Once long ago, VH1 had cornered the market on pimping out D-list celebrities for embarrassing and potentially revealing docudrama. “Celebrity Rehab,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “The Surreal Life” were memorable for inviting people we’d mostly forgotten about to reveal their drinking problems, upper arm flab and general nuttiness to the public at a time when not everyone was doing it. VH1 shows did a remarkable job of tarnishing the golden memories of our youth, or simply confirmed stuff that we always suspected (like Screech really was a jerkwad in real life, too).
But now it’s understood that when an acting job doesn’t come your way, it’s time to hit the reality TV circuit, exposing yourself for free food and a basic cable paycheck. “Couples Therapy,” now in its third season (Wed. at 10:00 p.m.) is remarkably like “Celebrity Rehab” with its group therapy sessions and gimmicky bonding activities, with the exception of the so-called professionals at the helm. Where Dr. Drew radiated a certain amount of calm, collected confidence in his abilities, Dr Jenn Berman communicates mostly by yelling. When she wants cast member (there’s no way to call him a patient or client without rolling your eyes) to pay attention to his wife’s pain, Dr. Jenn (that’s what everyone else calls her) shrieks, “You bleeping laughed at her!” which just makes Flavor Flav laugh a little more. It’s pretty clear that, though all of the celebrities on the show clearly need help, they don’t expect to get it here.
In season 1, the sorta-celebrities are Joe Francis and Amber Wilson (smut peddler and model), Tyler Baltierra and Catelynn Lowell (unprotected sex partners on “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom”), Chingy Bailey and Tempest Poteat (rapper and model), Heather Marter and Dustin Zito (“Real World Las Vegas” co-stars) and Flavor Flav and Liz Trujillo. I often forget that Flavor Flav was actually in Public Enemy. He’s been peddling ridiculous on VH1 for so long it’s hard not to think he was a sideshow freak or a cartoon creation by the network itself.
In this week’s episode, the focus is squarely on Joe, Amber, Flav and Liz. It’s not unlike a battle between two couples to prove which one is more screwed up, but as they’re both train wrecks we can start with the less nightmarish of the two. Joe wants us all to know he’s absolutely about empowering his live-in girlfriend. Yes, the guy behind “Girls Gone Wild” is alllll about female empowerment. Those drunk chicks flashing their hooters for creepy guys everywhere? I’m sure that was about helping them own their sexuality!
Anyway, Joe tells Dr. Jenn in group that he feels really, really bad that he didn’t notice that Amber had a severe eating disorder. Hell, I noticed Amber had a severe eating disorder when she put on a tank top and looked like she was auditioning for Skeletor. Anyway, Dr. Jenn screams at Joe that he’s a control freak. He’s not! He’s not! Amber, you should have defended me, he says in a calm, serial killer kind of way. Amber apologizes profusely as if she’s about to be hit. Temple points out that Amber seems pretty afraid of Joe, though he certainly can’t understand that. He’s a slimeball, though a rich slimeball, and he refuses to see that he picked a neurotic, anorexic girl 14 years younger than himself because she’s sort of like a whipped dog he can legally have sex. Dr. Jenn is so mean to him! She called him controlling, waaah!
As a bonding exercise, they climb a rock wall together, which mostly consists of her saying, “I don’t want to do it anymore,” and him screaming at her to put her foot on the green doodad and then the blue doodad. When he finally stops yelling, she scrambles to the top and he’s so relieved. She didn’t embarrass him after all! Now he can just complain about how Liz is ruining all their group therapy outing fun. If you’re unclear, Joe Francis is a narcissistic ass who doesn’t realize how much of a narcissistic ass he really is. Go figure.
Admittedly, Liz is a pain in the ass. Flav tries to cajole her and sweet talk her and then laughs at her and tells her he’s not giving her access to his bank accounts, but still, Liz just sulks around the set, threatening to pack her things and go when she’s not sullenly staring at things. At the end of the episode, she glumly agrees to hold a rope so Flav can climb a small tower and play junior acrobat, but it’s not much of a win.
What’s more interesting is watching their therapy session with Dr. Jenn, during which we learn he was in a committed relationship with her while he was doing all those awful “Flavor of Love” series. Yes, reality TV eats itself yet again, exposing network fakery on yet another fake reality TV show, though as usual the D-listers always reveal more about themselves than they ever intend.
Do you watch “Couples Therapy”?