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''Being Bobby Brown'': It's all about Whitney

On ”Being Bobby Brown,” Whitney steals the show while shopping for trucker hats; meanwhile Bobby’s oldies performance barely registers

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Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston

”Being Bobby Brown”: It’s all about Whitney

Which sounds like the more enticing concert ticket? (A) An ’80s chart-topper returning to the stage to perform two of his biggest hits on Jimmy Kimmel Live, accompanied by a full band and backup singers, or (B) an embattled pop diva freestyling for less than a minute with a shirtless, skirt-clad, manky-bearded stranger at the Von Dutch checkout counter in Los Angeles?

Normally, the A’s would have it, but if you caught the most recent episode of Being Bobby Brown, you already know the correct answer is B. And it’s not only because our titular protagonist’s wife, Whitney Houston, is so mesmerizingly strange, but also because Bobby, a man who’s lost his celebrity mojo, so desperately wants to get it back that he breaks the old showbiz adage ”Never let them see you sweat.”

Indeed, no matter how wacky the high jinks that Being Bobby Brown‘s producers try to cook up for the R&B bad boy, it’s always The Whitney Show. Whenever the camera cuts away from the temperamental diva, someone might as well cue the clichéd needle-screeching-across-a-record noise to indicate a sudden drop in the show’s momentum. Take Bobby’s scene in the Jimmy Kimmel greenroom: Maybe he really does leave voice-mail messages by pressing the back of his cell phone against his forehead, then letting the mouthpiece flop backward into his mouth, but how is that interesting? Especially when the most compelling thing he has to share during the call is the dubious claim that he wasn’t aware he’d be expected to sing during his talk-show appearance.

Whitney, on the other hand, doesn’t require staged antics; drama follows her everywhere like a hyperactive shadow. I couldn’t make out half of what she and Effeminate Bearded Guy were yammering about at the Von Dutch store — and from the bewildered look on daughter Bobbi Kristina’s face, neither could she — but I have to say, it was pretty frickin’ hilarious, and a heckuva lot funkier than Bobby’s version of ”My Prerogative.”

Of course, as a resident of New Jersey — and a member of a small underground movement to dub Jersey City ”the J.C.” — I could be biased after seeing Whitney offer so much love to my great state. Sure, Bearded Guy got the lovefest rolling by boldly exclaiming, ”I want to exchange that Newark love with Miss Whitney!” but who knew there was a secret hand gesture to signal one’s Garden State pride? I didn’t before tonight, but if I watch the exchange enough times in slo-mo, I should be able to master it by the weekend. Not to worry, though, I’m not deluded enough to think I can convincingly shimmy my shoulders and sing, ”Hey-ey, hey-ey, hey-ey.”

The one thing saving Bobby on this show is that he’s aware of his own limitations. His admission that he sounded like ”stir-fried s—” during his Kimmel rehearsal was all the more impressive considering he was surrounded by brown-nosers who tried to tell him otherwise. I’d even give the guy bonus points for mocking his lack of a matinee-idol physique — if he hadn’t subjected the viewing audience to a shot of his bare stomach in the process. (As Valerie Cherish put it, ”Note to self: I don’t need to see that!”)

Whitney, God bless her crazy little heart, has no such humility. Responding to a red-carpet reporter’s scandalous question — would Being Bobby Brown be better than MTV’s Newlyweds? — Whitney offered the longest, most intense withering look I’ve seen on TV this year. And then, as she tends to do, she told it like it T-I-S: ”They’re cute,” she said. ”We’re Bobby and Whitney.”

What do you think? If Being Bobby Brown gets a second season, should Whitney get her name in the title? Should she record a duet with the bearded dude? And what do you make of Bobby’s ”Toxic” ring tone?