Jewish World Review August 15, 2002 / 6 Elul, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | LOS ANGELES "Anna, Anna, fabulous Anna, Anna Nicole. You're so outrageous..." So goes the theme song from E!'s "The Anna Nicole Show," whose debut last week attracted more than 4 million viewers -- "the biggest reality series premiere in cable history," as the E! promos regularly remind us.
If you're one of those 4 million, you may find this little ditty irritatingly impossible to get out of your head. Maybe that's because it raises the perplexing question: How, exactly, is someone who spends the day wandering around in a soporific stupor "so outrageous?"
Running through the street naked, kicking the houseboy down the stairs ... that sort of thing takes energy. But the famously voluptuous Anna Nicole Smith, who's gained quite a bit of weight since her early '90s heyday as a Guess jeans model and Playboy Playmate of the Year, barely has the pep these days to get out of the car.
Still, "The Anna Nicole Show," an unapologetic rip-off of the MTV hit "The Osbournes" -- which follows the mundane daily activities of rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his family -- keeps those cameras running on Smith from the moment she gets up to the moment she goes to bed. So a week's worth of constant filming is bound to contain a few "outrageous" moments, relatively speaking.
Some examples from this week's show:
-- A decorator named Bobby Trendy comes to visit and suggests a 10-foot-tall leopard-patterned sofa for the living room. Anna agrees. Later, we see outrageous Bobby again -- in a commercial for the Bobby Trendy store.
-- Sugar Pie, Anna's easily excitable toy poodle, pretends to have sex with a stuffed animal. "She is rather too close to me, and we do have a doggy therapist, and she is on Prozac," Smith noted in her semi-comatose sounding drawl at the E! news conference. (Just the dog?)
-- Anna looks at a snapshot of herself and remarks that she looks "like a porker."
-- Anna, who does not drive and so must be chauffeured around town by her live-in assistant, Kim Walther, punches her loyal peon way too hard during a game of Punchbug (you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you get to punch the person next to you.) Apparently she's angry because Walther didn't believe her claimed sighting of a Beetle during a previous round.
-- Later, all is forgiven and Anna sits on Walther's lap and bounces up and down. "I like to think that Kimmy is one of those bouncy rides," she explains, "'cause I drop a quarter down her shirt and she bounces me." Walther, a former Jehovah's Witness who was working at a spa when she met Anna, has a tattoo of her employer's face on her left arm.
"She's a really, really generous person," Walther explained at the news conference. "I just wanted to pay homage to her because she's so incredible."
The show's regular "cast members," as they're called include Smith's mortified 16-year-old son, Daniel, her lawyer and best friend, Howard K. Stern, Walther, and the hyperactive dog Sugar Pie.
"It's not supposed to be funny. It just is," goes the E! tagline for the show. Smith doesn't mind the mockery. "They probably are (making fun) but just like it says..." she said at the E! news conference, her voice trailing off. "It's just to get out of my house and get away from all the litigation."
Smith was married for 14 months to Texas oil baron J. Howard Marshall II, who died in 1995 at age 90. But Marshall's stepson is appealing the $88 million the courts awarded her earlier this year and she hasn't yet received any of the money. She did get half of Marshall's ashes, which she keeps in a place of honor on her bedroom TV set.
The tactless question was raised as to why Smith, who hasn't modeled in years and is famous basically for having been famous, needs a live-in assistant.
"She needs a full-time assistant just for mail alone," lawyer Stern jumped in loyally. "She needs five assistants. Her life is a pretty crazy life."
The decision to produce a reality series around the former Playmate was "a no-brainer," said E! Executive Vice President Mark Sonnenberg. The cable station has run the 1997 E! "True Hollywood Story" about Smith around 50 times in the past five years, he noted, "and every time it doubles or triples the time-period performance."
As it happens, Anna disliked that E! documentary. But then the cable network executives took her out to lunch and she got over it.
"People will see me," she said of the new series, "and see that maybe I have a little talent. They'll start to take me seriously as an actress."
That seems unlikely. What's on display in "The Anna Nicole Show" is not acting talent but a sad, bloated live-action cartoon of a dumb blonde past her prime. Lawyer Stern labors mightily to set her up with straight lines.
"Hey, some kids asked if we were doing a porno," he says helpfully at one point, as he and Smith go house hunting with a leasing agent.
"Yeah, two girls, seven guys and a dog," responds Smith. "Whoo-hoo! Some porno." Gracie Allen-style cute repartee, this isn't.
On the other hand, there are occasional hints that high-school dropout Anna may not be quite as dumb as all that.
"You know those bumper stickers where they have 'Sh-t happens and then you die?' she muses on camera, while watching the news. "They should have, 'Sh-t happens and then you live.' 'Cause that's really the truth of it."
Later, Stern for some reason decides to engage her in a discussion of suicide bombers in the Mideast, about which Smith has been previously unaware.
"Wow! Why would they do that?" she says. "Doesn't that sound kind of painful?"
"I think you should speak out in support of Israel," Stern says idiotically.
Smith shoots him exactly the kind of disgusted, incredulous look he deserves. "I'm just gonna shut up," she says firmly. "I know nothing. About nothing."
Next week on "The Anna Nicole Show," according to the promos: a pizza-eating contest goes horribly wrong.
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