Who Wants to Date a K-list Celeb? Larry Dobrow, That's Who

Media Reviews for Media People: VH1's 'Celebreality'

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Like most other hopeless romantics, I plan on finding my wife in a televised reality competition. I'll deftly maneuver my way through the courting challenges, endearing myself to fellow contestant and home viewer alike with my adequate table manners and bushy tufts of shoulder hair. I'll save my most articulate moments for the confessional booth, whereupon I'll weigh in on everything from the competition itself ("it's, like, so on") to the detritus that flitters through my noggin ("trees are tall").
Bret Michaels
Bret Michaels Credit: VH1

Sure, I may face some obstacles in my quest -- my tattoo-free torso, for instance, and my dignity -- but I have as much confidence in my ability to charm meticulously manicured tarts as I do in my ability to charm Ad Age readers. After my inevitable triumph at the final rose/ring/candlelight/altar/chandelier/lawn gnome ceremony, I'll spontaneously propose to my beloved. Then I'll do it again with the boom mic out of the frame, and a third time with moodier lighting.

I've sent all 85 of my reality-show application videos VH1's way, because the net's dating competitions boast a unique perk: namely, the possibility of rubbing shoulders with and/or contracting genital warts from a K-minus-list celebrity. Indeed, VH1's "Celebreality" shows are simultaneously the most reprehensible and wildly entertaining programming on cable TV. They're also massively addictive: Touch down in the middle of an "I Love New York 2" marathon and next thing you know, four hours have flown by, all the while "Their Eyes Were Watching God" sits unread in your bookshelf.

The "Celebreality" shows can be divvied up into three categories. You have the dating games ("I Love New York," "The Flavor of Love," "Rock of Love With Bret Michaels"), the family/relationship chronicles ("My Fair Brady," "Hogan Knows Best," "Scott Baio Is 46 and Pregnant") and the follow-around-troubled-individuals-and-hope-something-ghastly-happens-to-them adventures ("Shooting Sizemore," "Breaking Bonaduce," "Celebrity Rehab").

Currently in heavy rotation on VH1 is "Rock of Love 2 With Bret Michaels," in which the waxy-faced former lead singer of Poison attempts to find one true, pure heart amid an army of abundantly pierced hussies. I missed the first edition of "Rock of Love," but apparently it ended without Michaels settling on a wifey-poo. Not wanting to shatter the viewing audience's illusions about happy endings -- if Bret Michaels can't find himself a suitable strumpet, what hope is there for the rest of us? -- VH1 has given him another 20 gals (he's already down to 15!) from which to choose.

I'm blown away by the conduct of the contestants, frankly. I realize they're just playing for the cameras and that most of them probably view their appearance on the show as a stepping stone to a showbiz career of some sort, but jeez. Each of these girls is some father's daughter, and yet within 10 minutes every one has either made out with, stripped for or crudely propositioned the protagonist ("I want to f*ck Bret first, then I'll make love to him"). Put it this way: After watching the premier episode, I swabbed my TV clean with rubbing alcohol, just to be safe.

Was I entertained? Hells to the yeah, I was. Ironically enough, my favorite Poison song is "Talk Dirty to Me."

On the ad front, "Celebreality" taps just about every category. Kitschy mainstreamers like Burger King and Orbit are well-represented, as are straight-down-the-center brands like Chili's and Best Buy. I'm a little curious why we see oodles of movie ads ("27 Dresses," "Cloverfield") but barely any for DVDs. This is one of the few remaining places where ads for new CD releases could work, too.

"Rock of Love," like its "Celebreality" siblings, seems quite eager to work with marketers on the product-integration front, even if the new season's first episode does a poor job of showcasing the wares given to the randomly anointed "VIPs." Of all the booty in the gift bag, the only product or brand that left an impression was an Ed Hardy hoodie. I wouldn't worry too much about this isolated instant, though. These celebs/characters are proudly, unabashedly brand-conscious, so any tie-in that makes sense should resonate with the producers. Fashion brands are probably the way to go for "Rock of Love" and the other dating shows. Whether marketers want to affiliate themselves with a show whose idea of deep, meaningful discourse is "Ashley was a little self-conscious about her small breasts" is another question, of course.

Yes, the "Rock of Love" gals, and their counterparts on most other "Celebreality" shows, may be crass. The televised-relationship concept may be several levels beyond cynical. It's disturbing that we, as a nation, care less about affordable health care than we do about getting Flavor Flav some tail. That said, VH1's "Celebreality" shows are compulsively watchable, especially when screened as part of a daylong marathon. As such, they're a better destination for your marketing dollars than just about anything else on basic cable.

As for Michaels, I wish him nothing but the best in his efforts to find his special one. I'm guessing it's not going to be the 45-year-old.
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