What’s striking about Cyndi Lauper and her reality show She’s So Unusual (named after her classic 1983 debut album), is just how normal the pop singer is. Fans of Lauper would expect her life to be a bit like Peewee’s Playhouse, but judging from her reality show, she’s just your regular run-of-the-mill pop diva slash working mom. Starring with Lauper, are her husband, actor David Thornton and her teenaged son, Declan.
From the premier episode we see just how busy Lauper’s schedule is, and just how guilty she feels for traveling so much and leaving her family behind. She’s rehearsing for The Voice, and is struggling with voice problems. This is the kind of manufactured drama that reality shows revel in: while Lauper’s stressing, there are shots of a frowning Lauper, with dramatic music, as well as, suspenseful bumper breaks severe music that imply that the show would be a disaster – I don’t think I’m spoiling any alerts by writing that Lauper pulled it off.
What’s surprising about She’s So Unusual, is just how sedate and normal Lauper comes off. Beside her monstrous talent as a singer-songwriter, what’s awesome about Lauper is her oversized, eccentric personality, coupled with her hiccupped voice and cartoony Queens squawk. On her talk show appearances, she often steals the show from the charismatic hosts with her off-kilter appearances.
But on She’s So Unusual, she appears like a smart, focused, but very straight-laced woman. The absurdist, ridiculous sense of humor and irreverent attitude is sadly lacking, and instead Lauper comes off as harried and often-irritated.
During the first episode, the show gets a much-needed jolt of energy when Lauper’s pal Kathy Griffin shows up for a heart-to-heart. They chat over how hard it is to work on the road, and then get on the phone with Declan who blithely confuses Griffin with Carrot Top; he’s a sullen presence, but he’s witty and comes off as a nonplussed by his mom’s rough schedule.
Another thing that might surprise viewers is that despite having a lower profile than her salad days of the 1980s, she’s awfully busy doing appearances and performances everywhere. Also surprising is that because she’s so overscheduled, she can also be pretty unlikable.
The only time the Lauper that fans know and love comes out is when she’s “on.” It’s only when she’s performing or in front of fans, does the clever, fun, MTV-Disney hybrid come out.
Lauper is just another in a long line of pop stars and musicians that turn to reality television after radio abandons them – Ozzy Osbourne resurrected his career when he and his insane and profane family starred in their own reality show; Gene Simmons followed suit with his own program; and on Lauper’s channel, Toni Braxton injected some renewed interest in her career with her reality show. And because of this, there’s something slightly sad about an over-sized talent like Lauper toiling away on reality TV.
Hopefully, if Lauper gets some exposure from this show, she can finally mount the comeback she truly deserves, and she’ll earn a new audience for her music.