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So over the past week, I have received so many emails and comments about this Ashley Parker Angel show, There And Back, that I decided to finally bite the bullet and check out what all the fuss was about. I watched two episodes, and I think it’s official: this is one of the very worst reality shows ever in the history of television.Let’s start with the pilot. The show begins with a flashy opening montage of a non-descript boy-band. “Remember this group?” Ashley asks. Uh no. Okay, it’s O-Town, and of course I remember them (“Cause I want it ALL! Or NOTHING at ALL!” — they rhymed “all” with “all“!) Anyway, Ashley then asks us, “Like my hair? Me neither!” Guess what, your hair now ain’t so hot either. Unless you dig the greasy, messy, moptop, idiot look.
Ashley then waxes nostalgic about the O-Town experience, saying, “I was an international popstar!” Okay, let’s not get carried away. If N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys were the Porterhouse, you were more like the ground chuck. Or Alpo, really.
We then find out that Ashley has lost all his boyband money and has been reduced to living in a tiny apartment with his wife and mother-in-law. For a moment, the series shows promise as we meet Mom, a.k.a. Scarlet, who looks like one of Catherine O’Hara’s characters from a Christopher Guest movie. Scarlet, it turns out, is a lush, and as she prepares cocktails for herself in the noontime sun, she asks, “Am I drinking by myself?” As always, Scar.
Alas, Scarlet is quickly relegated to the sidelines as we focus back on Ashley. Something good happens — I don’t remember what, honestly (and I just finished watching the damn show) — and so Ash, Scarlet, and wifey all head out to celebrate at an empty bar. Sounds like Scarlet’s kind of day!
Of course, stimulating conversation ensues as this convergence of the greatest intellects in Southern California, nay, the Western Atmosphere, holds a roundtable discussion about boy bands. “Why did you have such a hatred towards O-Town?” Ashley asks the wife. Um, let’s see. Because O-Town sucked? Royally. I mean, you had a song called Liquid Dreams!!
Anyway, after this fascinating scene ends, Ashley then heads to his studio (a.k.a. a shabby house in suburbia) to work on his album, soon to unseat Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the sales charts, no doubt. Unfortunately for Ash, the producers suck royally. They won’t pay him his advance and the technicians won’t listen to him. How do I know this? Because Ashley literally steps out of the shot to tell us. Yes, it’s the most gimmicky things since, well, ever. The entire image freezes, and then Ashley faces the camera and talks to us. And because the producers are so enamored with this technology, they do distracting things, like have Ashley walk towards us so we can see that his “live” body isn’t just covering up his “still” body. Hard to explain. Just trust me: it’s distracting and dumb. It’s kind of like when someone you know buys a camcorder for the first time and inserts dumb star wipes and checkerboard transitions into every shot.
After the studio, Ashley then meets with his lawyer/manager who is so professional that he dresses like a hobo (or porn shop owner. Either/or). The guy says that Ashley has one good hit on the album, and the rest is only “really good.” Translation: it sucks. Then it’s off to visit Jacob Underwood, who we’re told is a former member of O-Town.
“Damn!” Ashley says as the shot freezes yet again. He then goes and “sits” on the kitchen counter in the shot as he talks to us, just another way of saying, “Hey! Look at this cool gimmick!” Anyway, Ash continues, “Can you believe this is Jacob from O-Town?” Uh, you’re assuming I ever knew who Jacob was. But go on.
“Things really haven’t been easy for him either, but he managed to score a house,” Ashley says. He managed to “score” a house? You mean, he managed his money properly. For better or worse, Jacob has a nice place. Cribs-worthy, perhaps. Ashley and his wife tour around, oohing and ahhing at various room, and then finally, the three of them (and Jacob’s wife) take a seat in the home-studio and talk about old times. It’s pretty sad watching Ashley talk about the past. He acts like he’s so over it, saying things like “That was crazy!” but you can tell he’s begging to go back in time. It’s just liquid dreams, Ash. Liquid dreams.
