Interesting reviews of two shows I don't watch. Also interesting that these shows, which are heralded as the happiest relationships on TV, are both interracial, but that fact is not mentioned, which is also healthy.
NEW YORK TIMES:
February 17, 2012
Room for Old-Fashioned Love on Reality TV
By JON CARAMANICA
“When’s the last time you knew anyone who fell in love? Real love, like ‘Ice Loves Coco?’ ” Kat Dennings’s frozen-hearted character Max asked on “2 Broke Girls” this week.
Ice-T, the gangster rap pioneer turned actor who comfortingly portrays a tough cop, and his bionically built, chipmunk-voiced wife, Coco, are indeed truly simpatico, their tenderness capable of melting even the most grinchlike.
Our new domestic heroes have stylists, managers, assistants, fitness coaches, branding advisers and more. They sell romantic truth in an environment of contrivance. Once the most appealing role-model couples on television were wacky sitcom partners or brooding soap opera pairs. But in the modern era they’re just as likely to come from the world of reality television, which in the ecosystem of warring sub-socialites and competition-minded chefs and marksmen and interior decorators still makes room for old-fashioned, monogamous love.
“Ice Loves Coco” and “Khloé & Lamar,” two series that had their premiere on E! last year and begin their second seasons on Sunday, are two of the best examples of highly functional love in all of television. They’re small-size shows from big-size personalities, utterly orderly expressions of affection by people who in their public lives may have seemed better geared toward implosion.
“Khloé & Lamar” is the umpteenth spinoff of the Kardashian juggernaut: turns out that Khloé Kardashian is better at being a wife and head of household than at being a middle child. On “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and its many spin-offs, Khloé was the difficult one, the child who most obviously chafed against the acid reign of Mom, Kris, and against the disproportionate public attention lavished upon her sisters.
She needed to move out and move on. Khloé and Lamar — her husband, the basketball star Lamar Odom — are an un-self-conscious, physically affectionate couple who, in spite of the cameras, talk to each other with a remarkable degree of comfort, warmth and depth. In the Kardashian universe, she has replaced Kim as the seemingly responsible sibling; her marriage to Lamar has already lasted several hundred days longer than the bumpy starter wedding of Kim and her own basketball player, Kris Humphries.
On the new season premiere Khloé tries to play vixen, installing a sex swing in the couple’s bedroom, as well as a contraption that hangs over the door in a separate love den and appears to support a great deal of weight. But even doing this, Khloé is more endearing than daunting: she’s like an eager puppy, looking for new ways to share affection.
Sex comes up more obliquely on the “Ice Loves Coco” premiere: Coco (born Nicole Austin) is unwell and worries that she might be pregnant. Ice (born Tracy Marrow), whose most attractive feature is his sharp tongue, wants to talk his way through the situation. He’s been ironed free of whatever wrinkles of toughness his old career required; he’s just one in a stream of rappers who have used reality television as a bridge to late-life relevance.
It suits Ice well; during his 2008 war of words and YouTube clips with the teen rapper Soulja Boy, he came off as grossly out of touch and curmudgeonly. On the “Ice Loves Coco” premiere, his big beef is with Richard Belzer, who plays his partner on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and who looks as if he were shriveling up into jerky.
Neither of these reality TV couples began auspiciously. Khloé and Lamar were married just a few weeks after meeting. Ice began dating Coco shortly after splitting with a woman he’d been with for more than a decade, and the age difference between him and Coco is 22 years.
Last season, despite the frequent presence of co-workers and hangers-on, Ice and Coco were often shown alone, engaging in the small interactions that make couples successful. They have familiar routines. Coco, who looks sturdy and well defined, as if she’s been chiseled from wood, and who is given to tight fabrics, preferably with stretch, still plays the naïf, allowing Ice to take on the role of boss, though never a manipulator.
By contrast, Khloé and Lamar were almost never alone. Both have petulant deadbeats on their wings — for Khloé it’s her younger brother, Rob, who lived with the couple from the time they moved in together (he finally moved out on the new season premiere), and for Lamar it’s his best friend, Jamie. That makes Khloé and Lamar come across as even more responsible, setting the tone for a relationship based on listening and respect.
The opening episodes of the new season place both couples in peril, at least partly replacing their easy charm with easy melodrama. Coco learns that she has unusually high blood pressure, which sends her into a tailspin of anxiety. And Lamar becomes distracted by the N.B.A. lockout and isn’t as receptive to Khloé’s sex-kitten overtures as she’d like. (He also quibbles with Rob, who feels he’s not being brotherly enough.) They’re not catastrophes but, instead, relatable problems, meaning that these couples aren’t just capable of showing how to love, but also how to cope.