Last night, Lifetime debuted the first two episodes of The Houstons: On Our Own, the latest chapter in the year-long public grieving of the death of Whitney Houston. The series features Gary Houston (Whitney's brother), Pat Houston (Gary's wife and Whitney's manager/best friend), Rayah Houston (Gary and Pat's daughter), Cissy Houston (Whitney and Gary's mother) and, most voyeuristically, the (by nearly all reports) troubled daughter of Whitney and Bobby Brown, Bobbi-Kristina Brown.
Of course she is troubled. Her dad just got his second DUI this year. A child star by default because of her famous parents and their inclusion of her on the 2005 Bravo series Being Bobby Brown, the spotlit Bobbi-Kris had a hard legacy to live up to. And then her mom, whose ferocious love for her daughter was apparent, died.
If you had any question as to whether reality TV was a bad place to mourn, look no further than the joyless The Houstons: On Our Own. There is little indication that Bobbi-Kristina is headed for anything but ruin, as the 19-year-old frequently drinks on camera, stumbles around like it's more than alcohol that is inebriating her and is attached to the side of her fiance (or something) Nick Gordon, who's not exactly her brother but was "unofficially adopted" by Whitney at age 12. Rarely has phrase "train wreck" seemed so specifically tailored to describe a show. This is neither instructive nor entertaining, just simply tragic.
Though Whitney laughed about Being Bobby Brown in retrospect (and despite a similarly tragic subtext, there was a lot of humor, love and insight into the price of fame to be found on that show), she did seem to regret her participation when Oprah Winfrey asked her about it in a 2009 interview. The take-away is when you're a public figure in a messy state, it's probably best not to show it to the world. Bobbi-Kristina has every right to be messy now (though I wish she wouldn't follow in the substance-reliant footsteps of her parents), which makes watching it so damn difficult.
Pat Houston, Bobbi-Kris' caretaker, recently attempted to justify Bobbi-Kristina's participation on the show by telling Barbara Walters on The View, "Cameras have been following since she was born. It's not exploitation of any kind." Or maybe it is, and it's just a very 21st century continuing of the cycle of addiction. On The Houstons, Pat says, "I can't see [Bobbi-Kristina] fall by the wayside. No way, no how. Not gonna happen." I hope she's right, but it seems like that's exactly what we're watching.