In the old days, the promise of a second chance was available to the tired and poor huddling masses that came to our shores from across the sea. Today, if you're a poor campesino from the south end of North America, don't even go there.
If fundamentalist Christians and their angry and vengeful God get their way, the only ones worthy of second chances are sinners who have indulged (preferably in one of the seven deadly sins) and have decided to be saved. No, there's only one other way to receive a second chance in this country: Get yourself a reality show. But first, be a celebrity. From all indications, becoming a celebrity is a lot easier than crossing a desert to seek work in a country where you're thought of as a moocher, a drug dealer, or a terrorist. But I digress.
Several reality projects featuring celebs whose stars have tarnished over time (if they shone that brightly to begin with) have bubbled up to the top of the reality muck. Look at this lineup of reality show "star" vehicles that have or will have debuted this summer alone: Being Bobby Brown (Bravo), Hogan Knows Best starring Hulk Hogan (VH1), Celebrity Fit Club 2 (with Gary Busey and Jackée, to name two of the recognizable names) (VH1), Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (Bravo), Fat Actress, starring Kirstie Alley (Showtime), the new cast of The Surreal Life (Omarosa, Sandi "Pepa" Denton of Salt-n-Pepa, Jose Canseco, Bronson Pinchot, and others) (UPN), and finally, Minding the Store starring Pauly Shore, which premieres July 17 on TBS.
The "store" that requires minding is the Comedy Store. As it turns out, Shore's parents launched the legendary Hollywood venue. Shore got his start there, moving on to TV (Totally Pauly, MTV) and movies (Encino Man, Son in Law) and, then, kerplunk. His career went flat. But because he's a celebrity ("with fame came girls, lots of girls"), he's now eligible to jump-start his career via reality TV.
If you forget for a moment that Pauly Shore is, well, Pauly Shore, the premise of Minding the Store is somewhat engaging: As the only son of aging parents, Shore is tapped to inherit the family business and turn it around. This Shore does with mild chagrin and with larger hopes of reviving his career. Along the way, we're to believe that during his peak, he was a playboy and is now a recovering sex addict searching for true love. He does look like a playboy when compared to his posse of misfits and creeps, including his father, Sammy Shore, who travels with his son to a stand-up gig in Austin in the second episode.
Besides the expected reality show elements that appear in Minding the Store, I found myself nagged by the idea that something else was there, something familiar. And then it came to me: Shore is singing his version of the maudlin, misunderstood clown that Jerry Lewis used to pull out, begging to be taken seriously (it took years before his surprising performance in King of Comedy showed that, indeed, Lewis had more in his kit bag than his epileptic "Hey Lady!" bit). In short, once Lewis stopped trying so hard, his real talent revealed itself. Shore should take note.
In the meantime, Shore is so convinced that his show is funny, he is offering a money-back guarantee.
"Viewers who fail to laugh after watching the first episode of Minding the Store are invited to mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Shore, care of TBS," according to network press release. For details, go to www.tbs.com.
Just in case you're wondering about the fine print, here it is: "No purchase is necessary. Open to legal residents of the continental U.S., 18 or older. Void in Alaska, Hawaii and where prohibited. Offer ends 8/15/05 or whenever Sponsor has received 250,000 requests. No more than 250,000 will be honored."
Now, if someone can direct me where to get a refund for Encino Man, I'd say we were even.