By Emily Bodden, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 16, 2013
Boasting a name that sounds like it’s straight from The Onion, “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” is equal parts bizarre and sweet. DIY’s questionable new programming choice does not miss the mark fully, instead landing in an amusing place all its own.
Vanilla Ice Goes Amish
Saturday at 10 p.m.
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The premise of the show finds Vanilla Ice joining an Amish community where he learns their traditional approach to construction and design. Apparently that’s what people do after their 15 minutes of fame are up. All kidding aside, Vanilla Ice seems to have been working, or at least dabbling, in the construction field for quite some time, because when he helps demo and remodel a kitchen, he knows the lingo.
First off, Vanilla Ice isn’t his real name. Shockingly, the man we (at least those of us with a working knowledge of the 1980’s) know as Vanilla Ice bears the Christian name Robert Matthew Van Winkle, and so the nice Amish community that takes him in calls him Rob. Which seems very normal for a 45-year-old, one-hit-wonder white boy who decides to try his hand at construction in traditional Amish fashion.
Another big hurdle that the production team manages to circumvent is the perception that the Amish community is supposed to shun cameras. Clara, the house owner in the premiere, demonstrates that, despite being taught to avoid technology for her 60- or 70-some years, she has more natural talent in front of a camera than Vanilla Ice. While she comes off charming and sweet, Vanilla Ice yells — presumably in an attempt to speak coherently during all of his interviews and voice-overs. Evidently media exposure does not equate to competency.
While Vanilla Ice comes off as respectful and sincere to the community, he’s still a huge tool, referring to himself as having “Vanilla Ice Charm.” It’s unclear whether it would have been better or worse if he used a more updated approach to that concept and attempted the use of “swag.” His outdated slang somehow seems fitting coming from a middle-aged man who dons two giant earrings while in Amish Country.
Other faux pas in the series premiere that stand out include his continual wearing of jeans (with a zipper) and a hoodie (also with a zipper) and driving an Escalade to his homestay. The clothing choice comes off as mildly offensive after he completely disregards the nice man he is living with who kindly explained that the Amish do not allow zippers on their garb. The choice of an Escalade filled with a camera crew and an old superstar produces laughs. Did the production team not think of how inappropriate it was, or were they instead trying to create blatant dichotomies between where Vanilla Ice comes from to where “Rob” will end up?
Overall, the show holds some sense of potential. Not as dramatic or trashy as the type of programming seen with celebrities of similar popularity on VH1, but not quite as enticing as hit HGTV shows like “Property Brothers,” “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” stands on its own ridiculous feet. If “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” were an ice cream cone, it would be a scoop of plain vanilla with a sad scattering of rainbow jimmies that may convince viewers to give it another go before passing complete judgment.