The Houston family signs up for a reality show. But is it a good idea?
Last Friday, Lifetime TV announced it would be airing a new reality show later this year featuring Whitney Houston’s inner circle. Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, 19, mother Cissy, cousin Dionne — yes, Warwick — brother Gary and best friend and manager Pat (the centerpiece of Oprah’s post-funeral interview with Whitney’s family) will appear in The Houston Family Chronicles.
“The tragic loss of Whitney Houston left a void in the hearts of people all over the world, but certainly none more so than her beloved family,” said the executive vice president of programming at Lifetime, Rob Sharenow, in a statement. ”In this series, the multi-generations of the Houston family will bravely reveal their lives as they bond together to heal, love, and grow.”
In reality TV-speak, this sounds like a sugarcoated winner, a surefire ratings bonanza: People with major drama, emotional instability, celebrity ties and a yearning toward fame all gather before the camera to let the dysfunction flow. I can’t be the only one who thinks the whole idea is super exploitative, and I say that knowing that the family is willingly exploiting themselves for a(nother) stab at fame, one that they’re gaining off a famous relative’s death. That leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Since Whitney’s untimely demise back in February, the press has hounded her daughter, alleging drug use and prodding into Bobbi Kristina’s new romance with her sort-of stepbrother. Pictures of Whitney’s just-cold body laid up in the casket were splashed across tabloid front pages and gossip blog homepages. Family members and friends have done countless interviews, some protecting Whitney’s legacy (Pat Houston), others keeping it perhaps too real (Bobby Brown). The toxicology reports confirmed Whit was back on the white stuff, despite her bestie and sis-in-law Pat trying to preserve what was left of Whitney’s good name and denying Houston’s drug use to Oprah Winfrey. Basically, it’s all been one big legacy-tarnishing mess, and I fear Houston Family Chronicles is just going to add to the drama.
Reality TV, by nature, is sensational, with producer-created “beats” to keep the drama high and editors who pull long hours (and are typically paid well) to cull through hour upon hour of footage to find the most salacious bits for TV. Somehow I just can’t see the Houstons, who’ve been engaging in a cat-and-mouse play with the press (including throwing serious shade to those they didn’t like) since Whitney’s death, giving good-natured, friendly TV of the Mary Mary or Tia & Tamera variety.
I don’t think they could if they wanted to. The cameras will be following a young woman with bright-lights ambition who is grieving the loss of her mother, a brother who couldn’t make it through a cover of his sister’s song without breaking down, and a mother coming to terms with the loss of her only girl-child. They’re a family just out of a media storm. And what I wish for them — heck, even for dear Whitney — is rest. Let her do so, and let the family give it one.
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