In the first month following the AOL Newfront presentation, the news / video portal has already debuted two of it’s new slate projects — Nicole Richie’s reality show #CandidlyNicole and HardWired from YouTube’s tech-savvy, famed femme iJustine. Our critics took a looksie and delivered the raw reviews.
#CandidlyNicole is All Grown Up
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Ringing in the 10 year anniversary of The Simple Life, Nicole Richie’s first foray into reality television, the socialite turned tabloid-bait, turned mom, turned fashion designer is back in the reality programming game with the debut of her new show on AOL Originals — #CandidlyNicole.
Produced by Telepictures (The Ellen Degeneres Show) and World of Wonder (Ru Paul’s Drag Race), “the show follows the outspoken celebrity as she shares her perspective on style, parenting, relationships and her journey to adulthood” drawing from her “irreverent twitter feed.” (Richie’s twitter personality landed her a spot on Time’s list of best twitter feeds for 2013.) Already in its third episode, the line from Episode 2 — “You used to be dirty and now you’re clean” as so cleverly put by celebrity florist Eric Buterbaugh — could easily be the tagline for the new short form series airing weekly on AOL. And perhaps Richie’s new #LifeMotto.
Afterall, over the five seasons of The Simple Life, Richie and her counterpart Paris Hilton quite exquisitely paraded dimwitted personalities with pride while managing to capture the hearts of Middle America with a flare that only Paris and Nicole, and obviously Honey Boo Boo, could achieve. In a clear attempt to combat that reputation and put Nicole back on the “serious business woman” pedestal, #CandidlyNicole is stacked with references to how the 31 year old mom is “grown up” and maybe even a little sophisticated.
The episodes so far show Richie’s desire to get her “tramp stamp” removed and class up her house with flowers because they are a sign of being an “adult.” She even says to Buterbaugh “I wanted to talk to you because I feel like I’m an adult now, I’m 31. So I feel like now I have to have flowers in my house all the time.” Don’t be confused though, #CandidlyNicole combines the best of Richie’s quirky sarcasm (calling her tattoo-removal doctor Dr. Tattoff despite being corrected multiple times for instance) while showing a polished and down to earth side of the celebrity.
While the episodes are not very exciting to watch, the production quality is fantastic — we’d expect no less with traditional TV production houses behind the show though. And the social media on-screen bubbles (which put me in mind of the 90’s Blind Date conversation bubbles) were also a nice, and demographic-relevant, addition. Judging from the (lack of) social media buzz, this show might not capture the audience it deserves. The real question is whether or not audiences really want to see Richie “all growed up” or if they preferred to watch her mock the “simple life.” In it’s first few episodes, Richie has revealed an endearing and much “calmer” side of herself that feels like Martha Stuart Lite and will keep this viewer coming back, even if it is simply to learn more about “Homie Hoppers.”
HardWired — Too Close to Advertising
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iJustine (Justine Ezarik to non-YouTube kind) may be all YouTube pro but when it comes to reading scripts, she misses the mark. Yes, it does take a certain level of skill to riff direct to camera, engage an audience and build a loyal following on and off YouTube, but it’s quite another to be able to deliver a line. iJustine excels on her new AOL Originals show HardWired primarily because she’s talking direct to camera and narrating the show, just like she would on her YouTube Channel.
But in the scenes where she’s “acting” and even the last couple minutes where she’s interviewing Dr. Shephal K. Doshi, the script and her delivery seem forced. This is fine and dandy though given she counters her lack of acting ability with major influence and authority in technology and gaming. HardWired is afterall a show that spotlights the latest gadgets for wearable tech. Judging by the first episode, which reviews an Adidas heart rate monitor and the Jawbone Up wristband that tracks daily fitness and health activity, HardWired is a product placement execs “wet dream” as the show is basically an advertisement. The use of experts adding useful takeaway somewhat balanced the advertorial nature but overall it felt too sell’y. One possible frustration for the viewer though is how quickly the stats either flash on and off the screen too quickly to read or they are faded into the background. Other than that, the production quality is as you’d expect and it’s well-edited. Though the first episode lacked major luster, iJustine’s influence alone will likely drive this show to success and it will be interesting to see if the tone and performance are consistent for the entire episode run.