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Television review: 'The Hasselhoffs' on A&E

David Hasselhoff's strange career trajectory takes another turn with a reality series portraying him as a formerly wayward father trying to do the best for his daughters.

December 04, 2010|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times television critic
  • David Hasselhoff is a flawed but loving father to his daughters, Hayley, center, and Taylor Ann.
David Hasselhoff is a flawed but loving father to his daughters, Hayley,… (Richard Knapp / A&E Network )

There is absolutely no good reason why David Hasselhoff shouldn't have a reality show. During this time of economic crisis, "a camera in every kitchen" seems to have replaced the promise of "a chicken in every pot," and apparently the Hoff needs the money.

He says so, quite plainly, in Sunday's premiere episode of A&E's "The Hasselhoffs." He's speaking to his daughter Hayley, who is just about to get her big break as pretty girl Amber on ABC Family's "Huge." But as he spends much of the rest of the episode trying to persuade his younger daughter, Taylor-Ann, to stay in school "for at least a year or two" instead of pursuing a career in a rock band, a certain moral balance is achieved.

But if there is no compelling argument against a Hasselhoff show, there is also none for it, save perhaps inevitability. The Hoff's recent renaissance began ignominiously three years ago with a much-circulated video of him drunkenly attempting to eat a cheeseburger while Taylor-Ann, who was filming it, pleaded with him to stop drinking so he wouldn't lose his job. Although played for laughs on YouTube, it is one of the more heart-rending bits of video available and led, mercifully, to Hasselhoff's sobriety and, less mercifully, to a much-touted roast on Comedy Central as well as a just-ended gig with " Dancing With the Stars."

The pitch of "The Hasselhoffs" is that the Hoff is just a persona and that the real David Hasselhoff is a flawed but loving father trying to do his best for his girls. The girls in question are, of course, young adults with dreams and agents of their own, and Hasselhoff's past relationship with alcohol has clearly cost him a lot in the parental authority department. So we are left instead with a bizarre twist on "A Star Is Born": As Daddy copes with his autumn years, his daughters attempt to enter the world "that has been so good to me."

Which of course raises the question — just exactly how good has it been to him? Hasselhoff lives in one of those enormous and strangely empty houses that people with Hollywood money are encouraged to buy. His hair is the golden brown of his youth, his face has many areas of taut immobility and he walks with the stiffly correct posture of a man who has spent at least 10 years holding his gut in.

Given the limits of his talents, reality was his only option. And Hasselhoff does have that air of self-mockery going for him. He struts and preens but with an air of self-indulgent irony that can be endearing. If only the actual action in "The Hasselhoffs" weren't so stagy, that tension between delusion and self-awareness might be interesting. Instead, we are treated to many conversations about the girls devoting themselves to their band and Hasselhoff addressing, for reasons that remain Absolutely Unclear, a psychology class at the University of Arizona in which he addresses the cheeseburger video.

Indeed, the only moment worth watching in the whole pilot is when Hasselhoff and Taylor-Ann discuss the video. For one brief moment, the show becomes less about the banal vagaries of fame and touches on the pain of the alcoholic family. But soon we're back in the big shiny house talking about showbiz. Again.

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