VH1’s newest addition to its “celebreality” TV block seems to further stretch the definition of what constitutes a celebrity. While the channel’s other VH1 reality dating shows typically feature stars with at least some name recognition, the leading man of “Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair,” Frank Maresca, has no claim to fame beside his previous contestancy on other VH1 reality programming. His debatable celebrity status is perhaps most evident in the pilot episode, in which Maresca eliminates one of the girls vying for his affection because she doesn’t seem to know who he is.

“Frank the Entertainer and a Basement Affair

Sundays at 8 p.m.
VH1

The premise of “Basement” is similar to most other VH1 dating shows — 15 women compete for Maresca’s heart by participating in challenges and going on dates with him. The twist: Maresca lives in his parents’ basement, and thus his parents — but mainly his stereotypical overbearing Italian mother — have a say in who stays and who goes.

The problem is that for a lead man boasting the moniker “Frank the Entertainer,” Maresca just isn’t very entertaining. Or likeable, for that matter.

His pitch to viewers is that he just can’t catch a break, having lost on “I Love New York,” “I Love Money” and “I Love Money 2.” And because he can’t win on a VH1 reality show, he’s forced to live in the basement of his parents’ house (comfortably, at that). It might seem that getting his own reality show would silence Maresca’s whining. Instead, he complains incessantly about his mother’s involvement and that the whole thing is taking place in his family home instead of a luxurious mansion. Maresca is such a loser that it’s impossible to do much more than occasionally laugh at him out of pity.

The question of whether Maresca will finally meet a girl and move out of the home overwhelms the show so completely that it detracts from the romantic/sexual focus common to most dating shows. Instead of wondering and waiting for Maresca to hook up with someone, the only question is whether or not such-and-such contestant will enable Maresca to move away from home. While this departure makes “Basement” somewhat unique among dating shows, it doesn’t make for especially compelling TV, and Maresca just comes across as even more pathetic.

But though Maresca and his mother are each irritating in their own right, they improve slightly when interacting together. The elimination phase, when Maresca’s mother predicts which girl he is going to kick off — of course, objecting to the choice — is arguably the most engaging moment. And while they bicker constantly, it’s pretty clear that underneath the repetitive mantra of “Frank needs to move out,” he and his parents love and respect each other.

“Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair” may actually be more genuine than most of VH1’s reality programming. But while the family dynamic somewhat mitigates the show’s shortcomings, it doesn’t offer a reason to keep watching.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.