TIME TO GO DUMPSTER DIVING: Trash isn't always slimy, smelly, gross junk. It can be an intriguing bin full of your neighbor's phone bill listing eight pages of calls to the Cayman Islands, a pristine copy of The Purpose-Driven Life, a smashed iBook and several pairs of thong underwear.
That's the spirit with which to approach what sounds like the smelly, gross variety: The Surreal Life, Strange Love and Celebrity Fit Club, VH1's "Celebreality" block of celebrity-populated reality shows that premieres tonight.
THE SURREAL LIFE: The Q-list celebrities brought together for the show's fourth incarnation are Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, former WWF wrestler Chyna Doll (real name Joanie Laurer), Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer, hip-hopper Da Brat, Calvin Klein underwear model Marcus Schenkenberg, first America's Top Model winner Adrianne Curry and Christopher Knight, a.k.a. Peter Brady of The Brady Bunch. And in a preview tape of the first episode, the show has a big Brady Bunch feel, albeit along the lines of The Brady Bunch merging with The Addams Family.
In short order, Knight becomes the dad. After arriving second at the Los Angeles house the group shares, he becomes the greeter of subsequent arrivals, gives house tours and does introductions. And he becomes the mediator of Day 1's first big brouhaha: Laurer, the first to arrive, moved into the only one-person bedroom, which obviously was designed for the 2-foot-8 Troyer, and she won't give it up. With Troyer ready to motor out in a huff _ he gets around on a scooter _ Knight gets Laurer to agree to move into another bedroom if the others help her move her stuff.
It all came together "like it was a frickin' Brady episode," Knight says later, laughing.
The Brady vibe continues when Troyer gets hysterically raging drunk at the day's end. Knight makes sure he gets to bed after Troyer ends up alternately falling asleep against Knight's right arm and pawing it while sitting and drinking by the pool. Once Troyer is in bed, Knight patiently asks if he's okay while Troyer paws at his T-shirt. Later, Curry checks in on him and gives him a bottle of water and what looks like a champagne bucket in case he needs to throw up.
And when Troyer wakes up later, rides through the house naked and stops to urinate in the weight room, Da Brat (on her way to sleep on the couch because of Laurer's snoring) gets Knight to deal with him.
Da Brat seems to be the only one not getting a Brady vibe.
"I'm thinking I'm in the Twilight Zone," she says.
STRANGE LOVE: This is the further adventures of rapper Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen, who hooked up on the last Surreal Life and went their separate ways when it was over.
In the first episode, Flavor Flav (whom Nielsen calls Mr. F and "Fooffy-fooffy") leaves New York for Milan, Italy, where Nielsen is living with her 26-year-old fiance. Saying they have a "certain fire that burns inside for each other," Fooffy-fooffy wants to get her to dump the fiance for him.
More often than not, the show comes across like a scripted sitcom, and in that context, it starts out promising to be one of the best of the season.
CELEBRITY FIT CLUB: It's NBC's The Biggest Loser with Z-list celebrities and, in the first episode, without the histrionics and melodramatic music.
The six celebs are Baldwin brother Daniel (Homicide: Life on the Street); plus-size model Mia Tyler, one of Steven's daughters; Joseph Gannescoli (Vito Spatafore on The Sopranos); DJ Biz Markie; Kim Coles (Living Single); Wendy Kaufman, the Snapple lady; Divorce Court judge Mablean Ephriam; and comedian Ralphie May, who finishes a four-day run at the Tampa Improv tonight.
They're divided into two teams. The team that loses the most combined weight after 14 weeks wins a "magnificent prize" (which means no one gets eliminated along the way). Helping them are a doctor, a psychotherapist and a drill sergeant who likes to tell people, "Have a good day."
The first episode is so lacking in hyperbole, it comes off like a better show for FitTV, not VH1's 2005 plan to become the network of celebrity reality. But it promises histrionics in the future.
Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or finksptimes.com.