Ashley’s girlfriend disses O-Town and Jacob shows off his monkey on There and Back’s debut

Ashley Parker Angel’s new MTV series There and Back debuted last night, and it was overly self-conscious. The show used narration and bizarre editing techniques, mostly to just state the obvious. And nearly every scene seemed set-up at best, which is not to say that it was scripted, just that the participants were exceptionally aware of the fact that they were getting together in front of cameras to do something.

From start to finish, though, it was full of hysterical and awkward moments, and if Ashley and company can keep this up, MTV may have a new hit. Here are the highlights from the debut episode:

  • Ashley started by asking us, “How hot is that pop star?” Before we could change channels, he quickly made it clear that he was mocking himself, and that this could be fun. “Like my hair? Me neither.” Then his old pretty boy self morphed into his new grungy self.
  • Also in the introduction, Ashley told us, “The only girl that I have screaming at me now is my girlfriend, and she’s pregnant. … Yeah, my O-Town money is long gone.” Obviously, since you didn’t have money for condoms.
  • If we had any doubts about Ashley’s girlfriend’s ability to be a compelling character, Tiffany dispelled that in about one nanosecond. “I never in a million years would have thought that I’d be having the O-Town guy’s baby. I don’t like boy bands in general, I think they’re corny,” she said, as Ashley looked stunned. Then she permanently endeared herself to us: “When I saw the ‘Liquid Dreams’ video, I was in just total, utter disgust. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I thought it was a travesty. You were dancing around in, like, shiny plastic pants in water. Is that cool?”
  • Lest you think she’s a bad girlfriend, she’s ready to cut anyone who disses her man. “I support the O-Town thing, you know I do. I listen to O-Town music now and I rock out, and if anyone says anything bad about O-Town now I’ll kick their ass.”
  • Listening to a recording in the studio, Ashley asked a producer, “A little bit pitchy?” Oh my god, he watches American Idol!
  • Standing next to Karlin, a producer at Soul Power Productions, Ashley suddenly popped out from the frame, which froze. Really. Then he looked right at us and said, “Here’s the deal: It’s not like every producer in town is dying to make a record with the O-Town guy. I get it. But at the same time. Things here just don’t feel right. They refuse to pay me my advance, and this guy’s not listening to me.” That guy could also snap you in half, especially when he sees that you resorted to editing to bitch him out.
  • Jacob Underwood appeared, and he still looks like he could use a good Febreezing. He’s also still has the dreads, which are nipple-length now.
  • With Tiffany nearby, Ashley told Jacob, “It’s crazy, right? She’s got the belly! It’s really starting to pop out now.” Yes, see what you have done?
  • Ashley popped out of the screen again while Jacob was washing dishes to reflect about their relationship. “Damn, can you believe this is Jacob from O-Town? We’ve been through so much together. I really miss hanging out with him. … But he managed to score a house, and at least he’s not living with his girlfriend’s mother.” He also has a monkey–don’t forget the monkey.
  • “I’ve been doing construction. I like construction, but I wish I was able to do it for fun,” Jacob said.
  • Making the Band had random, inexplicable shots of Ashley shirtless in the shower; There and Back had a random, inexplicable shot of Ashley shirtless in bed, where he woke up to the most obnoxious ringtone ever, which sounded like a rooster and a chicken rapping.
  • Ashley and Tiffany discussed baby names. “Let me just tell you, growing up with the name Ashley was not fun for me,” he said. “I don’t really want to go with a name where he’s going to be made fun of like I got made fun of, because we’re naming this kid for the rest of his life. Unless, of course, he tries to change his name like I did in the fifth grade. I tried to change my name to ‘Matrix.’” Tiffany couldn’t believe it. “Matrix Angel?” “My name was Ashley.”
  • “Do you think I should sell my Camaro?” “You put like 30 grand into that Camaro, Ashley, and it’s not even drivable.” And now we know why Ashley is broke.
  • “We need to have a serious conversation about how we’re going to come up with $8,000,” Ashley said, while seated at a restaurant. Um, maybe start by having this conversation on a park bench?
  • “Do you have any skills?” Tiffany asked Ashley. “Well, baby, I mean, like, can you do Excel, can you do, like, Microsoft Word?” Ashley replied, “I work with computers, but I’m not going to be, like, an accountant or something.”
  • Ashley asked, “If I get a job, like, behind the counter somewhere, and someone recognizes me, will it be embarrassing?” Oh my god, yes, but it’ll be loads of fun for whoever spots you and then sends a camera phone picture of you to Defamer.
  • Ashley interviewed for a job at a music store, and told the manager about his resume. “The most current job I’ve had, actually, was working full-time as a boy band member, actually. You may or may not be familiar with the group called O-Town?” The polar ice caps melted a little as the guy stared blankly at him and then said, “No, I’m not familiar with them.” Ashley tried to make this sound impressive, saying, “We had a good three-year run.” The manager said, “That’s great. Mainly what we do…”–is not talk about being lame?
  • Barry Hankerson, the president of Ashley’s new record label, stole the show. Ashley came in to talk about his situation, and Barry picked up the phone and called the producers that Ashley didn’t like. “Hey, dude, this kid says he ain’t got no dough, he can’t get a chance to do some music he want to do, that’s not going to happen, man,” Barry said. “He’s going to get a chance to do whatever the hell he want to do, and I’m going to cut him a check today. And I don’t want to hear no shit out of it, … and I don’t want to hear from no lawyers or nothing, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.” Then he wrote Ashley a check for $10,000.
  • For their two-year anniversary, Ashley performed a song, and demonstrated that he’s the most bad-ass songwriter ever: “She was a Hollywood model living in LA/He was from a boy band and she he thought he might be gay/But just one look was all it took and they were making out anyway. … We fell in love/We got knocked up/And you’re so beautiful it breaks my heart.” I see a number-one hit in his future.

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Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.