'Barely Famous': TV Review

Barely Famous Still - H 2015
Courtesy of VH1

Barely Famous Still - H 2015

Sisters Erin and Sara Foster mock themselves, and Hollywood, in this clever reality show spoof.

Hilariously not-so-famous

There are reality shows that put real people in fake situations (The Bachelor) and those that pretend to be real but are decidedly fake (pick any of the Real Housewives franchise). Then there are the shows that make celebrities out of real people (Duck Dynasty) and celebrities who let the cameras follow them around (Kendra on Top). And, of course, there are the shows like The Hotwives of Orlando that openly mock the genre. Barely Famous doesn’t fit into any of these categories.

Part mockumentary, part reality show, part sitcom and entirely hilarious, Barely Famous follows sisters Erin and Sara Foster playing sisters Erin and Sara Foster. They’re the daughters of famous music producer David Foster. Over the years, they’ve repeatedly been asked to do numerous reality shows. But they would never do a reality show. This production, they tell viewers with tongue firmly planted in cheek, is actually a documentary. The show purposely and deliciously blurs the line between what is authentic and what is fake. “It is real, I guess,” Sara says.

Barely Famous skewers the genre by managing to hover just above the truth. “I wanted to sell a show about fame and celebrities and wealth and vanity and Hollywood,” Erin explains. The sisters are clearly mocking those who use a reality show to advance their careers and all the storylines on the series are obviously contrived ones. But Erin and Sara are also using a reality show to advance their careers. Yes, it’s a faux reality show, but it’s a real one at its core.

The show works because the innately likable siblings are willing to be the brunt of the joke. Erin, who is a writer, just wants to meet a nice guy — one who doesn’t know who Kendall Jenner is and can fix stuff around the house. She meets Jensen (Jensen Karp) when she goes to get her phone fixed. He’s normal. He likes, to Erin’s horror, P.F. Chang’s. Everything is going well on the date until she gets a booty call from James Franco and they run into Nicole Richie, who then proceeds to tell the date all about Erin’s famous relations. Through her parents’ remarriages, she’s even related to the Kardashians. “All your brothers and sisters are famous except for you,” Richie says.

While the show follows Erin’s beleaguered dating life, Barely Famous gets its biggest laughs from Sara’s struggling acting career. She is most familiar to viewers because of her recurring role as Jen Clark on 90210. As Erin says, the show was canceled in 2013 and Sara’s part was canceled in 2012. “I am a huge star. I can barely walk down the street in Germany,” Sara insists.

She so desperately wants press that her publicist arranges for the paparazzi to take pictures of her pumping gas. She tells the paparazzi she needs to get into character and wonders if pumping gas makes her look young. “I’m doing what celebrities do,” she explains when she tells the photographer to go away. “They can’t act like they want cameras in their face.”

In the second episode, Sara agrees to meet with Talia (Talia Tabin), the daughter of her mother’s friend. Sara thinks she's going to impart acting advice to Talia but  she discovers that Talia has already signed with CAA and has been invited to Judd Apatow’s house for dinner. “You’re the mother figure I’ve been needing in L.A.,” Talia tells her.

The show made me laugh out loud often. Everything Hollywood is fair game, from the sisters’ use of botox and spray tans to the fakeness that pervades practically every interaction to celebrities using their fame to get free stuff. Sara stops by a store to get the latest Birkin bag only to be told there are no more left. That is until Kate Hudson comes along and the manager promptly gives her one.

The show can be uproariously politically incorrect. When Richie says they grew up together because her dad works with Erin’s dad, Erin says “Well she’s adopted so it’s not, like, her dad.”

As you might have guessed, the series is chock-full of celebrity cameos. The sisters make great use of their famous friends and all involved are very eager to be part of the show. They’re clearly having such a good time mocking themselves that it’s impossible not to laugh along with them. In addition to Richie and Hudson, Kevin Connolly and Jessica Alba make appearances in the first two episodes. Future guest stars include Courteney Cox and Molly Sims.

The Foster sisters are delightful. Here’s hoping Barely Famous makes them Totally Famous.