There's little doubt that reality television can be a fabulous launching pad for a career in music. Just ask Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Leona Lewis, Danity Kane, or even old-school Star Search country band Sawyer Brown. They've all done just fine...and they have TV to thank!
But reality TV may be an even better re-launching pad for some artists. The old adage used to go something like, "Old musicians never die, they just fade away"--but now it's more like, "Old musicians never die, they just star on reality shows."
Yes, many musicians whose glory days of groupie-shagging, stadium-headlining, and royalty-collecting seemed far behind them have managed to resurrect, or even redefine, their careers on the small screen. And sure, such career moves may have cost them credibility in the long run, but hey, credibility won't feed and clothe Flavor Flav's seven (and counting) kids, pay off Bobby Brown's divorce attorney bills, or keep Bret Michaels' bandanna closet well stocked, will it?
There are many B-, C-, and D-listers who deserve honorable mentions on this list, including: Gene Simmons (Family Jewels, Rock School, Celebrity Apprentice); Dee Snider (Gone Country, Rock The Cradle, Celebrity Duets); Vanilla Ice (The Surreal Life, Hit Me Baby, Remaking); Danny Bonaduce (Breaking Bonaduce, I Know My Kid's A Star); Ted Nugent (Supergroup, Surviving Nugent, Wanted: Ted Or Alive); Tommy Lee (Rock Star: Supernova, Tommy Lee Goes To College); Pepa (The Surreal Life, The Salt-N-Pepa Show); and Da Brat (Celebrity Fit Club, The Surreal Life). But THEN there are the not-so-proud, the few...the celebs who have truly created full-fledged, phase-2 careers for themselves as reality show superstars.
So here, in ascending order of soul-selling successfulness, are music's top 10 reality resurrections:
10) Sebastian Bach - I have two words for you, dear readers: "SAVAGE ANIMAL!!!" When this loudmouthed ex-Skid Row mouthpiece repeatedly, and futilely, screamed this phrase--in a desperate attempt to convince his Supergroup co-stars that that should be the name of their new allstar band--he instantly entered the reality TV hall of fame/shame. He also managed to do the seemingly impossible: Make his bandmate Ted Nugent seem sane by comparison. By the end of the maddeningly short-lived Supergroup series, Sebastian had nearly been punched in the face by Biohazard's Evan Seinfeld, had coerced his wife Maria into doing a bi-curious lingerie photo shoot with Evan's porn-star wife, and had drained every wine bottle in the Supergroup mansion's cellar. Savage, indeed! Naturally such a star turn made Bach a much-in-demand reality rock star-for-hire, and soon the bigmouthed, bighaired rocker was back on the small screen, barking out LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" on MTV's Celebrity Rap Superstars. No word yet on whether or not he has any other reality shows planned, but real Bach-heads can always hope to catch a 3am rerun of the 2004 VH1 rockumentary I Married Sebastian Bach, all about Seb and Maria's dysfunctional yet functioning relationship.
Below are a couple clips...the first is of Bach in his Skid Row prime; the second is of the Savage Animal enjoying his reality-televised second wind. This is a pattern that'll be repeated for all the people on this list:
9) Jewel - Miss Kilcher sold about 20 jillion copies of her debut album, but that was a long, long time ago; nowadays she's seemingly so desperate for a reality TV resurrection, I wouldn't be surprised if she auditioned to be a bachelorette on Rock Of Love 3. First she appeared as a guest judge on American Idol, where she not only had to keep her cool while watching the female answer to William Hung yodel her way through a tone-deaf Jewel impersonation, but--according to rumor--had to contend with queen bee Paula Abdul, who reportedly was none too pleased to have to share screen time with a prettier, younger, less doped-up female panelist. Then Jewel joined forces with Nashville Star--hosting the show last season, and becoming a judge this year. Between NStar seasons, she also appeared on Fast Cars & Superstars (basically a very boring version of Skating With Celebrities, except with racecars instead of iceskates and William Shatner instead of Todd Bridges) and Ty Murray's Celebrity Bullriding Challenge, hosted by her longtime boyfriend, um, Ty Murray. So, what's next for Jewel's reality career? Will she go on Extreme Makeover to finally get those snaggleteeth of hers fixed? Will she compete against Gwen Stefani on Yodeling With The Stars? Will she become the host of season 2 of Bachelorettes In Alaska? Whatever show she signs up for, it'll probably a GOOD career move, oddly. These days Jewel is doing all right--her first country album, Perfectly Clear, debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Album Chart and at number eight on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart, so all this boob-tube exposure has obviously paid off.
