Okay. I have decided to give Giuliana and Bill, stars of their self-named reality show, another try. In spite of hideous promotional materials such as these,
which make me want to stuff one of those bunnies down their throats, the fact is, it's really hard to find anyone in the celebrity-industrial complex willing to admit fertility problems.
I watched the last episode, in which Bill and Giuliana went to a 'fertility specialist' (as far as I can tell, he's actually their Ob-Gyn, which is not exactly a 'fertility specialist,' but there you go). The doctor gave them a highly complicated treatment plan: Giuliana needs to gain 5 pounds, and they need to have sex slightly less often, given Bill's minor sperm count issues. (I do give Bill props for being willing to admit this on national television. Not the kind of thing most guys want out there in the public.)
I'm home this afternoon, and the next two episodes just happen to be on, so I'm going to watch them and see what happens. Join me, would you?
First, meet the cast of characters:
Giuliana, host of E! News and random other celebrity stuff on E!. Slightly whiny. Too skinny. But she speaks Italian, which is cool.
Bill, who won some season of the Apprentice, from what I gather. Cute. Pretty charming, actually. And despite Giuliana's whiny-ness, they are sweet together.
Matthew, works for Giuliana. Seems to be on show only as "generic gay assistant," with very little to do except make Giuliana seem slightly less stupid by comparison.
Here we go.
Episode One: In Which They Do a Charity Run and The Family Demands A Baby RIGHT NOW
1:00: show on. Bill is going to do some kind of 10K run to raise money for cancer treatments, in honor of his dad. Giuliana is traumatized by the explosion of the 'fresh-pack,' those little paper squares filled with beads, that came with her new purse. I seriously do not understand how this woman is going to handle actual children.
1:05: They discuss whether to tell their families that they are trying to get pregnant. Giuliana says yes; Bill says no. I'm with Bill, who quotes Kenny Rogers: "you never count your money while you're sitting at the table." Never argue with someone who can quote Kenny Rogers at will.
1:07: arrival of Bill's mom. Awkward Reality TV Conversation ensues, in which you can tell that everyone there is chatting for the sake of Looking Very Natural and Spontaneous While On Television.
1:08: Giuliana panics about upcoming reunion with her high school friends. Thinks she will look too old. Confusing, as she wears so much makeup I'm not sure how any of the aging process would be noticeable at this point.
1:10: Bill and Giuliana on the treadmill, training for the 10K race. They tease each other about who's going to win. This actually sounds a lot like my husband and me, if we were ever on the treadmill. More like competing over who's going to eat the last brownie in this house, my friends.
1:12: That girl wears a lot of makeup while on the treadmill. But I probably would too, if I were exercising on national TV. Perish the thought.
1:13: While Bill packs for their trip, Giuliana and Matthew are going to do "Fertility Yoga." Sigh.
1:14: Fertility Yoga ensues. Here's the trouble I have with this show: while I want to be supportive of a couple who's willing to discuss fertility problems openly, this particular show is making almost everything a joke. Ha, ha, ha, we're trying fertility yoga! I can feel my birth canal opening right now! (Giuliana actually said this.) Isn't this cute! Aren't we funny! As a fertility patient, watching from home, let me just say to you both: NOT THAT FUNNY.
1:17: Giuliana claims again that yoga is "opening up my canal, babe." Think Guiliana might need a serious biology lesson. And possibly a slap in the face.
1:18: Giuliana brings up the "let's tell the family we're trying to get pregnant" possibility again. Bill thinks this is too much pressure. Hey, everybody's different, but let me just say: Giuliana, listen to your husband. He is right. Keep your bloody mouths shut.
1:20: decision made: wait to tell family until actually pregnant. Smile wanly at idea that people think they can get pregnant. Then remember that most people actually can get pregnant. Sigh.
1:21: Giuliana and high school friends reunite. Slightly charmed by Giuliana's willingness to show high school yearbook photo, albeit briefly. Meanwhile, Bill is home with Giuliana's family. Apparently, they mostly speak Italian. Feel that confused look on Bill's face has also been on own face when talking to own in-laws, who admittedly speak English, but often have widely divergent views from self. In-Law Face is universal, I think.
1:23: Giuliana confesses fertility problems to high school friends. "It's not as easy as I thought it would be," she says. True that. "Try not to worry, it stresses you out," says friend. Clearly friend has children. Might hate friend.
1:25: Bill and Giuliana at cancer fund-raising race. Both get weepy when discussing his dad. Sweet. Also, note that Giuliana is now wearing more human amount of makeup. Looks good.
1:26: race. Enjoying Giuliana's brother, who is walking a the very end of the group. Like him. Feel at one with him. Would do the same thing, most likely. Giuliana gets a cramp while running. Whines. SHOCKER.
1:27: more discussion of Bill's dad. Both weepy. Totally understandable, and very heartfelt, in opposition to the tone of the rest of the show. In spite of self, get slightly teary. Choose to blame fertility drugs.
1:28: dinner with Giuliana's family. Giuliana's brother asks why they don't have kids. Now do not feel at one with brother: hate brother.
1:29: "It's a simple question: when are you guys going to have kids?" REALLY hate brother now. Long Pause With Dramatic Music While Focusing On Concerned Family Faces follows. Giuliana admits "we are trying to get pregnant!" Note: she admits nothing about fertility problems. Feel alternately irritated by chickenshit response and understanding as have given same cheerful answer myself to demanding groups of people.
