Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It -- TV Review

A rock ’n’ roller hits the road again, this time with a seat belt applied.

Rock ’n’ roll is absurd, exciting and hyper-real — all ingredients for a fascinating reality TV series, as Bret Michaels (former frontman for Poison) proved with his “Rock of Love” competition shows.

And the plan for VH1’s new “Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It” was that cameras would follow him as he tries to be a better dad to his young girls and a better boyfriend to his long-time girlfriend and baby mama Kristi.

But Michaels suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage right as cameras began to roll, putting the series on hold. He recovered, as most everyone knows, and grew his audience with a winning turn on NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice.” But with his health still in play (he’s also a lifelong diabetic), “Life” becomes a very different type of reality series. Every mundane gesture he makes — to say nothing of his leaping onstage to belt out the 8 millionth rendition of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” — can be seen in a new light. Can reality TV actually transcend peeping Tom trash and evolve into genuine art?

OK, let’s not get in over our heads. Michaels is a genuinely charismatic presence, likable even for nonfans of his music. Watching him interact with his mom, who drops by on tour, is a hoot; you’d have to be a stone not to feel for his youngest as she stands nose-to-glass watching him walk down the driveway to hit the road again; and his boneheaded generosity — who invites 20 roadies home for breakfast? — is sincere and warmly hilarious. But without Michaels onscreen, the light on “Life” dims enough to turn it into an ordinary, plain brown wrapper. Put it this way: On her own, Kristi is no Sharon Osbourne.

Still, “Life” is a cut above the rest because Michaels is facing major health issues every day. It might be that a near-death experience isn’t enough to totally slow him down, but watching him try to apply the brakes while simultaneously revving his engine is a reality worth tuning into.