For Anna Nicole, reality isn't flattering

Cable show gives the impression she isn't in on the joke

July 12, 2002|By David Bianculli | David Bianculli,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

PASADENA, Calif. -- E! Entertainment is promoting Anna Nicole Smith's new reality series, The Anna Nicole Show -- which purports to capture the famous widow's everyday life -- with the tag line "It's not supposed to be funny. It just is."

Smith's appearance this week before television writers to promote the series wasn't supposed to be pathetic. It just was.

The Anna Nicole Show, scheduled to begin Aug. 4, isn't a television show in need of promotion. It's in need of intervention.

Unlike MTV's The Osbournes, in which most of the central characters, if not Ozzy, were fully aware of their show's potential and pitfalls, Smith's confused, often incoherent comments -- similar to those on a recent appearance on CNN's Larry King Live -- left the strong impression that she was not in on the joke and was, if anything, the brunt of it.

"I wanted to be famous, but not this way," Smith said, summing up a celebrity existence whose resume includes being a Playboy centerfold and a widow with a still-contested $88 million share of the estate.

Asked if she thought E! was making fun of her with the show's slogan, Smith replied, "They probably are."

In fact, it was the popularity of the network's E! Hollywood Story on Smith, an unflattering portrayal that has been repeatedly rerun since its 1997 premiere, that persuaded executives to build a reality series around her.

Smith disliked her Hollywood Story treatment, but her lawyer -- Howard Stern, no relation to the radio star -- advised her to accept the series, in which he turns out to be one of the major characters. "This is our lives," he said, then quickly corrected himself. "Her life."

What happens in The Anna Nicole Show? In the brief clips shown to critics, she kisses the camera lens, gets stuck under a table as the cameraman photographs her from the rear, and complains about not having had sex in nearly two years.

"That's one of those things you say that you wish you didn't," she said.

Other parts, she said, will be more mundane, even though her 16-year-old son expressed on the same preview tape a desire to avoid the limelight.

Smith, who identified her childhood idols as Marilyn Monroe and Christie Brinkley, answered many queries with a drawling "I have no idea" or "I don't understand the question."

Now five weeks into the shooting of the 13-week series, she said: "I'm doing it because I've been stuck in my house so long with the litigation." She also said she hoped "people will see me as maybe I have a little talent, and they'll start to take me seriously as an actress."

The way E! is positioning and promoting the show, that's not very likely. In being talked into doing this show, regardless of its eventual ratings, Smith has gotten some very bad advice.

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