The latest celebrity family to get the small-screen treatment is Tampa Bay’s own Hogans. But let’s make this clear from the beginning: The Hogans are no Osbournes. The premiere episode isn’t unusual or shocking as The Osbournes was, but instead feels staged, with a hint of self-promotion.
The first episode paints Terry “Hulk” Hogan as a loving father worried about his 16-year-old daughter Brooke’s first date. While the laughs are minimal and the believability factor is pretty slim, the show manages not to drag. Linda, Hogan’s wife of 22 years, offers a few off-the-cuff remarks but is nowhere near as lovable or entertaining as Sharon Osbourne. Aside from the drama surrounding Brooke’s first date, the parents search the drawer of 14-year-old Nick’s dresser looking for condoms.
At the end of the episode, Terry hires a chaperone for his daughter’s date, an option many parents wish they had at their disposal. Hogan Knows Best plays more like an unscripted, awkward episode of Full House than a typical American family. But here is the problem: American audiences don’t want normalcy in their television program; they prefer fantasy. Though it is incredibly hard to swallow a wrestling icon as the Danny Tanner of the 21st century, it does give the show a strong identifiable character.
One main concern of the series is to sell viewers on Brooke’s singing abilities, as she has a new single and album in the works. This cheapens the show further, but TV is a perfect launching pad for the untalented — i.e. American Idol and Ashlee Simpson.
Hogan joins the ranks of table-dancing coyote Robin from The Real World: San Diego and socialite wannabe Ann Pookasem from I Want to be a Hilton as the proud TV representatives of Tampa. Most of these personalities are hand selected by producers to fit whatever drama they need in order to sell the show to audiences. Think about it: How could a reality show ever work with five or six normal people doing normal things? It couldn’t. There’s a simple formula to all of it. The more name-calling or catfights producers can squeeze into a season, the less viewers can resist.
Hogan Knows Best does not paint nearly as bleak a picture as The Real World, but it fails to infuse its titular character with any sense of realism. Instead the family is merely a caricature of families that have come before. Hogan Knows Best will play well with fans of the wrestler and for those who are fascinated by celebrities’ lives, but then, isn’t that why the Surreal Life is still on?
VH1, Sundays at 10 p.m.