From Love Story to Horror Show

More than eight months ago millions of people hunkered over their laptop, tablet and smart phone screens to watch Whitney Houston’s funeral streaming over the Web, and by now, you know that one of the highlights was Kevin Costner’s tender and moving speech about the late singer.

In the broadest sense of the word, he told a love story—how they met, developed a tight bond, and how death parted them. You can either believe that he was in love with her romantically at one point, which seems obvious to me, or take it that he cared very much about her as a friend. Either way, it was a tiny, privileged peek into the psyche of a lady who was fascinating because of her astounding and versatile vocal gifts, her beauty and her appealing personality. It satisfied some of our endless curiosity about Whitney, but held back just enough to respect the privacy that she always treasured.

It would have been nice for music lovers to grieve and preserve her legacy after that terrible Saturday in February, and for Whitney to rest in peace. But for some odd reason, the decision makers in her family aren’t choosing to let it happen that way. By now you know that “The Houstons: On Our Own” is about to debut on the Lifetime channel, and that it’s premised on how the Houstons grieve and adjust to a new normal without Whitney. Critics say its exploitative.

Pat Houston, the late singer’s sister-in-law and business manager, says that’s not the case. It’s hard to take her word for it, though, because she appears in the show and plays a key role in its development. According to news stories, the real genesis to this new series (actually, I hope it flops and gets pulled) was a show called Power BrokeHers, which follows the lives of women CEOs and high-level executives as they balance their careers and families. That concept sounded fun and interesting, actually! But it seems rather opportunistic to veer away from that after Whitney’s death and change the show into something completely focused on Pat and her family, and then use Whitney Houston’s death as the driving plot point! And as I recall, Whitney didn’t participate in the Power BrokHers pilot, nor was she in the one promotional trailer I found for the series.

PowerBrokHers Sizzle<

It sounds like Whitney was simply unwilling to open up her personal life for reality TV again, and after “Being Bobby Brown,” who could blame her? It also casts a very suspect tinge over this whole ‘On Our Own’ project, that Pat Houston seems to have found the “hook” she needed to land a full cycle of episodes for a series. I sure don’t like to think that way, but that’s how the circumstances are aligning themselves.

It gets worse. Much of ‘On Our Own’ will also focus on the daily life of Whitney’s only child, Bobbi Kristina.  And as far as Bobbi Kristina is concerned, it’s hard enough for 19-year-olds to figure out who they are and find their place in the world without having your private life made public. Don’t we all have silly decisions and actions from that phase of our lives that we’d rather keep from the whole world? It seems only fair that Bobbi Kristina should have some measure of anonymity and privacy as she deals with life without her mother.

I don’t quite understand Pat Houston’s claim to fame here, or why I should watch the inner workings of her domestic life. Does she manage other singers or recording artists? The most I was able to find out about Pat Houston’s other business ventures was that she has a company called Marion P Candles, Inspired By Whitney Houston (got to get that promotional tag line in there), and a clothing store called Celebrity Consignment Boutique. OK, great. She is a busy business woman, but I still don’t like the premise of this show.

This is all a moot point. The episodes have been shot, edited and are ready to broadcast to Heaven only knows how many millions of households. Readers, I prefer to remember the Whitney portrayed in magazine interviews, sit downs with skillful and intelligent television hosts and sources other than the muckraking mediums out there, including reality television. I prefer looking through a tiny peephole into the beautiful story that Kevin Costner shared, rather than have all access to an emotional and delicate healing process that really shouldn’t be available to me at all.