There are some things that make for great reality television fodder.
Gossiping housewives, taut and tanned partying twenty-somethings and a sassy, 7-year-old aspiring beauty queen hopped up on a sugary concoction called "go-go juice" are a few of the mindless reality plots that come to mind.
But there are some things that shouldn't be documented.
Watching a family grieve and pick up the pieces after a devastating loss is at the top of the list.
That’s what makes “The Houstons: On Our Own,” which premiered Wednesday on Lifetime, such an uncomfortable intrusive watch.
Reality series centered on celebrities and their interpersonal relationships are always a fun snapshot behind the excess of fame and fortune. They offer viewers a chance to live vicariously through the lens of their favorite star and see how underneath it all they are just like us.
It was fun when it was the eccentricities of the Osbornes, the oversharing cringe-worthiness of Gene Simmons’ clan or the bickering of Brandy and Ray J. Being a fly on the wall in these worlds is the sort of escapist television that is inviting to pass the time. And it's an added bonus to see the juicy drama of celebrity -- VH1 has built entire programming blocks around it.
But here, it just doesn’t feel right watching a family whose central character died so tragically, while the death – and the salacious details surrounding it – is still so fresh in our minds.
When Whitney Houston died of a combination of heart trouble and cocaine ingestion barely 24 hours before the Grammy telecast in February, the shock was widespread. But so was the intrigue.
Tracing the latter half of the pop titan’s life had become sport for supermarket gossip rags as she struggled with substance abuse. The headlines (and constant speculation) came fast and furious when her life came to an end in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton hours before mentor Clive Davis' annual Pre-Grammy Gala.
Three months to the day after her untimely death, Lifetime announced it had secured a reality show anchored by her family. Despite the positive spin, how could the network not find themselves high-fiving over the potential ratings gold? It worked for Oprah Winfrey, whose sit-down with the family exactly a month later drew OWN’s largest audience ever.
The 14 episodes center around Whitney’s manager, sister-in-law and closest confidant Pat Houston, Whitney's brother Gary and the couple’s teenage daughter Rayah. Her mother, Cissy Houston, also appears.
But that’s not why viewers likely tuned in to watch the premiere Wednesday night and Lifetime probably knows this.
Clips teasing the show heavily feature Houston’s only child, Bobbi Kristina Brown, who also stars. Though Pat is the main character, Bobbi -- already dealing with intense media scrutiny -- is the driving force. And the reason to tune in -- and people will tune in.
The show picks up three months after Houston’s passing as the family prepares to celebrate Mother’s Day without her. Scenes include going to her grave for the first time.
Three minutes into the first episode Bobbi Kristina is defending her controversial relationship with fiance Nick Gordon. It was reported that Houston took Gordon in and informally adopted him. They both are adamant that no one understands their relationship.