The unbearable nothingness of
By Matthew Gilbert, Globe Staff | June 30, 2005
With a scarf draped over her head and under her chin, Whitney Houston looks
like a 1950s screen icon in ''Being Bobby Brown." She affects a sleek Joan
Crawford-esque demeanor, the crepe softly framing her small, hard features.
But while clothes suggest the woman, reality TV spells her out more
explicitly. And Houston is no figure of grace and glamour. Bravo's ''Being
Bobby Brown" drives home many unhappy realizations about fame and money, and
one of them is that they have not been very kind to Houston.
And really, Houston is the star of
''Being Bobby Brown," which premieres tonight at 10. She is a spoiled diva
who prefers to arrive late in order to create anticipation, and who then
co-opts every scene she's in, whining to ''papa" Brown and moping about
persistent fans. She is the drama queen to Brown's muddled court jester.
''That's my family," Brown says at one point. ''We live hard, play hard, and
try to stay out of Whitney's way."
And, as Houston must know, she is the sole reason Brown has this show, and
the reason any viewers might watch it. Without his marriage to Houston, the
late '80s hitmaker would have faded into failed infamy many, many pop
moments ago. Houston and her own scary dramas have kept his name in the
Essentially, ''Being" is a chronicle of nothingness. Bobby gets out of jail;
Bobby visits his kids in Boston; Bobby waits at an Atlanta hotel for
Whitney; Whitney arrives late; they party; they have dinner; they laugh;
they burp. The half-hour episodes (two air back-to-back tonight) are a blend
of small talk in faceless hotels and planned camera-ops, including a family
trip to the Bahamas. One minute, Brown is aimlessly mumbling about how ''a
man is a man" and how he likes guns, and the next the couple are having a
staged spa day with parallel body massages.
Speaking of staged moments, the show may be a little too obviously bent on
proving that, despite the fact that he was arrested for allegedly hitting
her, Brown and Houston are lovers. Their hookups on ''Being Bobby Brown"
have a somewhat contrived air about them, as the two keep disappearing
behind doors with smirks on their faces. We even hear daughter Bobbi
Kristina yell ''Please! No!" as one door closes on her. If you think Bobby
and Whitney aren't an authentic couple, the show seems to protest too much,
you're very wrong.
There's a tiny bit of mystery in ''Being Bobby Brown," and it comes in
wondering whether Brown and Houston, both of whom have admitted to drug
problems, are using during the filming of the show. At times, each appears
to be in an altered state, perhaps just from champagne. And as Brown applies
Preparation H under his eyes to quell the puffiness, you can't help but see
the hard living waging battle on his face. It's the same sense you get
watching ''The Anna Nicole Show," or, of course, ''The Osbournes," the
pioneer of this genre. Are these celebrities stoned out, you have to ask
yourself, or just zoned out?
But then Houston and Brown could simply be high on the cameras. At one
point, with the film crew following them and bystanders gawking at them,
Houston exclaims, ''I just want to be a real person!" But of course, she and
Brown probably couldn't tolerate being real people for very long. If they
were real, they wouldn't get to have a restaurant opened early to suit their
whims. They wouldn't be able to joke that their daughter takes daddy's court
days off from school, and that she misses a lot of school. If they were
real, they wouldn't have their own reality show.
''Being Bobby Brown" accurately mirrors the mundane celebrity nonsense that
the tabloids manage to transform into news. And ultimately, the tabloid
media may be the real reason for ''Being Bobby Brown" as well as for similar
series such as ''Britney and Kevin: Chaotic." The celebrities whose
stunt-filled and stunted personal lives drive their careers are realizing
that it's time to own their own press. Why let Star magazine and ''Extra"
cash in on their escapades? Why shouldn't they themselves collect from the
audience for their drug problems and fashion faux pas?
They're discovering that they can buy valuable shares in their own tabloid
Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2005 Globe Newspaper Company.
NEWSFILE: 30 JUNE 2005