Born in to fame in Hollywood.
Great connections with no directions.
— Sean Stewart, “The In Crowd”
Sons of Hollywood asks viewers to spend 30 minutes a week with two celebrity offspring (Randy Spelling and Sean Stewart, sons of Aaron and Rod) and their talent manager and friend, David Weintraub. Those who do will be rewarded with rote “slice-of-life” reality television.
As usual, the setup is artificial. Much as Nick Carter gathered his siblings to bond for E’s cameras on House of Carters, Weintraub (a co-creator of the series) here shacks up with his two childhood pals for the summer. It’s a way, he says, for him and Spelling to offer Stewart in-house support as he continues his recovery from substance abuse. Really, though, it’s a standard grab for publicity.
Since he reps his two roommates, Weintraub has the most to gain. He works hard to appear studly (look for the two girls in his bedroom) and tough (“I’m a cutthroat motherfucker, that’s just who I am. I’ll run through ’em like a truck and get the job done”). “I make people,” he says, doing his best Ari Gold impersonation. By contrast, Randy and Sean use most of their voiceover introductions to catch us up on their famous parents. Spelling says growing up was a lot like Dynasty, one of his father’s hit series, while Stewart describes Rod as “a guy who gets on stage and sings in sexy little leopard pants.”
Network press materials promise a season full of “warts-and-all” drama, rife with tensions between famous fathers and wannabe sons, career pressures, Stewart’s struggle with sobriety, and, of course, one more angle on Aaron Spelling’s last days (the others having been served up by the tabloids, who took turns taking sides in the Tori-Mom feud). Perhaps all that really is to come, but the pilot seriously underwhelms.
A mishmash of fancy edits, scene-setting close-ups (which call to mind the openings of, well… the elder Spelling’s 90210), and sadly literal song selections (yes, that’s the Caddyshack theme playing as the boys goof around on a golf course), the boys’ trip to Vegas plays like a low-rent Swingers — or a feeble send-up of the Rat Pack. Though intended to help his clients unwind — Stewart’s been hard at work writing songs and Spelling’s auditioning for some films, Weintraub tells us — the trip quickly turns sour. With only a few vices (gambling and strippers) left to him now that he can’t “party” as he used to, Stewart wastes no time losing all his money in the casino. He then picks a fight with Spelling over dinner, though neither his friends at the table nor the series’ editors seem to have any idea why.
Stewart is the designated wildcard here, a genuine drama queen who can’t turn down an opportunity for a smart remark. He resists advice from others, quick to explain that he’s under a lot of pressure — “Especially when your dad’s a huge fucking rock star, you know?”
Way to spell it out for the camera, dude.
Trying too hard to be stylish and too little to conjure a plot, Sons of Hollywood can’t quite decide what it has to say. Do we feel sorry for these lost boys of Hollywood, or feel worse for the “regular” folks who cater to them? It seems that many people are getting something out of the deal, as product-placement close-ups and on-screen identifiers call out the casino, golf course, and tattoo parlor workers featured in Episode One. But the ep’s most memorable “regular person” passes by without a name or title. She’s the maid, going about her day, carting out the boys’ ample loads of trash. If she appears nonplused by the empty liquor bottles and cigarette butts floating in makeshift highball ashtrays, viewers understand why: like her, we’ve seen all this before.