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Same Name debuts tonight on CBS at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Ah, summer: When the broadcast networks save their money, bide their time ‘til the fall, and fill their lineup with reruns, previously-unaired episodes of already-canceled series, Canadian imports, and inexpensive-to-produce reality series. CBS has added a new entry to the latter category, one with a concept so incredibly simple and/or stupid that it’s hard to decide if they deserve a pat on the back or a boot to the butt.

“The world is obsessed with celebrity…but what if you grew up sharing the same name as a celebrity?” That’s the question asked in the opening moments of Same Name, but in case you didn’t get the concept it’s immediately clarified further by a rapid-fire montage of individuals who have suffered through this debilitating condition, including a lawyer named Charles Barkley, a Wal-Mart produce associate named Denise Richards, and a high school truancy officer named Pamela Anderson.

None of these folks take the spotlight in the first episode, however. That honor has been bestowed upon David Hasselhoff, whose ordinary world counterpart is a 27-year-old high voltage power technician in Lake Jackson, Texas. Have you ever written a word so many times that it reaches a point where it just doesn’t look right to you anymore? That’s where kind of where I am with “Hasselhoff” right now, and it happened right after tthis actual dialogue from the first encounter between not two but, ultimately, three David Hasselhoffs.

David Hasselhoff: Wow, man! I’m David Hasselhoff.
David Hasselhoff, Jr.: I’m David Hasselhoff, Jr.
DH: [With mock shock] What…?
DHJ: I’m David Hasselhoff, Jr.!
DH: Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! [To Jr.’s father] Are you David Hasselhoff, Sr.?
David Hasselhoff, Sr.: [Nodding] David Hasselhoff, Sr.!
DH: David Hasselhoff, Sr.! Nice to meet you!
DHS.: Nice to meet you!

At this point, the Hoff produces a stack of pre-autographed photos for everyone in the Hasselhoff family, then hands his counterpart – henceforth to be referred to as Dave – the keys to his house and cars, and sends him off to live his life for a week. It’s hard to say which immediately-subsequent moment is more painful to experience: the Hoff giving a wink and telling Dave that one of the cars might talk to him, or Dave reacting to this comment with such profound giddiness, as if KITT were actually real.

In fairness, Dave seems like a genuine, aw-shucks kind of guy, and, sure, given his name, he probably does get laughed at a fair amount when he tries to make restaurant reservations (even if there’s little doubt that the occasion we see in the episode has been staged), but he’s liable to get laughed at even more now, as Same Name rarely misses an opportunity to paint him as a 21st century Beverly Hillbilly, someone who’s never eaten sushi and can only just barely wrap his head around the idea that the Hoff takes his dogs to get massages. Mind you, the Hoff comes off as equally oblivious to how the other side lives. After suffering through a few days of manual labor at Dave’s job and helping out with the Hasselhoff family’s lawn care business, he has an epiphany that – gasp! – some families in America are scrimping and saving and still coming up short on funds! True story. Who knew?

In the end, The Hoff does the requisite celebrity good deeds, buying the family a couple of new lawnmowers, paying for the college education of Dave’s child, and then sending Dave and his wife to Europe and giving them front row seats to one of his concerts. Hooray for the Hoff, who says of his experience, “I’ve realized that I need family to keep me grounded. That has now motivated me to go back and spend time with my Hasselhoffs.” (What, did he kick them to the curb after their reality show was canceled?)

And what did Dave learn about the life of a celebrity? “Ya’ll earn what you have,” he assures the Hoff when he returns to Texas. This is a very odd conclusion for him to have reached, given that he really wasn’t able to do much of anything that the Hoff normally does to earn his money. Nonetheless, the final moments of the episode find Dave looking directly into the camera and addressing his celebrity counterpart, apologizing for having stereotyped celebrities for all these years. The final line of his farewell speech: “We’ll always have one thing in common: we’ll always have the same name.”

Ugh. Just…ugh.

The general concept of Same Name might be enough to compose a small, mildly entertaining feature story in your local newspaper, but as a reality show, it’s a mess, ultimately delivering only one moral: celebrities are painfully out of touch with the real world, but it’s okay, because their lives are so much more awesome than yours. Which, frankly, I think we all already knew…or if we didn't, we certainly don't need to endure Same Name to learn it.

Stray observations:

  • If the initial meeting between the two David Hasselhoffs was bad when it came to Hasselhoff overload, the Hasselhoff family reunion attended by the Hoff might've been even worse.
  • Tough call as to which of the Hoff's callbacks to his past glories was the most painful, but as cheesy as his initial reaction to the threat of physical labor may have been (speaking into his wristwatch and asking KITT to come pick him up), I think you have to give the award to his decision to waste a ridiculous amount of space in his luggage to bring a lifeguard's float from Baywatch.
  • I'm glad Dave got to drive KITT to the airport - I'm not made of stone: It was clearly some sort of dream come true - but I do not believe that the Hoff actually keeps an original KITT in his garage at all times. I'm sorry, but I just don't.
  • I do, however, absolutely believe that he keeps the realistic-to-the-point-of-being-creepy "surfboard" of himself from "The Spongebob Squarepants Movie" in his house. I just don't want to know what he does with it.

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