Bret Michaels: 2, Scott Baio: 0. Not a soccer score (go Galaxy!), but how I feel these two celebrities stack up with their new reality programs (both, two episodes into their season), airing on VH1 every Sunday. I’m not always a fan of VH1’s “Celebreality” shows, placing has-been once-upon-a-time stars inside ridiculously overblown scenarios. But, when it’s good, it’s divine trash. In more ways than 20, divine trash is what we have in Rock of Love, the Bret Michaels dating series in which the Poison lead singer must pick his favorite (how should I put this?) superfan amongst 20 or so viable candidates. It’s a rip-off of The Bachelor, once removed, since it’s really more a direct descendent of VH1’s original divine trash “Celebreality” creation, Flavor of Love, starring Flavor Flav.
What makes Rock of Love even bigger and better than Flavor, is the longer tradition of rock groupies. Believe it or not, the contestants of this show actually make the Flavor women look downright classy. These 20 Rock ladies (who are sadly entertaining to watch because: 1. they can do way better than Michaels, or 2. they could never do any better than Michaels) represent the origin of a species, almost like a historical exhibit run amok all over basic cable. Imagine a sequel to Night at the Museum, only starring Vince Neil instead of Ben Stiller, and the museum is now the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. On Flavor of Love, the hypeman had to invent nicknames for each woman. On Rock of Love, there’s no need because half of them are reportedly exotic dancers already using stage names like “Rodeo,” “Tawny,” and “Dallas.” Oh, and there are three “Brandi’s.” It just gets better and better (and sadder) from there. Throw in the fact that Bret Michaels isn’t even all that charismatic or bright, and you have a real tug-of-war on your hands. It’s candy for the brain. Very addictive candy.
In the case of Scott Baio Is 45… and Single, there’s no war, not even enough conflict to make one episode feel interesting. The premise of the series revolves around former television star Baio, and his quest to settle down after decades of infamous bachelor living. He hires a life coach, takes a break from his steady girlfriend, and takes solace in “the guys,” three other men in their 40s. The show might be worth watching if it had one small ingredient: a star we cared about. I was willing to give Baio the benefit of the doubt, but he comes across (staged or not) like a grouchy jerk. He doesn’t like his fans, for starters, which I have to say blows my mind because… if someone in 2007 is willing to call themselves “a Scott Baio fan,” he should kiss their feet. In addition to that, Baio doesn’t seem as interested in finding commitment as he does in finding more screentime.
Add to the mix the ridiculously cliche outings with his friends (“Yo, we’re guys, let’s go to the track and smoke cigars!” “Road trip to Palm Springs!”), which includes series producer Jason Hervey. Hervey, as you may recall, is himself a former childstar (he played Wayne in The Wonder Years) who has been married for a decade to a former pornstar. Now, doesn’t that sound like a more interesting reality show than watching Scott Baio call up his ex-girlfriends to find out why he’s never been married? Plus, it doesn’t even look like Baio will get face time with the only ex-girlfriends we’d care to see in the first place (Pamela Anderson, Nicolette Sheridan, Denise Richards, Heather Locklear, etc.). The ex-girlfriends that fill out this season, instead, are: random co-star number one, random nude model number three, and Nicole Eggert.
Sheesh. Maybe I wouldn’t care if VH1 didn’t decide to have two brand-new shows starring two mid-40s has-beens looking for love, on the same night. Granted, they do provide slightly different views on commitment for older men. At their core, though, these two shows are essentially about the same thing: it doesn’t matter how far your star has fallen, if you were famous once, you will get companionship forever. I think the target demographic is pretty obvious, but the actual product is not so convincing. Consider me committed to Bret Michaels, and dumping Scott Baio. Finally, Pamela Anderson and I have something in common.