1:30: Giuliana's family thinks it will happen "next month!" and toasts to "masculine children!" Think of own undemanding family (Scandinavian - we don't talk about anything, which comes in handy sometimes) with gratitude.
Episode Two: In Which Bill Flies with the Air Force and Giuliana Has An HSG
1:30: Bill and Giuliana complain about their Super Busy Lives in which they have So Much to Do and How Hard it is to Have So Much Money, etc. Whatever.
1:31: Bill confesses that he is going on a flight with the Air Force Fighter Jet guys. Could never do that. Never, ever, ever. Giuliana suggests renting Top Gun instead and staying safely on ground. Think Giuliana has a good idea, there.
1:32: This Week's Big Conflict: Bill is going to fly with the Air Force on the same day that Giuliana is going to be on Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Crisis! Terrible, real-life, not-at-all-staged, and obviously Terribly Important, CRISIS! What shall they do?
1:33: Bill brings in actual 5th graders to quiz Giuliana, who cannot name 1.) The Bill of Rights, 2.) The Great Lakes, or 3.) anything else. She blames this on having gone to elementary school in Italy. Find self very irritated by consistent portrayal of Giuliana as Charming Airhead. Why can't any women on television be smart? What happened to Murphy Brown? Find self despondent for future of possible daughter. Sigh.
1:35: Giuliana and Bill's mom have coffee. Giuliana tries to use her mother-in-law to dissuade Bill from flying with the Thunderbirds. Giuliana then has Heartfelt Realization that Bill really wants to do this, so she should support him. Whatever.
1:36: back to the fertility stuff - Giuliana talks about the HSG, not that she would use that term, in which her "baby doctor" (still the ob-gyn - get an RE, people) is going to "make sure her fallopian tubes are clear and open." Fairly accurate. Props to Giuliana. She is nervous: perfectly understandable. Doctor insists on this test. He is right. Giuliana, however, does not know the very basics of human anatomy and cannot seem to figure out whether this test is about her tubes or her uterus. Airhead qualities of Giuliana increasingly irritating.
1:38: now to L.A., where Giuliana is getting ready for Are You Smarter than A Fifth Grader? Matthew accompanies her as her "gay husband." Giuliana is traumatized that she may, in fact, not be smarter than a fifth grader. Suspect that she is correct.
1:39: meanwhile, Bill goes through testing for scary plane ride.
1:40: Giuliana is freaking out about appearing on Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader? "in front of the whole country." Cheer up, Giuliana: nobody watches that show. She is "petrified." Bill has recorded special video to make her feel better. Giuliana proceeds to do well on the show and answers all kinds of things correctly. Confirms theory: Giuliana is not nearly as stupid as she acts. Murphy Brown would kick her ass for this.
1:42: Giuliana is now sure that Bill is going to die in a fiery plane crash. While acknowledging that her panic is clearly made-for-TV, strongly suspect self would feel the same way if husband were taking joyride in F-16. Give thanks for husband's lack of celebrity connections.
1:43: Giuliana could not focus on E! news because "Bill is up in the sky risking his life." We are all very, very lucky that she managed to pull it together. What if we could not get our daily Brangelina fix? What would happen? Civilization as we know it would end. Close one, G.
1:45: Bill goes up in plane. Think Bill is nuts. Bill throws up. Imagine self, in similar situation, would not be able to stop throwing up.
1:47: Bill safe on ground. Giuliana thinks that hearing Bill's voice is "better than winning on Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, times a million." Sweet, but oddly self-promoting. Perhaps accurate summary of Giuliana, actually.
1:48: time for HSG. Giuliana sums it up: "the doctor puts a dye in the fallopian tubes, and if there's any kind of blockage, you can't have a baby." Sigh.
1:49: HSG was painless. Unrealistic. But whatever. However, her uterus appears to be in the wrong place. Doctor "has never seen this before." What is wrong? Surely we will find out? Ooops - to be continued.
OMG: what is wrong with Giuliana's uterus? Will Bill's sperm ever find their way? Will they ever have a baby? Tune in the same time next week - same reality time, same reality place...
that's the thing. I think there could be a way to portray a couple with fertility problems, and do it in a responsible, honest, and helpful manner. This show is, so far, NOT IT. I can't imagine a show in which any other medical issue would be treated as cute entertainment. Would Giuliana and Matthew giggle at popsicles and whisper insults about the tackiness of chemo patients' headscarves while taping Giuliana's Battle With Cancer? Would E! send out a promotional poster of Bill in a MRI machine, all part of this season's Will Bill Survive His Brain Tumor two-part special?
Look, I get it: infertility is not a life-threatening disease. It's not going to end your physical life, although it does threaten to end the life you imagined, and that's no small thing. It's a medical problem, or a series of medical problems, and my issue with the show comes down to that: medical problems are not entertainment. Maybe it's because everything else in this show feels so staged that the fertility part comes off the same way: as if they needed to invent a conflict so they'd have something interesting to put on the poster. You can just feel that this season's "fertility problem" is going to turn into next season's "Giuliana's pregnancy," followed by "Bill and Giuliana as parents," in which the generic gay assistant cannot figure out how to change a diaper and Giuliana thinks the breast pump is a juicer. Or whatever.
But my life is not staged. And my problem is not going to be neatly wrapped up in 22 episodes. And maybe theirs isn't either, but there's nothing sincere enough here to convince me otherwise.
And yet, I'm going to watch the next episode.