There are times when “normal” reality television just doesn’t suffice. Honestly, you can only watch everyday average people humiliating themselves on national television for a fleeting shot at stardom for so long until even you start to feel embarrassed. Sometimes, you just have to change the channel — and there’s no better contender to “normal” reality TV than to see washed-up and/or fading stars embarrass themselves on the boob tube instead. Take some of the new shows on A&E this year, for example: wherein we get to see the likes of David Hasselhoff, Bob Saget, and Gene Simmons giving us their all.
After a hit-and-miss career in the realm of television, theater and music, the question “Where can David Hasselhoff go from here?” was surely uttered by someone at some point in time. And, after all the controversy about his former problem with alcohol and family, now seems like as good of a time as any for The Hoff to bring his family into your home via the magical world of television. The Hasselhoffs follows patriarch David and his two daughters (Taylor-Ann and Hayley) through the various ups and downs a family of celebrities has to contend with.
Our premiere episode, “Hoff The Record,” — which aired Sunday December 5th — introduced us to all three family members and laid the groundwork for what I assume the show is supposed to be all about: drama. Although the girls’ lifelong dream of starting a music group looks like it might be at long last coming to pass, Hayley’s new job as an actress might get in the way. An additional ripple develops when David attempts to persuade younger daughter Hayley to stay in school for another year or so. Will The Hoff be able to keep these two young ladies in check and still maintain his sanity? Only time will tell, I s’pose.
While the concept is a fun one, I can‘t say The Hasselhoffs will appeal to everyone. It’s nice to see the oft-riffed-on celebrity being himself on the screen, especially in the “loving, caring parental figure” department. But, between David’s overly dramatic girls and his hokey narration, the show comes off as more staged than it should be. Or perhaps that’s just the way The Hasselhoffs roll. Again: I guess only time will tell on this one.
While some stars have to fight to keep themselves in the public’s mind, others simply resonate like a big long Demon tongue. Returning for another go on A&E this year is Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels. In the hour-long “Face Your Demons” (which also premiered on December 5th), the legendary KISS bassist — along with his longtime partner, former Playboy Playmate Shannon Tweed — journey to Amsterdam as part of his iconic group’s tour, but things take a turn when a young high school student who is keen on writing an article about Gene and his life: particularly his mother’s experience as a Holocaust survivor. Things get very emotional for Gene as the young lad takes the 61-year-old rocker and Shannon to the Anne Frank House.
Meanwhile, young Nick Simmons realizes he should probably visit his grandmother after seeing his father on William Shatner’s Raw Nerve before he meets up with his folks in Amsterdam. Young Sophie Simmons doesn’t have very much screen time in this one, but it is nevertheless a very powerful and emotionally-charged episode that will give even the most ardent fan of Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels yet-another look at one of the music industry’s most popular giants.
Well, after two very intimate looks at two completely different celebrities, you might think that a road trip with comedian Bob Saget might be out of the question. That said, though, I have to confess that Strange Days With Bob Saget could very well be one of the funniest shows to cross the airwaves in ages.
The series, which is hosted and narrated by Saget, gives the funnyman a chance to let us forgive him for the dark days of Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos by applying his wonderfully snappy and edgy sense of humor to some of the less “conventional” aspects of American life. The premiere, “Riding Shotgun With Hardcore Bikers,” has him doing just that: joining a motorcycle gang (in this case, the Iron Order) and riding cross-country in a sidecar. Along the way, Bob learns what life is like on the road, makes new friends and signs up for a new kidney from the biker parties.
“Riding Shotgun With Hardcore Bikers” premiered on Tuesday November 30th along with a second episode, “Let’s Go Sasquatching,” wherein Bob teams up with the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) in Washington in an attempt to locate the elusive and mysterious creature known as Bigfoot. A particularly dramatic moment — wherein we hear what could very well be a sasquatch howl — is followed by an outstandingly lowbrow moment as one of Bob’s equally smart-ass crew passing gas into a parabolic microphone, to wit the stand-up comic narrates, “I was two-for-two: a big foot and a big fart. Both had left a deep impression on me, and it was going to be hard to sleep knowing that either one could strike again before dawn.”
OK, so it’s not as serious as Gene Simmons’ mum’s past or David Hasselhoff’s overly-dramatic offspring, but it’s still damn fine television nonetheless. Somebody has to take an irreverent look at America’s many subcultures — so it might as well be Bob Saget!
To view full episodes of The Hasselhoffs, Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels, Strange Days With Bob Saget, and other A&E episodes online, log on to aetv.com.