Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Scott Baio is 45... and Single – What Would Mrs. C Think?

VH1’s penchant for “celebreality” series featuring D-Listers in crisis continues with their latest effort, “Scott Baio is 45… and Single.”

Baio, the “Charles in Charge” star who earned his place in pop culture history as Chachi on “Happy Days,” has decided he needs to change his ways when it comes to women. Over the years, he’s scored more ladies than The Fonz himself. His impressive list of former girlfriends includes Pam Anderson, Heather Locklear, and Denise Richards. (Aaay!) Oh, and Erin Moran, because as the show tells us in a fascinating tidbit, “Joanie really did love Chachi.”

While his constantly rotating supply of hotties may have helped Baio retain his shockingly young appearance, emotionally, he hasn’t aged either. So, he hires a life coach, Doc Ali, to help him figure out why he’s never been able to settle down with one woman. Ali promptly commands him to take a vow of celibacy for 8 weeks. He’s also tasked with reaching out to past loves to ask what went wrong in their relationships. The stakes are high, as Baio’s current girlfriend tells him that if he can’t commit to her at the end of the 8 weeks, well, Charles won’t be in charge any more as far as she’s concerned.

Baio’s journey is inherently watchable, in that it does seem that he genuinely wants to change. During a phone conversation with his former co-star Henry Winkler, he explains, “It’s been too easy…I was on television.” When the married Winkler quickly points out, “I was on television too,” Baio admits, “That’s a horrible excuse.” Further, the interactions with his ex-girlfriends seem refreshingly non-scripted. After an awkward talk with one, he ends things abruptly by saying “I’m going to leave you now.” The woman responds coldly: “That’s not an unfamiliar thing.” Ouch.

Also a nice surprise is the fact that Baio doesn’t try to sugarcoat his own personality. While it’s clear that overall, he’s a good guy, he’s not afraid to show his cranky side. He whines at the prospect of attending a fan autograph signing, and admits to having a very short fuse. (Although I suppose if I had people yelling “Hey, Chachi!” at me all day, I might not be filled with sweetness and light either.)

The show falters though in its blatant attempts to emulate the styles of other series. A scene featuring a chance encounter between Baio, his annoying friend Johnny V, and Clint Howard, at Baio’s agent’s office, could have been lifted straight out of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” (That is, if it had been funny.) Baio’s actual meeting with his agent is filmed through slightly opened window blinds, hearkening “The Office.” Their conversation is unintentionally comical, as the agent pretends to express serious concern as to whether or not Baio should be doing this show. Um, I’d say it’s a pretty good bet both of them fought tooth and nail to get on VH1’s schedule. Michael and Dwight’s fictional closed-door talks contain more realistic dialogue than this.

Worst of all is the amount of time the show spends trying to cultivate an “Entourage” type feel. We see Baio and his three longtime friends/wingmen, including Jason Hervey, the loud-mouthed brother from “The Wonder Years,’” playing golf and smoking cigars at the racetrack. These scenes largely fall flat, as they go on for far too long. Although if Hervey decides to slip into his Wayne Arnold persona and start ripping on everyone, things might get a bit more interesting.

Regardless, I’ll be sticking around to see what I hope and expect will be a happy ending for Baio – the ability to commit to the woman that he loves, with a revitalized career to boot. And, if the series is a hit, the possibilities for spin-offs are endless. “Anson Williams is 57… and Happily Married,” anyone?