Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 21-year-old daughter Bristol's reality show, "Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp" debuts tonight on Lifetime (10p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 9p.m. Central), as a chronicle of the 21-year-old's life as the single mother of three-year-old Tripp.
In the first episode, Bristol moves from Wasilla, Alaska to Los Angeles, allegedly to "show Tripp what's out there." (Because three-year-olds are so interested in the wider world.) She moves into a pre-fab Beverly Hills mansion and is joined by her 17-year-old sister Willow, who has come to help with the babysitting. The episode ends with an incident that was widely publicized during the show's filming, in which Bristol goes out to a bar, rides a mechanical bull and gets in a fight with a heckler. The man calls her mother "a whore." The following exchange in which Bristol concludes that he must be "a homosexual" did not air. (See the video here.)
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The critics point out that Bristol's parenting challenges aren't quite the same as most people's. Her childcare issues, writes Robert Lloyd in The Los Angles Times, "stem from not wanting to hire 'some random baby-sitter,' not from a lack of wherewithal." Lloyd also points out that we see Bristol and Willow shop for groceries and clothing, "without Tripp…presumably looking after himself back at the mansion." Lori Rackl of the Chicago Sun-Times notes that "The trio move into a Beverly Hills mansion where Bristol has to teach Tripp things like the difference between a bidet and a water fountain. No one said being a single mom was easy."
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Perhaps more disturbing for fans of the adorable, scene-stealing Tripp, Bristol's son with her teenage-years boyfriend Levi Johnston, is the single mom's willingness to torch Tripp's dad on national television. Alessandra Stanley, reviewing the show in The New York Times, writes that "the show's promos show Bristol putting Johnston's memoir 'Deer in the Headlights,' on a range and firing at it with a rifle, saying, 'This is for all the single moms.'" Stanley says that "Much of the narrative revolves around Bristol's attempts to shame her ex-boyfriend into seeing his son."
Here are the takeaways from the critics:
The New York Times
"That big sister-little sister dynamic [between Bristol and Willow] has some real-life resonance, but the "Teen Mom" poignancy is undercut by the palatial surroundings."
The Washington Post
"Even if you have a lasting grudge against all things Palin, there's no payoff here. It's a new low for anyone who makes the mistake of watching."
The Los Angeles Times
"We're left with a show about two sisters, temporarily billeted in a Beverly Hills mansion, mostly complaining about Los Angeles, each other and their lives."
"With the exception of the bull-ride-gone-bad scene, Bristol's day-to-day life isn't very interesting. Neither are the occasional shots where Sarah Palin pops up to offer homespun wisdom and maternal advice…. What we're left with are Bristol and Willow shopping, squabbling and engaging in vapid conversations. In other words, the Alaskan Kardashians."
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