Stay Tuned: Healing the Oprah way on 'Beverly's Full House'
On the second episode of “Beverly's Full House,” a new reality series on OWN, former supermodel Beverly Johnson tells her daughter Anansa (a plus-size model) that she will be back at their hotel room at 11 a.m. Hoping for some bonding time, Beverly has set up an out-of-town photo shoot for the two of them, so she leaves early to check on things. Anansa is a new mother to daughter Ava and is expecting Beverly, an enthusiastic grandmother, to return to help her with the baby. Beverly is a no-show. When Anansa arrives at the studio, she confronts her mother about why she never came back. Beverly's reply is: “Oh, you took that literally?”
Aah, the joys of mother/daughter relationships. They can be contentious and loving all at the same time, and it's this balancing act, familiar to many mothers and daughters, that “Beverly's Full House” is hoping will entertain you. The set-up is that Anansa, her husband, David, and their newborn baby move into Beverly's house in Palm Springs so that Beverly and Anansa can work on their relationship. The family dynamics are admittedly rocky. Beverly, the first African-American model to be on the cover of Vogue, lost custody of her daughter until the age of 11 when Anansa came to live with her. As a result, Anansa has some issues to work out, namely feeling abandoned by a mother whose parenting responsibilities (at least for a time) took a backseat to her career. They are now close but the emotional baggage between them is unresolved, simmering just under the surface of their civility to one another. Sounds like a recipe for reality TV success, right? Former supermodel, daughter with buried resentments — cue tears and tantrums.
But this is a reality show on Oprah's network, which means that people will learn and grow rather than scream and fight. To this end, Beverly is shown having a phone session with her therapist and hiring a life coach who conference calls his advice to mother and daughter over breakfast. Despite feeling staged, the therapy sessions yield a few genuine moments that touch on the pair's troubled dynamic. Anansa recalls how hurt she felt when, as a teenager, she caught her mother mocking her weight behind her back. She also tells the story of how Beverly, upon seeing Ava for the first time, said, “I was ugly like that when I was a baby.” It's an uncomfortable moment, to say the least.
Anansa tells the audience that she is determined to work things out with Beverly so that Ava will see them in their “best light.” It's straight out of the Oprah playbook, and I wouldn't be surprised if Dr. Phil makes a surprise visit, but at least it's an admirable goal. That's not to say that playing out relationship dramas on unscripted television is wholly without other agendas — by episode two Beverly manages to plug her line of wigs.
Melissa Crawley credits her love of all things small screen to her parents, who never used the line, "Or no TV!" as a punishment. Her book, “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's 'The West Wing,’” was published in 2006. She has a PhD in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.