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XOX Betsey Johnson: TV Review

XOX Betsey Johnson - P 2013
Matthias Clamer/Style Network

The Bottom Line

Style's new reality show is better than average thanks to its star.

Airdate

8 p.m. Sunday, May 12 (Style)

The energetic exploits of fashion's crazy septuagenarian drive this lively docuseries on Style.

Style smartly nabbed kooky punk-princess designer Betsey Johnson to be the centerpiece of a new docuseries. The Betsey brand has been through hard times recently -- after decades of prominence, the company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2012 -- but it was acquired by Johnson's friend, shoe designer Steve Madden, who kept her on as creative director. The hopefulness but uncertainty of this new partnership is chronicled on XOX Betsey Johnson, as is the designer's tumultuous relationship with her only child, Lulu.

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"I grew up rolling around in fabric under tables," says Lulu early in the premiere, going on to talk about 13 years working for her mother. But later in life, the divorced Lulu has found her relationship with Betsey more suffocating than encouraging, especially regarding the launch of her own clothing line.

Lulu and Betsey are an odd couple: Betsey, 70, is flighty and unpredictable, whereas Lulu, 37, is levelheaded and conservative. They even attend couples therapy together. "We're joined at the hip, heart and throat," says Betsey, but it's clear Lulu craves independence.

There is plenty of fashion to swoon over, and the insider's look into the business of being a designer, particularly through the lens of Lulu's startup, is informative and dramatic.

VIDEO: Betsey Johnson and Daughter Lulu on New Show: Our Lives Were Falling Apart

What makes the show better than average, even though its presentation is nothing new, is Betsey. There are reasons people care, and should care, about the designer and her achievements -- she's not manufactured from reality dust. She's silly but sincere, flirting with men half her age, dancing with people in the streets and bubbling with creativity. "Some people do drugs to feel good," she says on an excursion to a gym where she barely works out, "but I use cute men. And Champagne." True to her word, at the gym is an attractive trainer she met once on a beach, and in her water bottle is a mimosa.