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Reality Check: "Victoria Beckham: Coming to America"

So I finally got around to watching NBC's backdoor pilot/one-hour special, Victoria Beckham: Coming to America last night. (For those of you who missed it, it repeats this Thursday or can be watched--in its entirety--online.)

I have to say, off the bat, that I am surprised that the former Posh Spice isn't a train wreck, but a rather funny, somewhat polished personality who came across at times as refreshingly down to earth. I had expected to tune in to find her having a Paula Abdul-sized breakdown after being forced to shop at Kitson in full view of the papparazzi or crying her eyes out for the mean things that Perez Hilton said about her. Instead, she handled the above, along with taking her drivers license test, getting pulled over by police, and house-hunting, with an aura of calm.

And that's perhaps the crux of the problem with Victoria Beckham: Coming to America. She comes across as, well, a little too nice. Part of the reason people tune into these shows is for the behind-the-scenes factor: catching a glimpse of what it is like to be famous, while also actively routing for their downfall. (We do love to put our celebs up on pedestals and then pull them down.)

The Simple Life
presented its celebutants as moronic ne'er-do-wells who unwittingly found themselves in a reality-sized sitcom each week, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List shows a celebrity clinging on to her somewhat-famous status in a comedic fashion, while Hey Paula showed a sign of Paula Abdul that was utterly and completely confounding. Personally, I felt so bad for Paula, obviously going through, er, something, that I found the series distasteful; it wasn't so much of a six-car pile up as it was just depressing to witness her PR peeps working overtime to make some sense of her slurring, highly collapsible persona.

Meanwhile, I don't feel bad for Victoria Beckham; she comes across as a nice enough person, if a little in her own world. But she's also not a villain like, say, Tom Sizemore or Brittany Spears, whom you want to see come crashing to their senses. A potential reality series following the Beckhams therefore seems... a little flat. There's no push to see her as a chronically misunderstood reality series character. Instead, she did seem to be a good wife, mother, and neighbor, even turning up at the home of a socialite for an afternoon party filled with some freakishly eccentric women, including one in a powder blue pantsuit able to mimic a dolphin's call.

While that's one issue, the biggest problem I had with the pilot or special (call it whatever you want) was that it felt overly contrived and set-up, even for a reality TV show. That first meeting with her new American PA by the pool with her makeup artist and hairstylist, where the "poor" PA--with her baggy clothes and dutiful note taking--put her foot in her mouth when it came to hubby David Beckham? Unbelievable. The fact that said PA contacted an earthquake specialist while Posh is house-hunting? Even more ludicrous. The LA Dodgers just happen to call her right after coming to America to throw out the first pitch? Highly suspect.

Moments like those just scream of producer involvement. I accept that scripting plays a role in every reality television project (either before or after editing), but everything that happened--from the socialite luncheon to the blow-up doll bait-and-switch--felt so completely forced that the ink was still wet on the script pages.

And that's perhaps the biggest crime of Victoria Beckham: Coming to America: taking a larger-than-life celebrity whose every day is a source of tabloid-fodder and turning her life into something as creakily plotted as the Spice Girls movie. After an hour, the only real impression of pouty fashionista Victoria Beckham we're left with is, yes, the girl is pretty Posh after all.

"Victoria Beckham: Coming to America" re-airs this Thursday evening at 10 pm on NBC.

What's On Tonight

8 pm: The King of Queens/The King of Queens (CBS); Most Outrageous Moments (NBC); America's Next Top Model (CW); The Next Best Thing: Who is the Greatest Celebrity Impersonator? (ABC); So You Think You Can Dance (FOX; 8-9:30 pm)

9 pm: Criminal Minds (CBS);
Last Comic Standing (NBC); America's Next Top Model (CW); American Inventor (ABC); Don't Forget the Lyrics (FOX; 9:30-10 pm)

10 pm: CSI: New York (CBS); Dateline (NBC);
Traveler (ABC)

What I'll Be Watching

10 pm:
Top Chef on Bravo.

On tonight's episode of
Top Chef
("Latin Lunch"), the chefs must serve their dishes to the cast and crew of Telemundo's "Dame Chocolate," Padma tells the chefs this round is all about timing, and Hung runs around the kitchen with a very large cleaver. Seriously.

10 pm: Traveler.

It's the, er, "season" finale of Traveler tonight. On tonight's episode ("The Exchange"), Jay and Tyler finally manage to connect with the enigmatic Will Traveler to expose the Dexler bomber while Agent Marlow is yanked off of the case.

Comments

BigKountry said…
I heard some pretty good reviews on the Victoria Beckham show, which leaves me to wonder was it a good show becoz we thought it was going to be a train wreck like the Paul Abdul show or was it really good ? Does that make sense ? Anyway if your a reality tv junkie like i am & your looking for your summer fixx, HGTV's Design Star is back for its second season and promises to top the last season with wacky characters and a good location (VEGAS!)Anything shot in Vegas makse good TV, just ask the guys at MTV. Here's a link for the previews & check out the characters http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/design_star/. I work for HGTV so i'm just sharing.
Matt said…
Wait, are you telling me you saw the Spice Girls Movie? For shame.

I did manage to catch a few minutes of the Victoria Beckham special as well but other than looking really skinny, she also seemed reasonably stable. The highlight for me was when she sniffed her armpit.
Anonymous said…
Jace, your review was dead on. Victoria Beckham is just too cool and collected to be interesting. Which sounds horrible but it's true. Unlike most reality stars, she actually seems articulate and fun to hang out with...which, unfortunately, doesn't make good reality TV. I mean, I love Nicole Kidman but can you imagine her having her own reality show? Yawn city. Oh, well. After the disaster that is Paula Abdul, it was kind of refreshing to see a huge celebrity that isn't falling apart at the seems. Good on you, Posh!
Scott said…
Over here in the UK the show had a caption at the start saying some scenes in the show had been dramatised and that Victoria’s PA was played by an actress. So it was all tosh. But as someone who finds here quite annoying and pointless for the most part, I actually quite enjoyed the programme and all its fakeness and agree that she came across ok really.
Anonymous said…
Yeah, on the one shown in the UK on Tuesday it had a diclaimer type thing at the start, but all (most) reality shows are usually a bit faked anyways so i wasn't bothered by it. I found it quite funny aswell not what i thought it would be like.

The best part i thought was th earthquake thing or the househunting.

The worst would be the driving test section, the bit when she was driving though was funny but the test part was cringeworthy!

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