Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp has to be the worst reality show in TV history. Even by the scum floating on the cesspool standards of reality TV, this one hits bottom. Not because it is vulgar or distasteful, not because it is nasty or outrageous or insulting, but because it features the most mind-numbingly boring subject ever depicted for the reality show cameras. Not only that, it has nothing to do with reality.
The reality show template was pretty much set with MTV's The Real World, which put a bunch of hot young people in a house and filmed what happened, and it was, at the time, refreshing and fascinating. The hot young people then faced the camera and gave us their Rashomon style points of view about what happened, gossiped about each other, and so on. All reality shows have followed this format -- Big Brother, The Bachelorette, The Real Housewives, Survivor ad infinitum. But a good reality show must have interesting and wacky real characters that are worth watching, eccentrics that are train wrecks like Jersey Shore or Swamp People. The worst of them, like Joan Rivers' show with her hapless daughter, Joan And Melissa, waste lots of airtime trying to come up with something interesting and usually fail.
Bristol, to refresh your memory, is the oldest daughter of Sarah Palin. Pregnant and unwed at 17, she and baby daddy Levi Johnston injected some trashy tabloid fun into the 2008 elections. When her mother lost her vice presidential bid, one would have thought we would never have heard from the Palin children again -- after all, we have not heard from the children of John Kerry, Dan Quayle, Michael Dukakis or Walter Mondale. We did hear from a child of George H.W. Bush, and we know how that turned out.
But the Palin clan is not your ordinary political family. They all, evidently, want to be famous and are happy to parade before the cameras whether they are doing anything interesting or not. Sarah quickly saw how to cash in and commands exorbitant speaking fees for speaking about not much of anything, starred in her own reality show Sarah Palin's Alaska, and is a paid contributor on Fox News, spouting predictable right wing talking points. Sarah's few appearances on her daughter's show are watchable, because Sarah is Sarah and her very presence generates interest. She shows up a few times in the show to dispense some motherly advice, all of it sounding scripted and phony, but she's still Sarah, and we watch.
But whenever the cameras switch to Bristol, your eyes quickly glaze over. She narrates a few autobiographical segments telling you how she got from there to here, explaining how she had a baby out of wedlock, appeared on Dancing With The Stars and came in third, wrote a book that "became a best seller" (not remotely true), and did a few other things that are of no interest whatsoever to even the most bored viewer switching channels. Bristol did not inherit her mother's star quality, but did seem to inherit her resentment, lack of self-awareness and hubris.
Most everything is Bristol Palin: Life's A Tripp is phony. There are a few scenes of her doing whatever she does in Alaska at the Palin home with her boring friends and her sister, Willow, who allegedly did drugs, vandalized a home and posted homophobic Facebook comments, and who seems to possess enough nasty attitude to one day be an interesting reality subject herself. Bristol then moves from Alaska to LA to work for a charity and "get out of her comfort zone," but moves into a Beverly Hills mansion that no one of her status would ever get unless she was the daughter of a famous person. While there, she goes shopping, visits Skid Row, and complains. And the alleged struggles of a single mom are never depicted, since someone always seems available to take care of son Tripp.
The only moment of real interest occurs when an agitated man at a country & western bar screams, as Bristol straddles a mechanical bull, "Did you ride Levi like that?" and "Your mother's a whore." Bristol then confronts him with a few anti-gay accusations, and ugliness ensues. It's a low moment bringing out the worst in everyone, but stuff like this would actually be a great reality show: each week, Bristol confronts someone who hates her mother. She could run 10 years.
While in LA she says, "People are more into their image here than in Alaska," on a show called Bristol Palin. She also calls a friend to complain, "I have a ton of cameras on me and a ton of paparazzi. This is not fair. This is not fun." At the center of an operation called Bristol Palin.
The most depressing thing, if you wake up from your stupor to think about it, is that the show exists in the first place. Whose idea was this? What about Bristol, or her life, is even remotely interesting? Why is she even a public figure? Who cares? And didn't Sarah Palin complain about the media's treatment of her family, while now one of her family is putting herself out there for all to potentially complain about? The withering reviews of this show practically guarantee that the Palins will now complain that the mainstream media hates them and play the victim. That's how they roll.
If Bristol was a recovering drug addict, activist, genius or some other incredible and wacky 21-year-old, maybe she would be relevant. But she's just an average girl who happens to be the daughter of a very famous and controversial woman, apparently without any natural talents of her own, and nearly every moment in the show seems staged, awkward and forced. Bristol doesn't do herself any favors with this show; at times she seems genuinely spoiled and unlikeable. What useless reality show is next for us -- The Romney Boys?
And it's also depressing what a brain fart most TV has become, as reality shows, inexpensive to produce, slowly push intelligent TV into the gutter and take away employment for thousands of qualified actors, directors and writers. Reality shows highlight people who usually have no business being highlighted -- they are just freaks to be chewed up and spit out for the voyeurism of the viewer, or in the case of The A-List and The Bachelorette, they're cute freaks. Real reality can be riveting, as the viral video of the elderly bus monitor being harassed by students proves. But reality TV is now so removed from actual reality that they should come up with a new term for it.
Actually, because of Bristol Palin: Life's A Tripp, the term "Show Business" should now be changed to "Throw Any Shit On The Wall And See What Sticks Business."
Jim David's comic novel about showbiz, You'll Be Swell, is available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony EReader and IBooks.