Shirleen Holt July 18, 2008
With The Two Coreys abandoning its reality sitcom format for a bromance version of Breaking Bonaduce, and Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew a surprise hit, train-wreck TV is the latest trend in reality programming.
But tears, rages, meltdowns and chemically-induced stupors have always been a staple of celebreality series, albeit collateral drama in shows designed to be fun. So in honor of the public’s most famous train-wreck, we offer the Amy Winehouse Awards for train-wreck reality shows past and present.
House of Carters (2006, E!). Screaming, weeping, hugging. And that was just the guys. The drug of choice for this dysfunctional family — which starred controlling Backstreet brother Nick and pugilistic little brother Aaron — was drama. Dad never loved them, Mom was crazy. Aaron stole Paris Hilton from Nick. Seriously, the brothers fought over Paris Hilton. But if the viewers were like me, they OD’d on the theatrics and stopped watching before the series ended. Verdict: 2 AMYS.
Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew (2007, VH1). This documentary series about addicts going through detox and rehab would be too earnest to make a list about train-wreck TV if it weren’t for its B-list celebrity cast. Last season Dr. Drew Pinksy counseled a nearly comatose Jeff Conaway, the sexually inappropriate but charming porn star Mary Carey and father figure Daniel Baldwin, who turned out to be a perv. A new batch of guests, including the still-kicking Conaway, just entered rehab for Season 2, which airs in the fall. Verdict: 5 AMYS.
Hey Paula! (2007, Bravo). She insisted her bizarre behavior and slurred speech wasn’t chemically induced. She was exhausted. She was in pain. She has a neurological disorder. In fact Paula Abdul‘s menu of denials were half the fun of watching this short-lived series that chronicled her many meltdowns, including crawling on the floor during a business meeting and sobbing uncontrollably after being fired from the Bratz: The Movie. Then again, she could have been a victim of bad editing. Right? Right? Verdict: 3 AMYS.
Breaking Bonaduce (2005-2006, VH1). This was originally conceived as a typical series that followed a family’s ordinary life (i.e. contrived activities celebrities would never do if cameras weren’t around). But former child star Danny Bonaduce was a drunk, druggie, steroid abuser and ticking time bomb whose outrageous behavior forced the show into a different direction, and created the celebreality drama. Verdict: 4 AMYS.
Shooting Sizemore (2007, VH1). Pretty much a ripoff of Breaking Bonaduce, except that actor, heroin addict and former Heidi Fleiss paramour Tom Sizemore is scarier — a lot scarier. He tries to make a comeback. And that’s all I’m going to say. Verdict: 2 AMYS.
Britney & Kevin: Chaotic (2005, UPN). We learned that a show about young love based solely on home videos is pretty much unwatchable unless there’s sex involved. (Like when Pam and Tommy pulled over for a quickie on the side of the road. I don’t know, I’ve just heard.) This series followed the romance and wedding of a pre-crazy Britney Spears and her still-inarticulate boy toy, K-Fed. Imagine an 180-minute YouTube clip but with worse photography and without Chris Crocker. Verdict: 1 AMY.
The Anna Nicole Show (2002-2004, E!). We all know how Smith‘s story ended, but why didn’t anyone notice while it was happening? And by anyone, we mean enabler Howard K. Stern, who made excuses for his meal ticket’s — er, friend’s — staggering and slurring through three seasons of this supposed comedy. Then again, this was an earlier time — when nobody talked about the pickle-eating elephant in the room. Verdict: 3 AMYS.
The Two Coreys (2007-2008, A&E). Wow, did this show take a sharp turn. The first season featured contrived storylines on the wacky friendship between ’80s child stars Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. This year it offers contrived storylines about the seriously messed-up friendship between the Coreys. As each competes for the title of biggest victim of the worst childhood, we watch them go through couples therapy (another Bonaduce ripoff) and try to regain their fame. Verdict: 3 AMYS.
Growing Up Gotti. (2004-2006, A&E) Victoria Gotti has the warmth of an ice pick and her sons the charm of, well, thugs. But this seemed to be lost on mobster John Gotti’s heirs, who presented themselves as a typical Italian-American family. The boys plucked their eyebrows and had an unnatural fondness for a gelled hairstyle I’ll call The Artichoke. Best train-wreck scene: Son John (or was it Carmine?) making a grand party entrance on a platform that rose through the floor. They got class up the … well you get it. Verdict: 2 AMYS
The Bad Girls Club. (2007-2008, Oxygen). What it lacks in celebrity it makes up for in drunken catfights, pranks involving bodily fluids, occasional girl-on-girl action and court dates. The show doesn’t offer any stab at redemption, just a lot of really angry chicks who take offense easily. Now pop off! Verdict: 4 AMYS
Shirleen Holt is a freelance writer and former newspaper editor living outside of Portland, Ore.
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