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'Barely Famous' series premiere fan react: You have to sell your soul

Season 1 | Episode 1 | “Pilot” | Aired Mar 18, 2015

Hmmm … how should I describe VH1’s new show, Barely Famous? Simply put, it’s a fun, half-hour comedy that seems like a reality show, and makes me laugh out loud, a LOT. On the surface, it’s a silly, self-conscious look at sisters Erin and Sara Foster’s desperation to be a part of Hollywood’s A-list set.

But don’t be fooled. It’s far more than that. Once you get past the glossy first glance, underneath the vapid reality smarm is a scripted show posing as a reality show wrapped around a satire about fame and celebrity. The premise is brilliant. Without really succumbing to the genre, Erin and Sara have disguised a reality show as biting social commentary about how hungry Hollywood is for fame and celebrity—and the lengths people will go to be famous.

It is a total deconstruction of the reality paradigm from the inside out. Erin and Sara, both daughters of famed, Emmy-winning musician David Foster, are playing versions of themselves that highlight the worst in wannabe celebrity culture. If Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage had a two-headed baby, this would be it.

Sara, the older of the two, had an actual career playing Jen on the the updated version of The CW’s 90210, which was cancelled in 2013. Her part, her sister is quick to point out, was canceled in 2012, so she has a smidge of fame, sorta. She is frantic to recapture that celebrity, so the fictionalized version of Sara reads as a fame-whore who admits to being “open to selling a piece of my soul” for more recognition as a celeb.

The lines are pretty blurry as to where the fiction starts and stops. Erin really is a writer and wrote this script for the two of them after being offered “over a hundred reality shows,” and not liking any. Erin, in real life, says she is a fan of reality television, but the character Erin feel like reality television is beneath her. They both spend the whole episode dodging the idea that they are doing a reality show, calling it a documentary instead.

It is a little weird, subsequently, that they would wind up doing a show about a reality show. But it is such an interesting and funny mashup that you stop trying to figure out, “Are they for real?” and you just succumb to the premise.

On the show, Erin longs for a “normal” life, and just wants a regular guy who “doesn’t know Kendall Jenner and can fix stuff.” Their reality-style, talking-head interviews serve as a fun-house mirror exposing all the the worst things we believe to be true about celebrities. They are so obviously overblown that it’s hard to imagine anyone misunderstanding the satire … But of course, there are always a few. Just read the comments on the show’s VH1 page.

When Erin goes out with, Jensen, a “normal” guy from the Apple store, their lopsided smalltalk is dramatic irony at its best. Jensen doesn’t know Erin’s background, and they engage in a little L.A. chitchat. Erin admits to Googling him and when nothing returns, she calls him “very mysterious.” He’s from Oregon, after all.

Her attempts to act normal are cartoonish, so when Erin gets a sext from (the) James Franco, and then they run into childhood friend Nicole Richie, it all becomes too much for “normal” guy Jensen. He bolts, but ultimately winds up giving her a second-chance date. It ends in a similarly cartoonish way, with Erin pushing his mom’s car into a gas station after it runs out of gas.

That moment is caught by TMZ, but it’s no accident. Sara, in league with her publicist, has manufactured a run-in with the paparazzi at the gas station, but can’t start the encounter until she “gets into character.” She first asks if pumping gas makes her look young, pretends to be angry, demands he go away, then panics when he starts to leave.

The whole bit is absurd and a little on the nose, but Sara plays the straight woman to perfection. The Sara character takes herself so seriously that it’s easy to laugh at her without much sympathy, which is kind of the point.

The TMZ scene comes on the heels of a Birkin-related humiliation, when Sara is denied a bag in favor of Kate Hudson. When she protests, the clerk tells her it’s because Kate Hudson won an Oscar, and Sara replies snarkily, “Yeah, like 15 years ago.” Right then, I decided to love and hate these characters (emphasis on the “and”).

Barely Famous is never mean, unless it’s at the expense of the leading ladies, so it doesn’t come off bitter or combative. It’s a really funny “inside” look at Hollywood, told from the point of view of two characters who aren’t really on the inside at all, but desperately want to be.

I just hope folks get it and that the premise doesn’t get in its own way. What did you guys think about the first episode? Are you as smitten as I am?

Barely Famous airs Wednesdays at 9:30/8:30C on VH1.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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