Whatever value there ever was in glimpsing the "real lives" of marginal celebrities was long ago leeched from the likes of the Osbourne family and Anna Nicole Smith. And yet the shows keep coming, one after the other, reality nonchalantly surrendering to banality until the TV grid begins to read like the invitation list to some C-lister bash at the Playboy Mansion.
Among the recently arrived is Luke Campbell, former member of 2 Live Crew and patron saint of booty-shaking. Not surprisingly, “Luke’s Parental Advisory,” which premieres tonight on VH1, is just about as edgy and real as the term "booty-shaking" has become. The conceit is standard-self-proclaimed bad boy, whose hard-R-rated lyrics and album covers helped create the music industry's "parental advisory" warnings, now settling into middle age, with two teenagers to raise and a young fiancé named Vanessa to keep him on the straight and narrow.
FOR THE RECORD:
"Luke's Parental Advisory": A review in Monday's Calendar section of VH1's "Luke's Parental Advisory" identified Luke Campbell's fiance as Vanessa; her name is Kristin. —
Not that he's selling insurance or anything; Campbell's second career is in the porn industry. Dutifully, the first episode follows him planning his wedding and "auditioning" strippers. How ever will he reconcile the two worlds?
He doles out sage advice along the lines of "a boy who dates more than one girl is a player," while "a girl who dates more than one guy is a slut." Or: "Vanessa understands that I'm like a gynecologist; if I don't see [crude term for female genitalia] every day, something's wrong."
Oh, that wacky Luke.
To ensure that we understand he takes his parental duties seriously, we are treated to a little tough love after Vanessa discovers a porn video under 15-year-old Luke Jr.'s bed. The elder Campbell emphatically explains that porn is for grown-ups, not teenagers, and that if he catches his son watching it he will . . . well, it will mean trouble, young man.
Just like Ward and the Beav, really, down to a script so heavy-handed you can practically smell the writers room. Ironically, Luke Jr., with his mouthful of braces and obvious embarrassment with the whole setup, actually seems like a pretty normal kid. That is, if it weren't for those cameras all over the house and an unfortunate narrative thread that has him "dating" a teen mother.
Campbell conveys a profane jocularity that almost makes up for the fact that he says things like "the girls I'm looking for need to be tri-sexual, meaning they'll try anything," and that he wants a bachelor-party viewing of the porn-star Olympics. It's not that any of this is shocking -- "The Sopranos" inured most of us to the sight of a man conducting a personal phone conversation while staring at gyrating pole dancers.
In fact, the show is so by the book, it's silly. When Luke's friends learn over golf of his impending nuptials, they immediately offer "your life is over" advice. Between the golf caps and self-mimicking "yes, dears," it's such a standard set piece you half expect Dick Van Dyke to mosey on over with a few choice words.
"Luke's Parental Advisory" so clearly aims to be outrageous it's difficult to watch without wincing. Because for all its stripper poles and booty-dependence, it's utterly conventional: just another one of those shows about someone who used to be sort of famous.