The opening shot of “Harry Loves Lisa” finds Harry Hamlin reading Variety, fretting about opportunities during pilot season. Free publicity aside, hopefully someone will hide the paper before he sees this review of his unscripted half-hour comedy/drama with wife Lisa Rinna, which exhibits a deflating kind of desperation. The couple has already made separate appearances on “Dancing With the Stars,” and now transforms their lives into a kooky TV Land sitcom-like construct, only with mixed-in moments of bathos. After one heavily staged episode, it’s hard to imagine anyone being particularly wild about “Harry.”
As with many a reality show, this one labors to create its own familiar narrative framework — the self-described hook, if you believe the central duo, being Hamlin is cerebral and cautious while Rinna is a wacky free spirit. TV Land calls them a “celebrity uber-couple,” which suggests someone should be forced to take remedial German.
“I can’t keep my mouth shut,” she says cheerily about causing a stir with her Twitter account, having tamely bad-mouthed another reality star for excessive plastic surgery, inviting charges of hypocrisy because of those puffed-up lips.
Hamlin, meanwhile, goes on an audition that badly misfires (viewers aren’t privy to the offending performance), not very convincingly prompting him to try his hand at stand-up comedy. In doing this he seeks strategic counsel from actor-comic Robert Wuhl, which — along with the “This season on” tease — suggests there will be no shortage of celebrity guests.
Like a lot of programs built around private lives of the famous and once-famous, the producers work too hard trying to engineer such conflicts. That’s mostly because the show appears to have been sold primarily for the title (sounds a little like “Bridget Loves Bernie,” or “When Harry Met Sally!”) as opposed to any compelling reason to spend time with these two at home.
Admitting to being 58 years old (egad, was the original “Clash of the Titans” really that long ago?), Hamlin speaks of how he and Lisa are “both trying to get back in the game.” For those connected to or familiar with Hollywood, there’s a certain poignancy to that predicament.
To appreciate the show, however, requires ignoring the obvious: You’re back in the game already, Harry. You’re just playing in the minor leagues.