Reality Rocks - Archive

Reality Romances & The MTV Curse

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

When will music's it-couples realize that love and cameras DO NOT MIX?

Never mind all the short-lived, star-crossed duos that met on reality TV (Flavor Flav and his Flavor Of Love castoffs; Bret Michaels and his Rock Of Love wannabe gal pals; Ray J and his surely soon-to-be-poured-down-the-drain Cocktail; Tila Tequila and her mixed-gender shots at love). No one ever expected those reality romances to last beyond their respective reunion specials. But it seems that even when established, real-life couples invite Celebreality camera crews into their Hollywood homes, their chances of happily-ever-after bliss become no better than that of, say, New York and Tailor Made.

The latest reality-casualty couple is Nas and Kelis, who sadly announced last week that they are getting divorced after four years of marriage--AND after seven months of Kelis's pregnancy with their first child. The hip-hop power couple were actually in the middle of shooting their own reality show for MTV, which will probably now never air, although here's a clip of what might have been:

Nas and Kelis are only the latest musical twosome to stop making beautiful music together shortly after having their relationship chronicled on camera. The most famous example of this phenomenon, of course, was the marriage of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, who'd barely even returned from their honeymoon before their hit MTV series Newlyweds went into production. The show worked wonders for both pop singers' fledgling careers: Jessica went from B-list Britney wannabe to A-list superstar, and Nick became known for something other than his run in the B-list boy band 98 Degrees. Newlyweds aired for four seasons during the Simpson-Lacheys' three years of marriage, but apparently the stress of having ubiquitous cameras capture every single inane "chicken or fish?" comment that came out of Jessica's veneer-capped mouth (and the subsequent exasperated, eye-rolling reaction from her long-suffering husband) took its toll.

Would these two still be together if their marriage had been allowed to develop off-camera? It's an age-old question as confusing as "chicken or fish," really.

Speaking of Britney, Spears and her infamous onetime husband, Kevin Federline, chronicled their own whirlwind courtship and white-trash wedding day in the short-lived UPN 2005 reality show, Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. Even by reality-television standards, Chaotic was real barrel-bottom-scraping material, pretty much consisting of cobbled-together amateur camcorder footage (much of it shot in ghoulish green nightvision) of the Spederlines gazing at their pierced navels with their suspiciously bloodshot eyes, slurrily yammering about deep stuff like love and the meaning of life, y'all, in between their cow-like chewing-gum chomps. Unsurprisingly, this relationship also did not last.

Now, obviously the demise of Britney's marriage cannot be solely blamed on Chaotic--we all know she had a pretty chaotic life before she even met K-Fed (the show now kind of serves as gritty documentation of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown). But did this filmed evidence of Britney and Kevin's flimsy emotional connection help matters? Um, probably not.  

And from Britney to Whitney...the dissolution of Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston's 14-year marriage genuinely, personally bummed me out, and NOT just because that meant there would be no second season of Bravo's compulsively watchable Being Bobby Brown. (That was part of the reason for my despondent reaction, though, along with the fact that Whitney later refused to give her approval for a Being Bobby Brown DVD release.) Sure, Bobby later returned to the reality-TV circuit on Gone Country and the rather terrible Outsider's Inn, but those shows never had magic moments like the ones he shared onscreen with then-wifey Whitney.

Whenever I saw Whitney and Bobby loonily dancing around hotel gift shops trying on cheap sunglasses or discussing their bodily functions in TMI detail, I thought, "Wow, these two are MADE for each other." And the Houston-Browns had previously overcome all sorts of obstacles during their tumultuous union, including Bobby's arrests and prison stints and Whitney's much-publicized drug struggles. But perhaps it was the humiliation of having their odd-coupling exploits exposed on basic cable that finally drove them apart.

A far less compulsively watchable reality show was MTV's Meet The Barkers, which followed the unexpectedly unexciting marriage between pageant queen/Playboy Playmate Shanna Moakler and her rock-star husband, Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker. It was perhaps the most boring series in MTV history (yes, even more boring than The Ashlee Simpson Show), especially considering that it a starred a copiously tattooed punk-rocker and a nudie pinup girl who used to date Oscar De La Hoya and Billy Idol. It's amazing that Meet The Barkers even got renewed for a second season, and even more amazing that the Barkers' marriage lasted that long, given how dull their relationship seemed to be.

Perhaps Shanna and Travis watched the show and it made them realize how unhappy they truly were. However, I do wish that the cameras had kept rolling after the Barkers inevitably filed for divorce: Their bitter breakup and off/on makeups since their 2006 split have been MUCH more interesting than anything that transpired on their actual show.

Another copiously tattooed rocker hit by the MTV reality curse was Jane's Addiction axeman Dave Navarro, whose engagement and wedding-planning with strippercize spokesbody Carmen Electra was detailed on the MTV series Till Death Do Us Part. This edgy couple started out so very promisingly--sending out save-the-date cards that featured a tasteful David LaChapelle photograph of the PVC-clad bride and groom posing as corpses in a morgue--but unfortunately, it was their marriage that was eventually DOA.

More like Till Reality TV Do Us Part, I suppose...

R&B superstarlet Brandy perhaps let the cameras get way too close during her reality TV stint: not in a morgue, of course, but in a situation and setting almost as uncomfortable and innappropriate. During her four-episode MTV series Brandy Norwood: A Special Delivery, a camera crew loitered just outside the delivery room when she gave birth of her first child with her then-husband, Robert Smith. No, it wasn't THAT Robert Smith, of the Cure, but the chances of a marriage succeeding between Brandy and that spidery-haired goth legend might've been just as good: Her relationship with the other Robert fell apart only a year after A Special Delivery aired, when it was also revealed that they were not legally married in the first place.

Did Brandy's willingness to allow the couple's very personal and private moment to be shared with millions of MTV-viewing strangers have anything to do with the failure of her relationship, or was it just another random case of the MTV Curse? Who knows.

And finally, the marriage of pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and his wife Linda lasted 22 long years before Hogan Knows Best hit the VH1 airwaves in 2005. But it turned out Hogan didn't know best when it came to signing up for such a show, as just two years later, the stress of constant camera scrutiny led to the demise of the Hogans' once-strong union. The program probably helped the struggling musical career of Hulk and Linda's wannabe-pop-star daughter, Brooke Hogan...but considering that the Hogans' divorce can allegedly be attributed to Hulk's affair with a twentysomething hottie who worked on Brooke's 2006 album, such success came at an extremely high price.

Guess there's also such a thing as the VH1 Curse.

Of course, a few musical reality couples have managed to survive off-camera. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are still odds-defyingly together, but then again, they've had to contend with matters far more serious than an invasive camera crew. (For instance, Ozzy once tried to choke Sharon to death during a drug-induced rage, according to Sharon's famous Behind The Music testimony.) And MTV-curse-beating star Reverend Run is still with his wife, Justine Simmons, even after the couple had to publicly address the tragic stillbirth of their baby daughter on season 3 of Run's House. But Run and Justine have their religious faith to keep them going, which probably wasn't the case with, say, Carmen and Dave.

Reality couples like the Osbournes and the Simmonses are the exception, not the rule. So let the other examples above serve as cautionary tales for any pop couple tempted to sign up for a couple lucrative seasons with MTV or VH1. (Jay-Z and Beyonce, J.Lo and Marc, Xtina and Jordan, Justin and Jessica, Chris and Gwyneth, Avril and Derryck...stay off the air!)

However, MTV execs, if you're reading this: Please air those lost episodes of the Nas & Kelis show. Or least get Kelis to approve the DVD release...

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