Jacob then reveals that he’s trying to run a production company and license songs to a music company, quickly wowing over his guests. “I think that’s smart,” Ash says. He’s echoed by the wife, who adds, “I think that’s really smart.” Ashley then adds, “I wish we were smart. Oh well.”
Okay, he doesn’t say that last thing, but I’m sure he was thinking it. Anyway, Jacob tries to make his friend feel better about his financial woes by saying, “I’m in the same boat.” Yeah, the same, much larger, wealthier boat.
The next morning, Ashley wakes up to the sound of the single most idiotic cell phone ringer I’ve ever heard: a rooster clucking to some silly drum beat. And of course, Ashley Genius Angel can’t figure out how the hell to turn it off. It’s called an “Off” button. After he masters the fine art of shutting off an alarm, Ashley then brings wifey breakfast in bed, and then the two talk about baby names. Wifey wants a name that sounds good now and then hot later (idiot), and Ashley reveals that when he was younger, he wanted to rename himself “Matrix.” Oh, what wonderful genes this child will be inheriting.
We then go into the kitchen where we find a few broken eggs on the kitchen floor. We don’t really know how it happened — Ashley claims they just fell out of the refrigerator. After some lame bickering about the Great Egg Scandal of 2006, Ashley finally concludes, “I’m so tired of living in this tiny little apartment. We gotta get out of it.” Um, guess what? Eggs can break in a big house too.
Anyway, the couple then go online to look for houses (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to move after I’ve broken an egg), but wait! They can’t afford a house! Or can they? The two think about things they can sell and whatnot to afford new shindigs — but honestly, they’re on MTV. They’re receiving a fee for this show. We know they’re not totally insolvent. Well, maybe they don’t get the cash until after the show’s run. Whatever. I’m not going to put any more thought into their lack of logic.
Well, the two find a dream house, but the cash situation looks to be a problem. “You know as well as I do that we won’t find another house like this,” Ashley says. Actually, you probably will. Still wondering why you’re so broke? It’s called impulse buys.
Nevertheless, Ashley sends in a credit application for the house, and by some miracle (or MTV’s pressuring), he’s approved. Great! One problem though. Now they need to write a check for $8,000. Oops! Forgot about that whole money thing! Hey, maybe you shouldn’t buy a house when you can’t afford Rice Krispies.
Well, what do you do when you need $8,000 in a pinch? Not buy a house? NO!! You get a job! Ashley sees a listing on a restaurant bulletin board and meets with a guy who kind of offers him a job as essentially a roadie. At $10/hour. For ten hours a week. Hmmm… That’s not enough money! Poor Ashley is crestfallen. By the way, I know this sounds crazy, but when you apply for a job that you find on a bulletin board, chances are you won’t be getting an $8,000 cash advance that same day.
Ashley then goes to his record label, and hey hey! It’s another gimmicky freeze frame. Ashley turns to us, points to a guy on screen, and says, “That’s Barry Hankerson!” WOW!!! Turns out Barry is the head of the label. Ashley meets with him and his goons, and after explaining his whole sob story about not having any money or respect, Barry cuts him a check for $10,000! Why, that Barry Hankerson is the mostest generous man in all the music industry! And I’m sure pressure to look cool on MTV had nothing to do with it!
“Whatever you need, you come to us,” Barry says. Of course, my coke dealer/pimp radar is going off the charts, but Ashley’s an idiot and is all gosh gee wizz!! He returns hope to the drunken embrace of Scarlet, who totally has a little cat silhouette thing on top of her hallway door frame.
As for the wife, well, she’s elated also. Especially since it’s their anniversary. The two head out to the beach where Ashley pulls out his guitar, causing wifey to say “Baby!” for about the thirty-thousandth time this episode.
And now, a terrible song. Ashley sings some lame ditty about how his wife thought he was gay, and as blood seeps out of my ears, I start to think about how I’d like to freeze this moment of life, step out of it, turn to a camera, and remark, “I can’t believe I’m actually watching this.”
And yet, I’m compelled to watch more. I might just have to attack episode two as well. What did you think? How awful is this show?