It’s hard not to like Fantasia Barrino. A high school dropout and single mother, Fantasia’s fortunes changed when she won season three of American Idol. Though neither as successful nor as memorable as Idol winners like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, the 25-year-old soul singer packs an incredible voice and an infectious smile. But whether she belongs on a VH1 reality show is another matter entirely.

“Fantasia For Real”

Mondays at 10 p.m.
VH1

The idea behind “Fantasia for Real” is that Fantasia is in somewhat of a life crisis. She has failed to put out a new CD in two years, gained weight and missed over 50 performances of “The Color Purple,” in which she plays the lead. But with some increased exposure from reality TV, she’s getting a second chance to fix her career and personal life.

Unfortunately, the logistics of Fantasia’s comeback are pretty boring. Except for the few precious minutes when she’s singing, she mostly just fights with the record company and receives pep talks from her manager. Only the most hardcore Fantasia fans will enjoy these interactions.

The other half of “Fantasia for Real” depicts Fantasia at home in her Hollywood mansion, living with a dysfunctional family consisting of her mother, daughter and three brothers. None of them work and thus are all financially dependent upon Fantasia’s income (as “Fantasia for Real” constantly reminds its viewers). And while Fantasia’s out trying to resurrect her career and keep the family financially stable, they don’t do much besides spend her money.

Of course, that’s what they have to do for “Fantasia for Real” to be remotely entertaining. With very little conflict on the career side, the show attempts to compensate by featuring the exploits of Fantasia’s older brother Teeny, who spends his days racing sports cars and working on his music rather than looking for a job. And for some extra drama, Aunt Bunny comes to stay at the house. Described by Fantasia’s mother as the “Madea of the family,” her job is to force Teeny to stop being so lazy. While this aspect of the show is more interesting, it hardly justifies the existence of “Fantasia for Real.” And since Fantasia hasn’t kicked her loser brother out yet, it’s hard to believe that any progress on this front is going to be made unless VH1 wills it, which kind of ruins the whole “for Real” part.

In fact, just about the only appealing component is Fantasia herself, who brings a mostly positive attitude and a smile to almost every situation. But even someone as clearly talented as Fantasia can’t make a good reality show just by trotting out lazy family members and record studio disagreements. And though it purports to be a show about Fantasia’s “real” journey back to stardom, it’s obvious that “Fantasia for Real” only exists so that people will remember Fantasia and make such a comeback possible.

Unable to distinguish itself from other VH1 celebreality programming featuring stars who fell off the public radar, “Fantasia for Real” is more sympathetic but just as inessential. Here’s hoping her next CD is good, though.

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