From left, Francesca, Dina and Morgan Eastwood. (Jeffrey Thurnher, E! Entertainment )
In an odd yet understandable marketing strategy, the folks behind E!'s new reality show "Mrs. Eastwood & Company" have spent a lot of pre-premiere publicity time explaining what the show isn't. Which is to say, Clint Eastwood. The legendary actor and director will appear in but a few episodes and then only briefly. He will not, for instance, be slamming doors or engaging in filmed therapy sessions with his wife, Dina, around whom the show revolves (see title.)
That doesn't mean the show is not about Clint Eastwood; it is. If the principal characters -- Dina, her 15-year-old daughter Morgan and 19-year old stepdaughter Francesca -- were not related to him, there would be Absolutely No Reason to watch this, which, by reality show standards, promises to be tame to the point of sedation.
Ostensibly, it is a glimpse of the woman behind the man as she juggles motherhood, a menagerie of rescued animals, a budding career as a music manager and the ancillary celebrity that comes from being married to a big star. While there will always be fascination with how rich folk live -- and this time in Carmel! -- the sight of a 1,000 square foot kitchen and walk-through closets no longer have the draw they once did. It's Clint we've come to see, if not in person then in spirit. By getting to know the woman he married and at least two of his children, we hope to learn more about the man whom so many regard with something akin to awe.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, May 23, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
"Mrs. Eastwood & Company": In the May 18 Calendar section, a review of the TV series "Mrs. Eastwood & Company" identified Jade Marx as the daughter of Groucho Marx. She is the comedian's granddaughter.
Here is the first thing we learn: He signed off on a reality show about his family. And there is no way you can watch Dina engage in what is the undeniably narcissistic enterprise of having cameras follow her around and not think all sorts of worrisome and occasionally uncharitable things about her rationale. Clearly she is hoping that the show will bring attention to the Overtone, a South African boy band she discovered while Clint was filming "Invictus." As she tells the cameras, she convinced her husband to bring them over so she could launch their career in America -- something, one assumes, that will be made easier by their appearance on a reality show.
And yet, in the first episode, what passes for A-story is not her foray into the music industry; it's bellybutton rings. Morgan wants to get one and her mother refuses, in part because, as she says, Clint (who is filming in Atlanta) will hit the roof. So Dina decides that the best thing for her to do is get a bellybutton ring herself. You know, to show Morgan how awful it is. Conveniently this calls for many shots of Dina's flat and tan belly, and also, weirdly, the nose-piercing of Lisa, the Eastwoods' wacky Korean housekeeper (who may wind up being the best thing about the show.) Dina sees this as maternal self-sacrifice, apparently oblivious to the creepy mother-daughter competition the piercing evokes.
Another story line introduces Dina's new baby nephew -- her brother Dominic is married to Jade Marx, daughter of Groucho -- and Francesca's ambivalence toward motherhood. Everyone else in the family loves babies, she tells us, especially Clint (hates bellybutton rings, loves babies, got it). But after she discusses the issue with her boyfriend, celebrity photographer Tyler Shields, Francesca changes a diaper and realizes she may be a good mom.
The good news about "Mrs. Eastwood" is that the participants are all articulate and literate, which is not true of many similar shows. But Dina has painted herself into a corner; a situational reality show demands drama of a certain embarrassing sort, and, indeed, clips from upcoming episodes promise tears and anger and Dina declaring war on someone. The deeper she goes into that sort of thing, the more ire she will draw for exploiting her husband and sullying his name.
With any luck, the Overtone will turn out to be just terrific, with fabulous back stories and enough band tension to fill that narrative need. But then Mrs. Eastwood will have to surrender a fair amount of camera time, and that's not usually why someone decides to be part of a reality show.
'Mrs. Eastwood & Company'
When: 10 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-PG-L (may be unsuitable for young children with an advisory for coarse language)