8) Joey Fatone - Our poor pal Joey. While his ex-bandmate Justin was off becoming the biggest pop star on the planet, bagging Jessica Biel and Cameron Diaz, and making steamy music videos with Scarlett Johansson, Joey was all but forgotten. And it didn't help that, as the portliest member of *NSYNC, his last name literally spelled out "F-A-T O-N-E." But then Joey competed on season 4 of Dancing With The Stars, and with all those years of choreography experience under his belt, he nearly won. He took that belt in a few notches, too, as he lost more than 20 pounds while on the show. Soon the offers were pouring in. OK, maybe they were just trickling in, but still. At least he had offers, right? Joey soon signed on to host the don't-confuse-it-with-Don't-Forget-The-Lyrics game show The Singing Bee, then he emceed an even worse barrel-bottom-scraping show, Celebrity Circus. Next, he's slated to co-host, along with fellow DWTS alum Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown, The Singing Office--which looks like it's gonna be bad enough to make Celebrity Circus seem like The West Wing. But hey, at least Joey is gainfully employed again...and at least he never had to go on Mission: Man Band like that other ex-NSYNC dude, Chris Kirkpatrick.
7) Carnie Wilson - Sadly previously best known as Brian Wilson's daughter and "the fat one" always forced to stand behind strategically placed grand pianos or large potted plants in Wilson Phillips videos/photo shoots, Carnie first came to the small screen in 1995 with her short-lived talk show, then broke reality ground when she allowed her stomach-stapling surgery to be live-webcast in 1999. Years later, when the post-surgery, post-pregnancy pounds crept back on, Carnie joined the cast of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, and this put her back in the public eye in a big way (no pun intended). Soon she signed up for CMT's Gone Country (on which she inexplicably lost out to Julio Iglesias Jr.) and then the show with the stupidest name in TV history, VH1's magic competition Celebracadabra (on which she was the first elimination, losing out to C. Thomas "Ponyboy" Howell and one of the Pussycat Dolls). Next up is Outsider's Inn with her former Gone Country co-stars Bobby Brown (more on him later) and Maureen "Marcia Brady" McCormick--on which they'll run a rural bed & breakfast, and wackiness will surely ensue! But personally, I'm still waiting for Carnie to do a reality show with her dad...
6) Bobby Brown - OK, Being Bobby Brown was one of the best reality shows ever. EVER! This is a fact, and anyone who disagrees with this statement can just stop reading now. I see no valid reason why BBB only had to run for one season--why should a little thing like a divorce from Whitney Houston stop season 2 from going into production, huh? If anything, it would make the show ever better. But anyhoo, Bobby's show was such a smash that it opened up many more reality doors for him. He became the fan favorite on the aforementioned Gone Country (his original tune from the finale, "The Man I'm Gonna Be," was actually pretty good). And his proud-papa act as a very involved audience member on Rock The Cradle--cheering on his shirtless, talentless son Landon and nearly having a Whitney-style diva meltdown when Landon was voted off--was awesome must-see TV as well. But of course, it was Bobby's howlingly funny Gone Country sleepwalking incident, during which he nearly urinated on his unsuspecting bunkmate Dee Snider, that was real reality gold. Bedwetting-averse lodgers on Outsider's Inn better make sure their rooms are nowhere near Bobby's sleeping quarters.
5) Bret Michaels - The Poison frontman's hair-metal heyday may have been long gone--much like, rumor has it, much of his hair. But clearly he knew that there were plenty of buxom rock babes in America who were still willing to open up and say ahhh for even a (supposedly) washed-up heartthrob. So VH1 put out a casting call to find 25 skantastic, Lycra-sheathed, silicone-and-alcohol-engorged, Elimidate-esque metal groupies, stuck them in McMansion with seemingly bottomless supply of booze (and no one around to stop the "ladies" from pouring gallons of said booze straight down their deep throats--but plenty of cameramen around to film what transpires after they did)...and a real reality star was born! Sure, Bret had already dabbled with reality as a smartmouthed judge on Nashville Star (he remains my fave NStar judge ever, and I still miss him three seasons later), but it was on his dating show Rock Of Love (and Rock Of Love 2, natch) that Bret found his true calling. Rock Of Love was like one big season-long extendo-mix of Poison's "I Want Action" video, and the result was nothin' but a good time, of course! Now I'm just waiting for Bret and his winning season 2 bachelorette, Ambre, to decide to be "just good friends," so Rock Of Love 3 can start shooting already.
4) Jessica & Ashlee Simpson - Some readers might be surprised to see these alleged A-listers on a countdown like this. But those readers probably don't realize that it was MTV's Newlyweds that made Jessica a superstar in the first place. Before the show debuted in 2003, Jessica was just a poor man's Britney, a B-lister. Sure, she had a few pop hits, swapped spit with Ashton Kutcher on That '70s Show, starred in some Bally's Fitness ads, and published a wedding-themed coffeetable book that's probably on the $1 table at Crown Books by now. However, after Newlyweds she became America's most beloved dumb blonde since Marilyn Monroe--or at least since, well, Britney Spears. Little sister Ashlee followed with The Ashlee Simpson Show, which chronicled Ash's grueling life as she attempted to learn how to actually sing in time to make her debut album. Both Simpson sisters subsequently enjoyed great chart success while their respective shows were still on the air. So, is it a coincidence that since Newlyweds went into MTV2 reruns, Jessica has a) gotten divorced from Nick Lachey; b) recorded a flop album; c) been dumped by John Mayer, and rumor has it, Tony Romo; and d) starred in straight-to-Netflix movie turkeys like Employee Of The Month and Blonde Ambition? Or that since The Ashlee Simpson Show wrapped, Ash's third album Bittersweet World--despite being her best artistic achievement yet and featuring the work of sure-thing producers like Timbaland and the Neptunes--has not even gone gold? I think not. If these girls know what's good for them, Ashlee and her new hubby Pete Wentz will sign on to star in Newlyweds 2, and Jessica, who's reportedly in Nashville recording her first country album, will at the very least agree to make a cameo on CMT's Outsider's Inn. Reality TV is the Simpsons' only hopem really.
