But Where is the Music?

The Houstons: On Our Own reality TV series wrapped up a couple of nights ago, leaving behind unfinished story lines and failing to convince a creeped out, skeptical viewership, at least on my part, about the wisdom of doing this.  I didn’t watch much of the 14 hours of programming that they cobbled together raiding Bobbi Kristina’s psyche over the death of her beloved mother, but I followed the show through secondary means, like recaps and commentary from vloggers like the ladies below.

Does following the series second hand like that give me the right to form harsh opinions about the show? Oh yes it does! Think of it as reading customer reviews at Amazon.com before you put a product into your online basket. In any case, some of my opinions were formed firsthand. I skimmed through the first couple of episodes, which covered Mother’s Day weekend. There was a family brunch, a service at New Hope Baptist Church, which Krissy did not attend, and a visit to Whitney’s grave that forced me to walk away from my computer. I couldn’t watch that baby sit on the ground in that cemetery and cry over her dear mother, nor could I handle Cissy make an emotional case for her baby’s baby to keep in touch with her. So the computer watched itself while I stepped into the other room and folded some laundry.

The problem with this show was that it exploited Whitney’s death so that Pat could fulfill the reality show that she had been developing for some time. This wasn’t a documentary about a musical family, because there were not enough active, working musicians honing their craft and making things happen, like on “Braxton Family Values.”

• We didn’t get enough of Cissy or Dionne Warwick.

• We didn’t get to go into Damon Elliot’s studio.

• Gary kept his exceptional tenor to himself for the most part.

• CeCe Winans dropped in for only one measly episode, and there wasn’t even a family singalong at that beautiful white grand piano at Pat’s house. What’s it there for? To hold up picture frames? Krissy doesn’t seem to be proficient at piano, judging by the meeting that she had with Ricky Minor at one point in the series, and the fact that you never saw her play. That was surprising, given the first-rate musical heritage and connections she was surrounded with growing up. Even Bobbi Kristina’s father is a talented songwriter, one has to admit. In the same class as Ike Turner and Chris Brown, two other legitimately talented musicians, who were railroaded by the media.

So without much songwriting, album making or shows, aside from the heavy lifting that Cissy did for rehearsals for the BET Awards tribute and her clips from Gospelfest (that was me waaaay back in the last row at the back of the house, BTW!), what was the point of broadcasting a show about a family of Houstons? All we saw, aside from the contrived pseudo-dramas that fill up reality TV air time, were images of Krissy in the emotional throes of grief, Krissy being taken for granted by that feckless young man that Whitney took in, and Krissy getting very bad advice from cousins and uncles to reconcile with her father.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time criticizing Black men, partly because they’re making it way too easy, but let me just say that young adult children like Bobbi Kristina do not have an obligation to strive for a relationship with a poor parent. In fairness to his convoluted denials that he hit Whitney, let’s lay aside the conflicting reports about how she sustained a deep cut on her left cheek in Capri, reports from witnesses of her screaming for help from inside her limo during an argument in a mall parking lot in Hawaii, and the revelations that Whitney was cussed out in front of her mother and father in law, and then spat on in front of her child. All of that, including his lengthy rap sheet, are in the past. If the guy is still getting DUIs, and doesn’t pick up his daughter’s calls, then distance is required. Whoever it is, bloggers or whoever, who feel that his presence would be a good influence on her life now … need to wise up and stop interfering. They are training Bobbi Kristina to lower her standards and somehow accept the poor behavior from the first male role model in her life, which could carry over to her accepting wretched treatment from the men she chooses later. And didn’t the vloggers get incensed over an incident where the stray sped off in “his car,” (probably financed with Houston dollars) leaving Krissy somewhere at an event? I saw a preview clip of Krissy sitting on the ground in the night hunched over a phone trying to call this dude. Is this what Whitney would want for her baby, and for it to be on blast like that? This is not a good pattern, it should not be encouraged, and it should not be worked out on national TV and on the Web for everyone to see. Like her dearly departed mother said to Oprah in 2009 “some things are better left unsaid.” And where are the grown men in her life to grab that boy by the collar and make him apologize to her? *Sigh*

If I want to witness family dysfunction, missteps and tragic judgment calls, I could walk down one of the particularly ragged streets in my city, or ride mass transit or something. I won’t be subscribing to cable for this display of nonsense, mainly because they’ve connected it to the name of my first and foremost favorite pop singer. I wish I could say with confidence that the show is over and done with in its current form, as it should be. But I have the feeling that Robert Sharenow, the executive vice president of programming at Lifetime, will let this trash live another season, because he and other network brass seem desperate to race our collective national intellect to the bottom of the gutter in pursuit of ratings and ad revenue. After all, they have to come up with a way to beat Bravo TV’s housewives flipping tables, starting brawls at country clubs and working stripper poles, right?

I hope Bobbi Kristina follows all of Ricky Minor’s advice. She could be a polished, strong contralto with a flourishing career. Add her voice type to her grandmother’s soprano in her prime, and her mother’s mezzo-soprano, and she could complete the packet of Drinkard voice types. Then the music could go on, and she could begin to control her own narrative, instead of leaving it to others.


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