(ED: I wrote this for another publication. They never printed it. Here you go.)
For reasons I still can’t fully explain, I found myself one Saturday evening taking in repeats of the premiere episodes of “Denise Richards: It’s Complicated” and “Living Lohan,” E!’s newest reality-show mind-numbers. By the time that foul-mouthed Richards got through introducing me to her “complicated” life, trying to get her pet pigs to mate and reminding family & friends that she still has a thing for well-endowed dirtbags, I was already lying on my hardwood bedroom floor, barely taking in Dina Lohan constantly explaining that she won’t let anyone exploit her kids — while appearing on a reality show where she exploits her kids.
Seeing — or should I say, zoning out during — these shows had me thinking on how reality shows featuring so-called celebrities (you can’t zip through your basic-cable package these days without hitting one every hour on the hour) are worse than reality shows featuring nobodies. Here are people who are supposed to have some modicum of talent (or, in the case of Richards and Lohan, good cheekbones). And instead of going out and finding work, they just do a reality show where they try to act like everyday people.
And “try” seems to be the operative word. While it’s no secret that most of these shows are heavily planned affairs, their urge to resemble live-action versions of Us Weekly’s “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” section is more annoying than eye-opening. May I remind you that just as the things you do during the day is often tedious and mundane, so is watching some moderately famous person do it. But these shows aren’t about catching celebs at their most candid. These shows are merely weekly appointments for the celebs in question to satisfy their jones for fame and notoriety. These shows aren’t here for your entertainment — they’re here for their indulgence.
And that’s why I adored “The Comeback,” Lisa Kudrow’s short-lived yet memorably acidic HBO sitcom that bitterly sent up celeb reality shows. Kudrow played a has-been TV actress (earnestly but ironically named Valerie Cherish) who practically couldn’t function as a human being unless she knew she was on TV every week. So, she basically pushed her way back into the public eye, even when no one really wanted her back. It’s funny — and a bit sad — that the pitiful desperation and brazen attention-craving that Kudrow mocked celeb reality-show stars like Richards and Lohan blatantly, almost shamelessly, cop to. These stars may pretend to be just like us, but I think I speak for most of us when I say we’re not that pathetic.