By Grace Hamilton, For the Daily
Published October 22, 2013
“I didn’t choose Hollywood … it chose me,” comedian Kevin Hart says, kicking off “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” which just returned for its second season on BET. This semi-scripted series, a parody of popular reality television, is loosely based on the “Real Housewives” franchise, following the lavish and drama-filled lives of several married men, with Hart’s fight against inner demons at the center.
Real Husbands of Hollywood
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The season premiere takes the audience back to “MTV Cribs” days, beginning with Hart giving a tour of his offensively opulent home, featuring free-roaming tigers and an ivory pool. Like most of the social commentary in the series, the target and criticism is obvious. Hart’s narration includes messages like, “In this town, who you’re married to is more important than talent,” and “Hollywood is about living the dream … no matter what it takes.” The aim is not subtlety. Rather, Hart exploits stereotypes to their limit, leaving no room for questions, confusions or deciphering. The show is exaggerated from top to bottom, from facial expressions to choice in footwear.
“Real Husbands” gets most of its buzz from its celebrity stars, which include Nick Cannon, Nelly and Robin Thicke (who will not be returning for the second season). Playing embellished versions of themselves, the actors are there to emphasize Hart’s own struggle to maintain fame and significance in Hollywood. In addition to these regular characters, the show is boosted with guest appearances, most notably Khloe Kardashian in the season premiere. While these appearances are used as fancy props more than anything, intended to add some extra legitimacy or watch factor, it works, and the audience is held by the prospect of having Young Jeezy or Katie Couric walk through the door.
The episode is loosely tied together by Kevin Hart’s crush on a tall and recognizably Hollywood-esque socialite, and guest star Wanda Sykes’s command that she be able to use Hart’s home for a social event. Sykes, playing herself in a predictably sassy fashion, is the first of many in Hart’s never-ending arguments with those surrounding him.
Such arguments are the outlet for most of the punch-line jokes in the episode, delivered through back-and-forth insults. Dialogue and interactions between characters are at a constantly elevated level. At a certain point, watching feels more like following a game of slandering ping pong than it does comedy or satire. One noisy quarrel between Hart and his fictional ex-wife lasts for almost five minutes before wrapping up and her character disappearing for the remainder of the episode.
And here lies “Real Husbands” ’s weakness. For all of its humor, which is often incredibly sharp, like the introduction of a wallet-stealing 8-year-old attending the party as a future Tea Party member, there is little narrative thread. The show attempts to weave together a series of random and undeveloped conflicts, as opposed to holding the viewer by expanding on one. As a result, the comedy relies on many short-lived squabbles. Even in the actual reality shows that “Real Husbands” finds its inspiration, producers are able to exaggerate certain conflicts to in order to provide the resemblance of a narrative arc, which is key to keeping viewers hooked.
Another result of this structure is that there is little room for emphasizing smaller and more nuanced moments of ridiculousness, which make the original shows so entertaining. Without attention to such moments, the show appears confused between being an actual satire of the Housewives shows, which uses irony to reveal something significant about popular culture today, and just an outlet for making silly jokes.
The episode climaxes with Hart’s compulsive purchase of a $12,000 car for $150,000, and ends with a brawl over a woman, bringing some of the drama viewers relish in the original shows.