VH1’s sneak peek at its fall reality series Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It featured footage shot before his emergency appendectomy and brain hemorrhage and showed the rocker as we’ve never seen him before: as a father. It’s only natural to want to compare it to The Osbournes — after all, the sight of Bret sitting in his 4-year-old daughter Jorja’s magic castle or driving his 9-year-old daughter Raine to the bus stop in a golf cart is about as surreal as seeing Ozzy Osbourne handling trash bags. But the storylines are definitely different: Bret has been together with the mother of his two children, Kristi Gibson, on-and-off since 1993. After the Rock of Love years, he acknowledges that his life is out of control, and he wants more of a balance. Kristi is tired of being alone and wants him to be as committed to her and he is to his girls. “I’ve got lots of boyfriends… in my closet,” she confessed to a friend, who’d asked what she does when Bret’s on the road. (“There’s different sizes, different colors, but I find myself going through a lot of batteries,” she elaborated to the camera.)
The thing is, as interesting as that turning point in Michaels’ life is, the footage in this special didn’t feel 100 percent real. We’re supposed to believe that Bret hadn’t made up his mind that he was going to try to be a real boyfriend to Kristi before they decided to do this series about him being “Poppa Rocka”? That Raine just happened to have a homework assignment that involved answering questions about her dad’s job during his surprise visit? The cynic in me wasn’t sure whether to feel sad that a camera was on Jorja when she was sobbing into Bret’s shoulder and begging him to stay another day, or to feel foolish for feeling that sad when she’d looked at the camera first. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that Kristi and Bret’s relationship and the love that he and the girls have for one other is 100 percent genuine; I just hope when the series begins this fall — filming will resume when cleared by Michaels’ doctors — that it does them justice by feeling truly unscripted. The only way a show about his life after what he’s just been through wouldn’t be moving television is if the audience feels manipulated. It didn’t matter if we believed in Rock of Love, that was just for fun. This is — or should be — for real. We’ve met his family. We know what they’ve just been through. If they’re going to film their lives, we’re going to get invested.
The show is obviously about Bret, but I’m prepared to say that Jorja will be the star. She’s already been bleeped (Bret said she learned to curse when daddy was assembling that castle), she has a problem with flatulence, and she isn’t afraid to call Bret “boring” to his face. (Bret referred to himself as “the second most exciting man in the world.” Who’s the first?) Raine, according to Bret, is more mature than him. She certainly looked mature acting as photographer for fans who wanted to pose with her dad when he took the girls to CrackerJax, a “family fun and sports park.” That homework assignment of hers proved she also knows how to press his buttons. See: The question about his worst day at work. He suggested the answer was when he passed out from insulin shock at Madison Square Garden or broke his hand hitting a bus instead of a roadie. She wanted to go with him getting flattened at the Tonys — and reenacted it for him. (I’d love to see footage of the teacher reading the job description Bret insisted upon: “Musician/rock star extraordinaire/partay king — and it must be spelled par-tay.”)
What do you think? Will you tune in for Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It this fall?