content he was selling wasn't so boring.

Hammer's family seems very nice, and clearly his long-suffering wife Stephanie has weathered many storms (the premiere episode flashes back to news coverage of the bankruptcy, as he says he doesn't really know how he managed to lose $33 million). As she partners with Hammer to raise their brood of five kids and one nephew, the domestic scene is warm and supportive.

Comparisons to other rap mogul dads are inevitable. Reverend Run of MTV's Run's House has a boisterous, funny personality, and all of his kids are mini-mogul entrepreneurs following in his footsteps. Hammer, on the other hand, talks in the premiere about living in Tracy, California because he wanted a grounded life without "too much going on." He has achieved his goal.

That's not to say he doesn't try to seem interesting. We see Hammer train a young group of dancers to dance for his latest video, but no one seems very into it. We see Hammer encourage his two daughters, A'Keiba (who earlier competed on MTV's Rock the Cradle) and Sarah, to pursue singing careers by recording a home-made demo and singing at a small bar's open-mic night. It's all small potatoes. What we want to see is Hammer in his glory days, but this is available only in brief flashbacks.

Halfway through the second episode, "Moving Forward" (airing 14 June), Hammer reveals the man behind the curtain. Hammer takes nephew Jamaris to Stanford with him when he speaks on an academic panel about selling music in the new media environment. Hammer encourages the boy to do well in school so that he can come play football at Stanford. Jamaris is more interested in the cute girls he meets there. The episode goes on to make fun of academics by showing Jamaris and family friend Coach Carter sleeping while the speakers on Hammer's panel drone on and on. They wake up when Hammer speaks, Carter later telling him he's "still got it."

He's also got over 250,000 followers on Twitter, as the panel chair notes when he introduces Hammer and asks how he can keep so many people interested in what he has for breakfast. Hammer says it isn't about that: "My approach was to capitalize on these platforms as a creator of content and then build a business around it, myself. So we might talk about what I'm having for breakfast for a while, but you can bet you're paying for lunch." His line elicits delighted laughter and applause from the crowd, and admirers swarm him after the talk. Hammer tells the camera, "I'm a geek and a nerd behind the scenes."

He goes on to describe his proud interests in compression technology, distribution systems, and monetization. The show is clearly an extension of Hammer's Twitter feed. Each episode uses graphics of his Twitter posts (as he makes them) to narrate what's happening in each episode. It's impressive synergy (Ashton Kutcher, take note), but it's not likely to gain viewers beyond his Tweeps.


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