I was not expecting to enjoy the preview episodes of Fox’s new reality show House Husbands of Hollywood. I can’t remember a time when at-home dads were ever treated fairly on television and film, so why should a Fox reality show be any different?
I consider myself an original fan of reality television. I gorged myself on episodes of the first three seasons of MTV’s The Real World, and then repeated the process for Road Rules. My infatuation with reality television culminated in a research paper that impressed my TV/Broadcasting professor so much that he felt compelled to accuse me of plagiarism. I’m still simultaneously honored and annoyed at him about that.
Ever since Fear Factor, the quality of reality television has exponentially worsened, reaching it’s peak of lameness in the days of Joe Millionaire. I feel like there’s an uptick in the quality of reality TV (Amazing Race), but there’s still much to despise (Wife Swap).
Setting aside the 80s atrocity Mr. Mom, there have been some decent fictional portrayals of at-home dads. Little Children was a book and movie that showed the inner conflict primary caregivers have between their potential alternative lives and their actual lives, but it didn’t do us any favors by depicting us as adulterers. Louis C.K. had a short-lived sitcom on HBO called “Lucky Louie” that did a good job of shining a light on the aspects of fathering that are annoying, but again, he didn’t do us any favors by portraying himself as a lazy slacker.
I went into the first three preview episodes of House Husbands of Hollywood with preselected questions on which to evaluate the program. I wanted to make sure that I knew what I wanted from the series before I judged it.
So, here are my questions, and the answers that followed after watching the preview.
Does it portray SAHDs in a good light?
This was one of the questions that most concerned me, and I can reply with an unequivocal… YES. Not only does it portray SAHDs in a good light, but some of them are so perfect that it makes us lazy dads look bad. One of the House Husbands in particular is a former marine sniper (who looks remarkably like Christian Bale), and there’s not one chore he can’t handle. He’ll even multitask and cook while holding his daughter, while his unappreciative wife relaxes.
If anything, the only cast member portrayed negatively was Danny who was one of the two House Husbands without kids. Danny, who is focused on his non-existent acting career, failed to impress because he seemed to be constantly whining about not wanting kids.
Danny’s wife is hot, and he would do well to do whatever she wants because I doubt that he’s going to be the next Tom Hanks.
What reality show does it remind me of the most?
I have to be honest that I haven’t seen any episodes of Real Housewives of Orange County (or New Jersey), but I’m under the impression that it might be patterned off of that. I always imagined those shows to be about elitist soccer moms with too much money. Perhaps it’s my unintended sexism that makes me have a distaste for comparing House Husbands to Housewives, but my wife also agrees with me. Most of the men on this show seem really down to Earth and likable, and I’m not sure if would say the same thing about the Orange County housewives.
If I had to compare, I’d say that the show reminds me of Run’s House on MTV, but instead of focusing on one family, it focuses on five, and it’s an hour long instead of 30 minutes. Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, but I mean it to be a compliment.
Would it appeal to the general public?
I have a sneaky suspicion that this show will market better with women than men. I think most moms get a kick out of seeing a man do housework and child rearing. A telling moment from the first episode is when some SAHMs are talking about applying make-up to impress Grant (the Christian Bale look-alike) during playgroup. I think the same sort of giddiness that they feel will translate to other moms across America.
Personally, as a SAHD in the trenches, I enjoyed it, and I think other SAHDs will too. Other than that, I think that the only way guys will watch this is if their wives make them.
Do I like the characters?
Do you remember Ron Johnson from A Different World? If you hated that guy, you may change your mind seeing him as an adult (and not dressed in neon green overalls). He’s married to Tempest Bledsoe from The Cosby Show, a match made in heaven, for sure.
My favorite character is Charlie, a former bank robber turned lovable domestic teddy bear. This guy is funny, and I like his personal journey.
I’ve already mentioned Grant, whom I like, and Danny, whom I dislike, but I’ve yet to bring up Billy Ashley, a former player for the LA Dodgers. He’s probably the most realistic of all the Dads. He tries to keep a tight schedule, he allows himself an adequate amount of appropriate anger, and yet he seems to be a good sport about the swap in gender roles. He went so far as to help his wife with her make-up line, but he nearly castrated himself indulging her in teaching her girlfriends how to cook twice-baked potatoes. Yikes.
Does the show seem real or staged?
I might have to deduct some points on this question. There are staged moments when the guys, who don’t seem to have previously known each other, interact at social events. It seemed forced when one of the House Husbands became the other’s personal trainer. Every episode included at least one staged interaction, but I was willing to get past it since I felt that the staged aspects added a good dimension to the show.
Once you realize that aspects of the “reality” are staged, it makes you question whether everything is staged. Are they going on a date because they want to go on a date or because the producers are paying? Are they having “the talk” with their kids because a script writer thought it might be a good idea?
Did it capture my attention?
I’ll say this, I’m a little bummed that I had the privilege to watch the show early because I’ll miss the excitement of watching each week when it airs in August. I spoiled three weeks of programming!
My personal “reality” pet peeves are cheesy music, jump cuts, gags, and forced game show elements, and I can honestly say that there was nothing of the kind. For an example of what I hate, see the new reality show on Sundays with the families that compete in RVs. Not good entertainment!
There’s one quirky element to the show, and it’s pop-up definitions to words such as “man cave”. I kind of liked the pop-ups because they only showed up once or twice per episode, and they were funny.
Did my wife like it?
Yes, she did, and believe me when I tell you that she’s very picky about her entertainment.
Well, that’s it. I just realized that this show will not be premiering on the Fox network, but it will instead be on the Fox Reality Channel. That sucks because I don’t get cable, and this series deserves to be noticed. If you do get cable, you should tune in and check out House Husbands of Hollywood when it airs Saturday August 15th at 9pm.
Update: New episodes will appear on Hulu if you don’t have cable.