Last night, the premiere episode of Lifetime’s new reality show “The Houston’s: On Our Own” hit airways, evoking strong responses from viewers and media critics. Before the show debuted, critics questioned the Houston family’s decision to bring the media spotlight even closer so soon after the death of Whitney Houston in February. The main objective of the show appears to be to present a more positive image of the grieving family than the drama published in tabloids, but some would argue that the grieving process is not something that belongs on TV.
“’The Houstons: On Our Own,’ feels exploitive,” argues Gerrick Kennedy of the Los Angeles Times. “Even if the family invited viewers into their homes in an attempt to control the conversation surrounding Houston’s rise and fall, their grief over her demise shouldn’t be accessible at the click of a remote.”
In the month’s following her mother’s death, Bobbi Kristina Brown has been the focus of the media’s attention when it comes to the Houston’s, and the show reflects this development. The 19-year-old is seen drinking an alcoholic cocktail on camera during the show’s first episode, much to the chagrin of Pat Houston, Whitney’s long-time manager, and Bobbi Kristina’s surrogate mother on the show.
Though Pat is supposedly the show’s central character, the episode revolves around Bobbi Kristina and her relationship with best friend turned boyfriend, Nick Gordon. Gordon was raised alongside Bobbi Kristina, after being informally adopted by Whitney. Though the family expresses discomfort and outright disagreement with the couple’s plans to marry, they maintain that their relationship is misunderstood.
“We were best friends long, long ago, and now I’m in love with him,” Bobbi Kristina asserts. “It was never anything that these people are saying that it was incest. None of that. You guys can take my word for it.”
The first episode takes place three months after Whitney’s death, and documents the family’s visit to Whitney’s grave for Mother’s Day. It is here, just minutes after the episode opens that The Daily Beast writer Allison Samuels felt that the show had gone too far.
“The disturbingly intrusive scene also includes Whitney’s mother, Cissy, and brother, Gary, and yet still manages to feel forced and contrived,” Samuels writes. “The viewer is pained not only by the family’s loss but also by their apparent need to display that loss in such a visible way.”