Given E!'s burgeoning celeb-reality lineup of notorious but beautiful women -- Denise Richards, Kim Kardashian and the Lohans among them -- Pamela Anderson fits right in, tabloid TV's veritable holy grail. Yet Anderson improbably outsmarts those who would exploit her in "Pam: Girl on the Loose."
Given E!’s burgeoning celeb-reality lineup of notorious but beautiful women — Denise Richards, Kim Kardashian and the Lohans among them — Pamela Anderson fits right in, tabloid TV’s veritable holy grail. Yet Anderson improbably outsmarts those who would exploit her in “Pam: Girl on the Loose.” Sure, she offers peeks at her God-given and surgically-enhanced assets, but she opens up only in ways that behoove her — tediously preaching the PETA/animal rights gospel, refusing to reveal her children (while referencing them constantly), and at times stripping bare unscripted TV’s sausage-making procedures. Great it’s not, but the “Baywatch” babe demonstrates undeniable savvy regarding how to leverage fame.Like Richards (who does show off her kids), Anderson’s transparent game plan is to accentuate her humanity by exposing not just that famous poster-girl form but also her interactions with family, entourage and even the contractor working on her house. Anderson, however, appears to have a more concrete agenda in mind. And while she insists “nothing’s contrived” in the show, she contradicts that in the third episode by reading a memo from the producers/network coaching her about the topics they want discussed. See? We’re so honest, we’re showing you how the program is manipulated! As is so often the case with celebrity-reality vehicles, the struggle is finding compelling activities to keep the talent occupied and the audience engaged. So we follow Anderson as she attends premieres, hangs out with Hugh Hefner, schleps to D.C. for the White House correspondents dinner, and auctions off lingerie to benefit PETA. Pretty quickly, one comes to understand that the most interesting thing that happens to Anderson in a day occurs each morning when she gazes in the mirror. Despite the usual refrain of griping about paparazzi, she acknowledges the symbiosis of that relationship — saying “I think I’m afraid of not being filmed” and speaking of how her triumph will be to raise her children “as normal as possible in an abnormal environment.” Even the use of the term “girl” in the title delivers a not-so-subtle anti-feminist message. Producers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato have been associated with more ambitious documentaries (“Inside Deep Throat” and “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” among them) but can’t do much to break the reality-tag-along mold, minor visual flourishes notwithstanding. As usual, the narcissism is breathtaking, and there’s nothing as personally revealing or playful as Anderson’s sex tape with Tommy Lee, which remains her most compelling screen work. Still, hats off to Anderson for approaching “Girl on the Loose” with an obvious strategy: make a few bucks, prove she’s not inflatable and force-feed viewers an exhausting pro-PETA public service announcement. For anybody tuning in who might resent being used to advance those goals, at least it’s clear where the real boobs are.