On ‘Briston Palin: Life’s a Tripp,’ the new Lifetime reality series, the eldest daughter of former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin moves to Los Angeles with her toddler son Tripp and her younger sister Willow. They live in a Beverly Hills mansion and Bristol volunteers for a L.A. based charity.
The show’s website claims that viewers will have access to Bristol’s “everyday life as a single mother living under intense media scrutiny.” But the show seems to be more about her and her sister complaining about each other and life in L.A. As for Tripp, he is mostly watched by Willow because as Bristol says in the first episode, she doesn’t want to employ “some random baby-sitter.” For the most part, the storyline is typical of this type of reality TV, meaning that it’s a combination of everyday activities—buying groceries, shopping for clothes—combined with more structured set-ups including one where Bristol gets a driving tour of skid row as part of her volunteer work. In one scene repeatedly teased throughout the first episode as well as in a YouTube clip of the show, she confronts a man in a club who calls her mother a whore. It’s the closest the episode and probably the series, will get to showing how being famous impacts her life.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy being pushed onto the world stage as a pregnant teenager or breaking up with your child’s father after claiming your love for him on magazine covers and then watching as he shares private information about your family with the media—all things that Bristol went through before her current age of 21. As her television confrontation with the stranger in the club shows, it’s certainly not easy being the daughter of a divisive public figure. But all of these things are now part of her identity. They are what allows her to have a reality show in the first place. So why not allow the audience to share in the experience of how these events have shaped who you are?
In a perfect TV world, this is what most reality shows featuring “a day in the life of” story lines should be doing—offering viewers a unique perspective on lives that are different from their own. Instead, many have become image building exercises where cast members launch their latest product or plot their next career move. Is it wishful thinking to hope that this type of reality TV can be saved? I don’t think Bristol will be the one to do it which is a shame because she has the chance to offer a unique perspective on what, has so far been, an eventful life. She may be complicit in her public persona or a victim of it or both, but her thoughts and feelings about it would make for a far more interesting show.