Barbara Walters and her “I give not a single damn about your thoughts or your feelings” style of interviewing on The View often makes me boo and hiss at the legendary journalist. Even so, I couldn’t help but salute her for asking Pat Houston the tough questions during her appearance on the daytime show alongside her teenage daughter and Cissy Houston. The trio were on hand to promote the new Lifetime “docu-reality series” The Houston’s: On Our Own.
Announced in May, the press release described the show as Whitney Houston’s brother, Gary Houston, and his wife and Whitney’s manager, Pat, as they embark on "their greatest challenge, supporting and guiding Bobbi Kristina as she faces the world alone, without the one person she relied on the most, her Mother."
The show began filming in May, three months after the death of the iconic vocalist. With its premiere this week, it’s been a mere eight months since the world lost one of its greatest talents and Walters echoed a sentiment many of Nippy’s fans have wondered themselves: Isn’t it all too soon?
It only took two months for Cissy Houston to announce plans for a book about her daughter. Two blinks later gospel singer and longtime Whitney Houston friend Bebe Winans followed suit. But whereas Cissy looks to give context to her daughter’s struggles and Bebe to further humanize her with tales of grand gestures and anecdotes about Whitney loving to yell at the movies like the crazy and lovable auntie most imagined her to be, this reality show is focused primarily on grief in its earliest stages. The inclusion of Bobbi Kristina Brown is especially worrisome.
Given she’s the child two parents with issues related to substance abuse, she may not have even fully dealt with that let alone the loss of her mom. Is this the way to introduce her to the world?
Walters asked Pat: “Would Bobbi Kristina not have been better off if you didn’t do a reality show? If you didn’t show her visiting her mother’s grave with cameras on her? If you just let her grow up to have a life without the kind of attention that maybe contributed in a way perhaps to her mother’s death?”
Pat defensively said, “Cameras have been following since she was born. It’s not exploitation of any kind.”
Uh, as her manager, I know Pat remembers Whitney furiously Bankhead bouncing to her media-bashing track “Whatchulookinat.”
Death is emotionally draining, takes time to process, and requires a bit of sensitivity from those around you. None of those qualities are typically found in the medium of reality television.
Pat went on to explain that the show is “actually a continuation of a project that we were already working on. The name just changed.” That show was “called Power Brokers about five women in Atlanta about their successes…I was one of those women.” Moreover, Pat cautioned it’s nothing like Being Bobby Brown.
But this show isn’t about a successful businesswoman and we needn’t pretend otherwise.
When Sherri Shepherd asked Cissy Houston how she feels about her private life being our life now she quipped in response, “not very good.” I have to admit that I am curious to see how The Houston’s: On Our Own goes, but Cissy’s response is exactly why I’m uneasy about regularly watching.
The premiere episode only intensifies the feeling. In the first episode of the show we see a 19-year-old Bobbi Kristina wearing her mother’s ring and saying it now serves the purpose of signifying an engagement to her “god brother” Nick Gordon. Bobbi Kristina goes on to announce, “Nick and I are still living in the house that we shared with our mother.”
Concerns about Bobbi Kris’ drinking habits come to play, too, which led to Sherri and Barbara each asking if Bobbi Kristina has a drinking problem. “There’s no hard liquor involved relative to Krissy,” Pat retorted before explaining Whitney allowed her to drink and that “I don’t like it, but this is her reality.”
When asked if she worries about Bobbi Kristina repeating the mistakes of her makers, Cissy said, “I guess she could if she keeps doing what she’s doing.” Case in point: Bobby Brown was arrested for his second DUI this week.
By the end of the interview, Barbara acknowledges they “may sound a little harsh,” but speaks to how “horrendous” their situation is and wishing them well. She tried to make up for her tone, but the sentiment repeats itself in some of the reviews of the show floating online. Many have thought it; Babs simply said it directly.
Death is emotionally draining, takes time to process, and requires a bit of sensitivity from those around you. None of those qualities are typically found in the medium of reality television. Yeah, the show must go on, but everything about The Houston’s: On Our Own reminds us how sometimes it’s okay to make them wait.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read