As promised, the reality show “The Houstons: On Our Own” is premiering on Lifetime Wednesday night (October 24) at 9 p.m. ET. Pat Houston, Whitney’s’ sister-in-law and longtime manager, her husband Gary Houston, their 14-year-old daughter Rayah, Whitney’s mother Cissy, Whitney’s daughter Bobbi Kristina and her “stepbrother” Nick Gordon are the main characters in what is already a train wreck of a reality show, if only because it seems just a little creepy that it premieres a scant eight months after Houston’s untimely death. What is readily apparent from the start is that celebrity doesn’t provide any immunity against family members with dubious agendas. It’s hard to tell if rumors (which Pat has denied) that Whitney was broke when she died precipitated this show, or if it is just the Houston family’s attempt to tell their own story about what happens with them in the aftermath of Whitney’s death.
Maybe it’s a little of both.
Bobbi Kristina, or “Krissy” as she’s affectionately referred to by everyone, emerges quickly as the show’s most sympathetic character. Krissy is like many 19-year-olds in search of her path in the world. And like many of them, she’s neither pursuing an education or a job since it seems being Whitney’s daughter is her job, a role imposed on her almost since birth, and even before that as she debuted on camera in utero in Whitney’s “I’m Every Woman” video in 1993. Sadly for her, her father, singer Bobby Brown, for whom she is the spitting image of (and his only child who resembles him that closely) is not involved in the show and it’s unclear how much he’s involved in her life. The father of five, including Krissy, recently remarried and much criticism was leveled at how long it took him to get to L.A. to support his daughter in the wake of her mother’s death. As fans may remember, Bobbi Kristina was also prominently featured in the infamous reality show “Being Bobby Brown,” that predated some of the more recent forays into celebrity family lives and is responsible, many believe, for permanently tarnishing Whitney’s image.
Less sympathetic a character is Pat Houston, who may have good intentions but is in the unenviable position of having just about any move she makes questioned because of her and her husband’s dependence on Whitney, alive or dead. Pat was her sister-in-law’s manager, and still runs her company, while it’s unclear just how Gary contributes financially. This is the same issue that faces Nick Gordon, Bobby Kristina’s stepbrother turned fiancée. Exactly what would he bring to a marriage? And who’s supporting him? Pat Houston says that rumors that Bobbi Kristina will inherit $20 million are grossly inflated, but everyone knows that as the sole beneficiary of Whitney’s estate, she’s going to inherit something. And even if Whitney did die broke or in debt, her catalogue still has future earnings coming Krissy’s way.
Whitney’s mother Cissy is also a sympathetic figure in that she’s lost her only daughter and is the show’s one undiluted voice of reason, like many grandmothers are. Sadly, no one seems to be listening. That apparently will be the theme of the show going forward, as Cissy, though she said on “The View,” isn’t happy about the cameras, she’s committed to the show, likely to help her family.
Aside from the cringe worthy exploitation of a grieving 19-year-old, even if she signed on for it herself, “The Houstons: On Our Own” suffers most from the lack of the person that made it possible. A complicated, exasperating, troubled and yet talented and accomplished woman, Whitney’s absence casts a huge shadow over the show. You want her to be there, arguing with Bobbi Kristina over boyfriend, hair and fashion choices like most mother/daughters do and cursing out someone or the other in her trademark outspoken way. You’d love to see her and Pat trying to get Whitney back on top after she struggled to undo the damage done to her voice and her career by her drug addiction. Even her reputed love affair with Ray J. would have added a needed note of star power to the mix.
The problem is, without the biggest celebrity among them, “The Houstons: On Our Own” is missing its biggest draw. We all have issues and problems and crazy family members, but who really wants to see other people’s? Well, on the other hand, reality TV wouldn’t exist without a certain level of voyeuristic interest in other people’s lives. In this case, though, the most interesting personality of the group has passed on and that leaves “The Houstons” slightly painful to watch.