Back To Reality...

[New York Times Report]

Bobby Brown Is Back, in Reality TV

Bobby Brown, serious about his new cable television series.

On the first episode of his new reality series, the beleaguered R&B singer Bobby Brown pokes fun at his extensive rap sheet and his bad boy reputation. "Maybe you don't recognize me because I'm not in an orange jumpsuit," he tells two middle-aged men dining in a fashionable restaurant. Mr. Brown then turns around and places his hands behind his back as if he's being handcuffed. (It is a stance that he has become quite accustomed to over the years.) "Recognize me now, don't you?"

He may joke about his criminal record, the tabloid headlines and reports of a rocky marriage, but Mr. Brown, 35, is quite serious about using his new series, "Being Bobby Brown," to set the record straight about his life. "On a daily basis, I'm trying to prove my point, that I'm more good than I am bad."

The series, which begins next Thursday night at 10 on the cable channel Bravo, chronicles Mr. Brown's exploits over the last six months. Watch Bobby Brown narrowly avoid prison, party in the Bahamas and pose for pictures with adoring fans. Watch him dance a jig at a local Chinese eatery and pick the lock on his hotel room mini bar.

Lounging in a conference room at the Waldorf-Astoria one recent afternoon, Mr. Brown said he had cameras following him 24 hours a day, logging more than 3,000 hours of film.

"I didn't want them to miss anything," said Mr. Brown, a devout believer in the all-press-is-good-press doctrine. "I wanted them to get the ups and downs and the good and bad because that's what made me."

"I'm not ashamed of any of it," he later added. "I'm not going to run and I'm not going to hide. They're going to talk about me anyway - thank God. I just want to control it."

The idea for a reality series came out of a conversation he had two years ago with his children - Landon, 18; La Princia, 16; Bobby Jr., 14; and Bobby Kristina, 12. "I was in jail, and they were like 'Dad, your friend Flavor Flav has a reality show," he recalled. " 'When you get out, you should do a reality show.' " Upon his release, Mr. Brown linked up with two Atlanta television producers who were intrigued by the constant press Mr. Brown and Whitney Houston, his wife of 14 years, generated. "Outside of all the negative blurbs, we wanted to know what else is there to these people," said Tracey Baker-Simmons, an executive producer of the show. A pilot episode was shot and sent to Bravo, where it took the network's president, Lauren Zalaznick, only 15 minutes to greenlight the series. "I'm not someone that buys something in the room," Ms. Zalaznick said. "I'm a ruminator. But it was very apparent to me that this was something right for Bravo. This is very tactile. You feel something when you watch this show."

Though the show is a Bobby Brown vehicle, Ms. Houston figures prominently. She lovingly greets her husband when he returns from a stint in jail. She is there with him in court when he faces domestic abuse charges brought by her. And when Mr. Brown is given a slap on the wrist, it is she who enjoys a romantic dinner with him the evening following his court date.

Among the many things viewers learn about the couple: Ms. Houston snores loudly, Mr. Brown uses Preparation H to treat bags under his eyes and the two enjoy a very active sex life. In a voice that is meant to be sultry, Mr. Brown asks his wife, "Can I impregnate you?" To which she quickly responds, "You tried to impregnate me all last week." In one of the show's more uncomfortable moments, Mr. Brown freely discusses how he helped relieve his constipated wife.

But those expecting a train wreck will have to settle for a major fender bender. While "Being Bobby Brown" has its share of bizarre moments, viewers are also given an opportunity to see Mr. Brown as both a doting father and loving husband, one who often doles out hugs and kisses. And he admits to being an overprotective dad.Note the advice he gives to his daughter La Princia: "If someone ever tries to kiss you, smack 'em!"

Still, a sliver of Mr. Brown's bad boy side was apparent early last week. Though he was nattily dressed in designer jeans, a white vest and matching sneakers, his cornrows appeared fuzzy and in dire need of rebraiding; his eyes were a tad bloodshot. When not answering questions in a near whisper, he struggled to stay awake, even nodding off for a moment during the interview. Was Mr. Brown bored? "No," he replied. "I'm just tired." It turns out the singer had spent the previous evening in the edit room for his show and in the studio recording a track for his new album, which he hopes to release independently this fall. "There's a lot going on right now," he said with a sheepish grin.

Mr. Brown said Ms. Houston, who recently completed a drug rehabilitation program at a center in the Caribbean, is, "doing great." He added: "She looks good. She smells good. Her eyes are shining again. It's beautiful."

In a 2002 interview with Diane Sawyer, Ms. Houston admitted to experimenting with prescription pills, cocaine and alcohol, but vehemently denied smoking crack because "crack is wack." Mr. Brown, in the same interview, confessed to smoking marijuana every other day to deal with his bipolar disorder. He has since slowed down on his cannabis consumption, he said. Instead of "self-medicating," he added, he now takes prescribed drugs.

"I go to a real pharmacist," the singer saidwith a chuckle.

Mr. Brown also played down reports of domestic violence in his home; it was just play-fighting gone awry, he said, claiming that most of the time it's his wife and not him who is landing the blows. "You'll see on this show just how well Whitney fights," he promised. "Whitney is nobody's punk. She's tough."

In addition to his reality series, Mr. Brown hopes to jumpstart his music career, which took a turn for the worse several years ago after a successful run in the late 1980's and early 90's, first as a member of the boy group New Edition and then as a pelvic-thrusting solo artist ("My wife calls me pump master," Mr. Brown said.).

With this show, Mr. Brown and Ms. Houston join the growing list of celebrity couples cashing in on their high-profile unions, but the singer claims that he did not do the series for the money. "I wrote 'Prerogative,' " he said referring to the royalties he receives from his 1988 hit, "My Prerogative." "I'm just fine and my kids are fine."

Having a reality series may have inadvertently helped Mr. Brown stay on the straight and narrow, he said. It's a little more difficult landing in trouble when there are cameras around. "Somebody's got to behave," said Mr. Brown, who laughs easily. He stopped short of pronouncing his hell-raising days behind him, but Mr. Brown said he was intent on leading a more low-key life.

"I pray on every Bible in this country that I never see jail again," Mr. Brown said. "I'm going to work hard to preserve my life and make my kids proud."



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