As so often happens with reality shows, “Same Name” is a cute idea lacking the heft to sustain its premise. A celebrity and some ordinary person with the same name trade places (think “Life Swap,” not “Wife Swap”), trying to walk a mile in each other’s Gucci loafers and muddy work boots, respectively. Once situated, though, there’s not much for either of them to do. Producing two stories in an hour would probably improve the pacing, but would also double the cost. That leaves this squishy “Undercover Boss” substitute as a harmless time-waster, with the emphasis on “waste.”
David Hasselhoff, former “Baywatch” star, meets David Hasselhoff, 27-year-old electrical technician-landscaper-married dad in Lake Jackson, Texas. A couple of handshakes and corporate-jet flights later, and one Hasselhoff is ensconced in a Hollywood mansion (complete with personal assistant and pet pig), while the other is mucking oil out of an industrial tank and eating greasy food with a big, boisterous family. Yee-ha.
Still, unlike a certain video of Hasselhoff that made the rounds, the show doesn’t really emphasize the crazy, instead going for something between the heart-warming streak of “Boss” and the “stars are good sports like you or me” vibe of CBS’ specials “I Get That a Lot.”
In short, “Same Name” is too respectful to both halves of its equation to be fully engaging by reality-TV standards. When Hasselhoff talks to this struggling family about favorable deals buying a castle in Croatia, for example, where are the cricket sounds to go with their blank stares?
Instead, producer Cris Abrego (a veteran of VH1’s “celebreality” stable) and team pursue a sweeter, kind-of boring approach, whether that’s Hasselhoff chit-chatting with his adopted family or the Texas bloke staring warily at sushi, mingling with Hasselhoff fans at an autograph signing session (which is plain odd) or meeting with the ‘Hoff’s’ agent, Joel Dean, who appears to be wondering if he can commission this guy.
Granted, there’s a place for kinder-gentler reality, but it’s also harder to get right. And while the former “Baywatch” and “Knight Rider” star gamely plays his part, Hasselhoff (and clearly the editors) have to work overtime to putty in the gaps when nothing’s happening.
Of course, there are probably “Brian Lowrys” out there who will like “Same Name” a whole lot better. Good luck finding them.