The opening voice-over for TV Land’s new reality show Harry Loves Lisa pretty much says everything one might need to know about its stars and their relationship prior to watching: she is loud and brash, and he is cool, calm, and laid-back. Though the tonal differences in voice-over may be jarring, it is those differences in personality that supposedly make them work as a couple– and what the network hopes will have viewers tuning in.
Unfortunately the show as a whole is a little too desperate. Almost like that boyfriend or girlfriend who knows you’re getting the wandering eye and itch to move on but who is so determined to keep you, it will do and say anything he or she thinks is necessary to get you to stick around. Harry Loves Lisa feels desperate to get viewers to love, understand, and even at times side with Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna both as individuals in order to root for them together as a couple.
But first the pilot episode gives us a little refresher course in who these actors are separately as well as together as married parents. He is the former star of L.A. Law who has graced People’s Most Beautiful People covers and been in the business for almost forty years; she is the former soap star (daytime, then primetime, then a talk show about soap operas) who also co-owns a trendy boutique in the upscale section of Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. Both of them took some time away from the industry to focus on their family, and now they’re finding it’s not so easy to jump back into scripted roles, so they’re giving it a go at being themselves.
And therein lies the reality program’s first problem: it’s hard to believe times are too tough for this couple considering Hamlin hasn’t exactly been missing in action for years and years. He recently co-starred on Veronica Mars as well as last summer’s salacious and mysterious CBS miniseries, Harper’s Island. And did we mention they own a Los Angeles clothing store? Even when times are hard for those in the entertainment industry, they often still look better than a “regular person’s” average day.
However, Hamlin’s down time has him feeling uncharacteristically vulnerable, which brings him a bit more down to Earth and accessible than he might be otherwise. Let’s hope it’s not all just an act for the cameras because some of the best moments on the show are when he goes outside of his comfort zone to try new things that he wouldn’t ordinarily have time for if he had a full slate of movies and TV roles. One such example is a stand-up comedy set that Hamlin performs for his wife, his acting coach, a few friends, and a bunch of Los Angeles comedy fans. In almost four decades in the business, stand-up is something Hamling says he has never done before, and it is endearing to watch him battle through his nerves and come out triumphant.
Hamlin and Rinna’s two daughters also make brief appearances on the show, most notably after their mother gaffes on the red carpet regarding comments over Heidi Montag’s plastic surgery. Rinna, who has been so open about her own lip work to the point that she visits another cosmetic surgeon within this series to “correct” her problem area, just wants her girls to understand that they need to feel good about who they are on the inside. It is exactly the conversation more parents should have with their kids, and Rinna is attempting to be a role model not just for her girls in this moment but also for other parents who might not know how to broach the subject. But don’t think that just because she’s a Hollywood star, her tweenage daughters aren’t any less embarrassed by having to have these discussions!
It is that frankness that really captivates the audience, and that brutal honesty is something for which Rinna has become known. In fact, when it comes to never holding back with thoughts and opinions, she is on the short list– as in with only Good Day LA‘s Jillian Reynolds in front of her– of celebrities who speak their mind. However, unfortunately much of Harry Loves Lisa feels scripted to curb that natural instinct of Rinna’s. Perhaps she was worried about potentially putting her foot in her mouth, or perhaps she has just become exceptionally savvy when it comes to how to work the cameras and knowing what will make good TV. Simple moments like Hamlin telling his wife he has a new audition feel way too staged when Rinna chimes in with: “Well, tell me about this character! I want to hear all about this character!” She doesn’t need a producer buzzing in her ear; she already knows how to steer the scene to get the most meat out of it.
Hamlin and Rinna have been married for thirteen years, which, they both acknowledge in on-camera interviews within the pilot, is quite a feat in Hollywood. Though some in the media have wondered how this is possible since she seems much more high-strung than him, this reality series is an attempt to showcase why they work as a dynamic duo both on the small screen and off. In many ways, Harry Loves Lisa feels like a look into the future of another Hollywood couple with their own reality series (*cough, Tori & Dean). Though for all its heavy-handedness when it comes to crafting “characters” out of Hamlin and Rinna individually, there are no over-the-top cutesy date nights or forced romance at home. And for that, the audience can actually feel like they’re watching a real couple and not some Hollywood stage show.
Harry Loves Lisa sets out to have its audience falling in love with the couple just as they have with each other. It wasn’t love at first sight for LA TV Insider Examiner, but you can judge for yourselves when the show premieres on TV Land on Wednesday October 6th at 10pm.