3) Ozzy Osbourne - For better or worse, metalman Ozzy and his kooky clan reinvented the entire reality genre with MTV's The Osbournes; soon after its massive success, the basic-cable airwaves were cluttered with tons of "we're crazy but we love each other and take out the garbage like everyone else" dysfunctional-family fare, like Meet The Barkers, Run's House, Gene Simmons' Family Jewels, Snoop Dogg's Fatherhood, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, et al. But none of these ripoff shows--surprisingly, not even Snoop's--offered the lovably, highly watchable, extremely bleepable appeal of Ozzy's TV tour de force. The Osbournes also introduced the former Black Sabbath-fronting, bat-biting, mush-mouthing rock god to a whole new audience three decades into his career, and launched a new side career for his wife/momager Sharon, who went on to host her own short-lived chat show and serve as a tough-loving judge on America's Got Talent and Britain's X Factor. One of the infamous Osbourne offspring, Jack, also starred on the Travel Channel's Adrenaline Junkie, and both Jack and his sister will probably end up on Celebrity Rehab 3 someday, too.
2) Flavor Flav - Ah, it is the ultimate Russian-nesting-doll paradigm of the Celebreality world: The Surreal Life begat Strange Love. Strange Love begat Flavor Of Love seasons 1, 2, and 3. And Flavor Of Love even spun off I Love New York, I Love New York 2, and Flavor Of Love Girls: Charm School, on which Flav never even appeared but still made Viking-horned his presence felt. (Twelve contestants from Flavor Of Love and I Love New York are also going to compete on the sure-to-be-Emmy-winning VH1 game show I Love Money, too, starting in July.) Man, who knew that one chance encounter between Brigitte Nielsen and Foofy Foofy in the Surreal Life's mansion pool would lead to all this, huh? Well, maybe Flav knew: As the wackiest and wildest hype man is all of hip-hop, he must've known that his gold-grilled, clock-slinging image was just made for TV. He's capitalized on his clownish persona quite impressively over the last few years, spitting out TV catchphrases like he used to spit hard-hitting rhymes, gradually becoming an even sillier caricature of his already silly self, and cackling all the way to the bank. After all that, it's almost hard to remember that Flav is a member of one of the most important, pioneering, and politically outspoken hip-hop acts of all time, Public Enemy...and it's actually kind of sad that the younger generation is probably more familiar with the time Sumpthin' took a dump on his floor than the time that, say, Flav and P.E.'s Chuck D rallied to make Martin Luther King Day a legal holiday in Arizona. Flav's recently gotten serious again, pledging to make an honest woman out of his real-life babymama Liz (to whom he was allegedly engaged BEFORE Flavor Of Love 3 started filming), so there will be no new seasons of his ratings-grabbing trainwreck of his Bachelor-style dating show. Also, he's trying his hand at "real" acting on the sitcom Under One Roof, on which he basically plays himself. But don't expect Flav to stay off the VH1 airwaves for too long. I'm personally hoping for a two-hour Trista-and-Ryan-style wedding special, starring Flav, Liz, baby Karma, and a whole lot of unsuccessfully Charm School'd bridesmaids.
1) Paula Abdul - Let's be honest here: Poor, forgotten Paula would likely be lying in a ditch somewhere, with her yappy chihuahas licking her feet and plaintively wailing, if American Idol hadn't come along and rescued her back in 2001. Pre-Idol, this onetime MTV it-girl had been on musical hiatus since 1996, after the failure of her 1995 album Head Over Heels. The former Mrs. Emilion Estevez/MC Skat Cat duet partner simply seemed doomed to footnote status; the best she could hope for was a segment on one of those VH1 "Where Are They Now?" or "I Heart The '90s"-type shows. But AmIdol changed all that. While Simon Cowell took on the role of the judge everyone loved to hate, the kinder and gentler Paula became the judge everyone just loved to love. And nothing--not a rumored affair with contestant Corey Clark, not her critique of a Jason Castro performance that hadn't even taken place, not her seeming drunkenness during live TV interviews, not her hot mess of a reality show Hey Paula, not even her terrible musical comeback attempt "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow"--could dethrone this beloved queen of reality TV. So in a way, Paula Abdul is American Idol's biggest success story.