The show is called “Wahlburgers,” most likely because “Starf**king” didn’t clear legal. Although famous brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg lend their marquee value to the festivities, the primary focus of this A&E unscripted (sort of) series is on a family-run burger joint, Wahlburgers, overseen by their older sibling, Paul, and mother Alma. Debate over expanding from a single restaurant to other locations dominates the post-“Duck Dynasty” premiere, but the program largely seems to exist as a sort of full-employment act for the Wahlbergs’ extended entourage. It’s generally playful, but unlike the burgers, consists of completely empty calories.
While actors Donnie and Mark have an interest in the burger business – and stress that people will be gunning for it because of their fame – the task of running things falls to the more cautious Paul, who refuses to serve any artery-clogging food before it is time. Currently operating just outside of Boston, he’s resistant to his brothers’ impulse to begin rapidly adding franchises, while Alma winds up playing referee.
Along the way, the show introduces Johnny “Drama” Alves (pictured above with Mark), the real-life inspiration for the Mark Wahlberg-produced “Entourage’s” Johnny Drama; and sidekick Henry “Nacho” Laun, another Wahlberg boyhood pal, who earns his keep thanks to his willingness to eat anything on a bet.
At the same time, all the Wahlbergs go out of their way to keep reminding everyone of their up-from-nothing background, with Alma having birthed nine kids, some of whom lack their own page on imdb.com.
During the premiere, the siblings engage in a Smothers Brothers-like shtick over who’s mom’s favorite, while Drama and Nacho are horrified when Paul and a new hire won’t let them eat and drink for free. The second episode, meanwhile, introduces Donnie’s girlfriend Jenny McCarthy, just because.
A&E is certainly to be forgiven for assuming viewers will be interested in seeing the Wahlbergs’ family roots and the celebrity brothers in unguarded (OK, more like semi-guarded) moments, but where’s the beef? For the most part, this qualifies as simply another attempt to cash in on the “Entourage” mystique as inexpensively as possible.
So while the show ostensibly deals with serving red meat, “Wahlburgers” represents little more in showbiz terms than using every part of the chicken.