Reality on Crack 

P. Diddy, Kato Kaelin, Liza Minnelli and Anna Nicole Smith: Just plain folks.

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The talk of the 2002 Television Critics Association press tour held this month in Pasadena—which The Only TV Columnist That Matters™ did not attend, because I work for a living and don’t have time for a two-week vacation hanging out with fat ’n’ sweaty TV critics—was The Next Big Celeb-Reality Sitcom. More specifically, who in the hell is going to top MTV’s The Osbournes?

If the names P. Diddy, Kato Kaelin, Liza Minnelli and Anna Nicole Smith sprang instantly to mind, you’re probably on even better drugs than whatever Sharon’s slipping into Ozzy’s Diet Cokes.

In the mad rush to cash in on the surprise phenomenon of The Osbournes, these are the dubious celebrities willing to have their lifestyles of the rich and infamous recorded 24/7 and spat out onto basic cable for pop-culture consumption. The B-list celeb’s choices are limited in the New Millennium—gone are the days of guesting on The Love Boat and Murder She Wrote, and infomercials or Hollywood Squares just ain’t enough. Thanks to Oz, everyone’s jonesing for their very own Show All About Me. Publicity is like crack and luckily for them, the only thing cheaper to produce than crack is reality-TV programming.

Love him, hate him or laugh uncontrollably at him, P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs still has a decent portion of his 15 minutes on the fame clock left, and his show won’t exactly be his show: He’ll be the designated “starmaker” of MTV’s Making the Band 2, coming in October. Unlike the first go-round, which chronicled the creation and arguable “development” of half-assed boy-band O-Town, Making the Band 2 will feature the Diddster auditioning and then molding a hip-hop/R&B group into record-label material. If they happen to get gunned down or tossed in jail somewhere along the way as associates of the Bad Boy crew are wont, hey, great TV!

Even a good drive-by or two couldn’t make this interesting: Former O.J. Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin, who’s famous for nothing else besides being a houseguest, has taped three episodes of himself being a houseguest for a show he’s attempting to sell called … Houseguest. He’s obviously good at what he does, too, but no network has bitten on this gold mine yet. No, not even UPN.

Even stranger than the thought of Kaelin actually securing a deal for that sad spectacle is VH1’s idea of a reality-TV replacement for Tommy Lee, the guy the network was wooing to become their very own Ozzy. When talks broke down between the former Mr. Pamela Anderson and VH1, presumably over the technical details of shooting the show in wide-screen (little inside joke for fans of Pamela & Tommy Lee: Hardcore & Uncensored), the net rung up the next logical rock & roll outlaw. Kid Rock? Lil’ Kim? That dickhead from Creed? Nope—Liza Minnelli. Pure … fuggin’ … genius. Exactly who is the target audience for this? Kato Kaelin?

The only real answer to The Osbournes on the TV horizon appears to be E!’s The Anna Nicole Show, debuting Aug. 4 and starring larger-than-life (and Liza and Kato combined) stripper/ model/actress/millionaire Texas widow Anna Nicole Smith. She has an accent, she’s rich, she’s nuts, she’s got a wacky family (of sorts) and a yappy little dog named Sugar Pie—could the scenario be more perfect? Also, there’s only one surly teen to endure (ANS’ 16-year-old son Daniel), and the other two “family” members are on the payroll: Her attorney/friend Howard Stern (no, not that one) and purple-haired personal assistant Kim, an ex-Jehovah’s Witness who proudly sports an “Anna Nicole” tattoo. Sweet.

Sure, E! reportedly had to pump her full of Red Bull (a conspicuously-placed sponsor) to actually get her out of bed and do anything worth taping, but think of the upside: No one’s going to record a crap Anna Nicole Show “soundtrack” album for rush-release in time for Christmas. Dear God—let’s hope, anyway.

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