“Chrisley Knows Best” (Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET on USA) hit the free press/controversy motherlode before the first episode had even aired, as the self-proclaimed “metrosexual” patriarch of the Chrisley family, Todd, set off gaydars across the country.
It didn't help that in the first few episodes of the show the entrepreneur crowed about his family spending $300,000 a year on clothes, admitted he found it unappealing to make women's clothing any larger than “a four or a six” (his wife Julie is pretty clearly in the double digits) and seems to be Botoxed with an inch of his life (go ahead, wait to see if his forehead ever moves — it doesn't). But what's really weird about “Chrisley Knows Best” is that somehow it still appears to be a warm-and-fuzzy family show under the (very, very) superficial surface.
Despite his plastic appearance (or, as Julie calls it, “metrosexual” and “hip”), Todd is a dad from the school of tough love who, despite giving his kids a lavish lifestyle, doesn't indulge them when it comes to what he considers proper behavior. After 17-year-old Chase decides to meet a girl at a basketball game without permission, the next day he discovers a boot on his front wheel and the grim prospect of using public transportation. In an era of helicopter parenting, there's something quietly thrilling about watching a parent who is, if anything, overprotective and unyielding.
But Todd's appeal largely comes from his outsized (some, I'm sure, would say flamboyant) personality. His son isn't just hormonal, he's “hot as a four-balled tomcat” and “would screw a snake if somebody would hold its damn head.” His daughter Savannah isn't banned from wearing a dress that's too revealing, she “ain't wearing a coochie cutter!” and “there better not be a little breeze” when she bends over. Todd wasn't just a wild teenager, he's “been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, son, and you're just doing reruns.” Imagine a Southern-fried Tim Taylor or Dr. Huxtable, but crazy and a little mean.
Of course, watching a dad keep his kids under virtual house arrest wouldn't be much fun if we didn't see the marshmallow center beneath, and “Chrisley Knows Best” is, in that respect at least, a traditional sitcom (reality be damned). When he sees his “little girl” at her Sweet Sixteen party, Todd gets a little weepy and teases the boy she's crushing on until she's squealing. Sure, most 16-year-olds aren't wearing Valentino and a matronly updo to their shindigs, but hey, Savannah is clearly her father's label-conscious daughter.
That level of ostentation and superficial excess may ultimately overwhelm the cuddlier aspect of “Chrisley Knows Best.” If you watch the Kardashians without blinking an eye you'll probably be fine, but if you don't you may find the Chrisleys' version of living large excessive. There is plastic surgery ahead for one of the daughters. Savannah gets a Mercedes convertible as a birthday gift while Chase has equally upscale wheels. We'll have to see if we get to tag along with Todd when he gets his next round of Botox.
It's also notable that Todd's tough love efforts to keep his teenagers under lock and key seem to have backfired with his older children (Lindsie, 24, eloped and five months later announced she was pregnant; while Kyle, 23, was shipped off to Samoa to work with the Red Cross after his parents caught him having an affair with a married woman). It certainly doesn't stop the other kids from mouthing off. Unfortunately, they haven't inherited their dad's (or mom's) flair with a snappy comeback, either. The kids are typical teenagers, but hardly charismatic.
Given how many reality shows have gotten a little too real after unfortunately revealing interviews or bad behavior when the cameras aren't running, it's too soon to say if “Chrisley Knows Best” will be charmingly weird or ultimately unappealing. But it's a fair guess to say that, no matter what, Todd Chrisley will be just fine, thank you very much, and doesn't give a crap whether you like him or not.
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