×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Branson Famous’

There’s bad, there’s fabulously bad, and then there’s “Branson Famous.” What TruTV is billing as the first “reality musical” – and quietly unleashing, understandably, between Christmas and New Year’s – achieves a certain level of hilarity, though how much of that is intended proves difficult to discern. In this half-hour soap built around a performing family and their Branson, Mo., stage/variety revue, the characters don’t just deliver their direct-to-camera thoughts but sing their feelings, with one silly line rhyming with the next. As for the participants, they’re due to receive a measure of fame, all right, although probably not the kind they envisioned.

At the center of the series is the Mabe family, which performs in the long-running Baldknobbers Jamboree. The act consists of the extended family, minus one sister who desperately wants to escape her lot working in the gift shop but, alas, sings like someone who wouldn’t get invited to Los Angeles on “American Idol.”

Jumping right in, the show picks up with the son, Brandon, and his parents Tim and Patty auditioning new singers in an effort to help fill empty seats. They quickly settle on the pretty and perky Heather Gentry (who is dramatically introduced in silhouette), much to the chagrin of Brandon’s girlfriend and co-star, Megan McCombs, who doesn’t get along particularly well with Patty, mostly because she broke up Brandon’s marriage.

OK, so all that’s equal parts country-and-western song and “Nashville.” Where “Branson Famous” wildly goes off the rails is during the between-drama interludes, where Brandon sings, “I’m chasin’ Branson fame,” and his mom follows that with, “I’m savin’ my family’s name.” Or Brandon’s crooned reassurance that “I ain’t no cheatin’ man,” while Megan sings back at him, rolling her eyes. There’s even a sort-of split-screen duet at one point involving Megan and Patty, which is every bit as silly as that sounds.

Like a lot of reality shows, enjoying “Branson Famous” – or at least, accepting it as “real” in any way – requires ignoring the existence of the show itself, which, presumably, might help solve some of the family’s money troubles, not just through program fees but the attention (good or ill) this exposure will bring to them. Then again, dwelling on such matters would appear to be giving the show more thought than those responsible (and especially those who wrote the lyrics) ever did.

TruTV is undergoing a kind of creative evolution, having relied on heavily staged unscripted shows, and now morphing into a more comedy-driven version of the same. There will be, inevitably, some trial and error during that process.

For sheer kitsch value, “Branson Famous” is so absurdly goofy it might not be a total loss, and if so, it wouldn’t be the first time Southern-fried reality has reaped dividends.

That said, there’s a fine line between being laughed with and laughed at, and if the Mabes wanted to escape this exercise with their dignity, then like many an old-fashioned country song, the producers and TruTV have done them wrong.

Popular on Variety

TV Review: 'Branson Famous'

(Series; TruTV, Mon. Dec. 29, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Road to Awe Entertainment.

Crew: Executive producers, Anna Rodzinski, Brian Jones; co-executive producer, Stacia Thompson; producers, Lee Christofferson, Katie Killeen; senior editor, Caitlin Davey; musical director, Thomas McGurk. 30 MIN.  

More TV

  • David Goodman

    WGA West's David Goodman on Agency Strategy: 'We'll Start Meeting as Soon as Possible'

    David Goodman, who was resoundingly re-elected president of the Writers Guild of America West on Monday, said the guild plans to meet with several talent agencies soon in an effort to ease the impasse over packaging fees and affiliated production. “Many agencies had indicated that they wanted to wait to see the results of the [...]

  • THE TITAN GAMES -- "The Titan

    'Titan Games' Renewed for Season 2 at NBC

    NBC has renewed the Dwayne Johnson-hosted competition series “The Titan Games” for a second season. The series features men and women battling opponents in head-to-head physical challenges designed by Johnson. Winners advance to Mt. Olympus, a test of speed, strength, agility and endurance. “When we launched ‘The Titan Games,’ we set out to create an [...]

  • David Goodman

    David Goodman Re-Elected President of Writers Guild of America West

    David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents. Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA [...]

  • first wives club BET

    TV Review: 'The First Wives Club' on BET Plus

    Launching a series based on a beloved property is harder than it seems. On the one hand, you get the immediate boost of name recognition to lure in preexisting fans. On the other, straying too far from the plot and/or spirit of the original risks sparking their righteous wrath. It’s a tricky balance to strike, [...]

  • Thomas Golubic GMS Conference

    Guild of Music Supervisors President: 'The Economics of the Job Don't Work Anymore'

    The Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS) hosted its 5th annual “State of Music in Media” conference on Saturday, Sept. 15, at the Los Angeles Film School. Featuring a wide array of panel discussions on all manner of issues related to music in film, television and advertising, the confab drew top composers, music supervisors, licensing and [...]

  • Christopher Eccleston Anorexia

    Christopher Eccleston Reveals He Was 'Very Ill' With Anorexia While Filming 'Doctor Who'

    “Doctor Who” actor Christopher Eccleston has opened up about his anorexia, body dysmorphia and suicidal thoughts. Eccleston, who played the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, made the revelations in his forthcoming autobiography “I Love the Bones of You: My Father and the Making of Me.” “Many times I’ve wanted to reveal that I’m a lifelong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content