The unreality of reality television meets the unreliable narratives of the Palin Saga in a new series, “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp.” Premiering Tuesday on Lifetime, into whose Woman Against the Odds ethos it vaguely fits, it follows the young mother and"Dancing With the Stars” contestant from Alaska to Los Angeles — and, indications are, back again — with her toddler son in tow.
Given her visibility over the last four years, I assume Palin has fans of her own, apart from any interest they might have in her media star mother, Sarah, who shows up here to dispense advice (“Work hard, be humble and take risks”) and play referee. They may be simply happy for her company. But anyone expecting an unvarnished, unmeditated look at her life or any substantial take on the challenges it represents, or seems to — her child-care issues stem from not wanting to hire “some random baby-sitter,” not from a lack of wherewithal — will be disappointed.
“I’m moving to L.A. to show Tripp what’s out there,” says Bristol. (Tripp is something like 3.) She also wants to “get out of my comfort zone,” and has a “job” volunteering at an L.A.-based charity, but it’s clear that she’s really moving to L.A. to make a reality show about moving to L.A. Indeed, the present scenario, in which she drags her impressively impassive younger sister Willow south to keep an eye on her son while she’s out — it’s the job none of them seems to want — replaces an abandoned first in which Bristol and Tripp were to share a place with actor Kyle Massey, whom she met on “Dancing With the Stars,” and his brother Christopher.
In spite of their occasional expressions of enthusiasm for the “adventure,” we’re left with a show about two sisters, temporarily billeted in a Beverly Hills mansion, mostly complaining about Los Angeles, each other and their lives. Willow, says Bristol, “has no idea the pressure that I’m under.” Bristol, says Willow, “thinks the world revolves around her, but it doesn’t.”
We see them shop for groceries and clothing, without Tripp, I should note, presumably looking after himself back at the mansion. (So much for that premise.) Bristol visits with her “DWTS” partner and at last reports to Help the Children, where she is taken on a driving tour of skid row.
“What is skid row? I’ve heard of it before,” she says. “It’s where homeless people live,” she is told.
“I have never in my life ever seen or experienced something like that,” she says later, not unusual for a small-town 21-year-old, “so I was just completely blown away.” Possibly, in a future episode, she will get out of the car.
In an unusual unmanaged moment, a remarkably self-possessed Bristol confronts a loudmouth in a bar who has called her mother “a whore.” (The loudmouth, one Stephen Hanks, who was not asked to sign a release, is suing Lifetime.) The producers tease this encounter, which has been on YouTube, all through the first episode, then make it a cliffhanger continued in the second. They also helpfully cut Bristol’s remark that she knew he was “a homosexual” because “I can tell you are.”
If the life she’s led in the public eye has been strangely insular, her family’s circle-the-wagons mentality is not surprising, given the vituperation her mother attracts and the notoriety that is the foundation of her own career, such as it is. A girl whose introduction to the wide world was as an unwed pregnant teen and potential political liability, Bristol has lived the years since in a world of spin and publicity, bad and good, imposed or self-produced.
A reality show may just be what life looks like to her now.
‘Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp’
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday
Rating: TV-PG-L (may be unsuitable for young children with an advisory for coarse language)