E!’s uncomfortable celebrity train wreck House of Carters debuts tonight

Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, E! debuts House of Carters. As the eight-episode series opens, the Carter siblings move into a house together in LA, apparently just to film this reality TV show. Thus, it feels just as contrived as E!’s other major celebrity-driven reality series, that fake piece of shit The Simple Life, which coincidentally stars Nick’s ex Paris Hilton.

But soon after, that pretense falls away and the drama really begins (warning: plot points from the first episode follow). House of Carters is nothing if not dramatic. While there’s definitely train wreck appeal, some moments in the first episode are almost too uncomfortable to watch. VH1′s Breaking Bonaduce. Nick and Aaron get into a physical fight that is excruciating to watch as it unfolds.

Edited Laguna Beach style, there’s no narration with the exception of a few scripted lines read by Nick at the very beginning. Thus, when something ambiguous happens with the Carters’ mother, who Nick openly hates, the gaps are never filled in. That actually works in the show’s favor, and keeps its moments feeling even more genuine.

Aaron and Nick may be the famous siblings, but I admit I was completely wrong: while the guys certainly bring the drama, their sisters are just as engaging. When BJ, who talks of ouija boards being satanic, isn’t lighting a cigarette on the gas stove, she’s wandering around plastered and swearing.

And for a large part of the first episode, Nick Carter is actually the most annoying part of the show. He’s constantly trying too hard, and he seems to be either playing to the cameras or being paternalistic. (Interviews he’s given suggest the latter: “I want to bring my family back together,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. That quickly becomes obvious, although it’s annoying (he calls BJ’s boyfriend to tell on her when she gets drunk). But it’s when he really loses control that the House of Carters collapses, and E! finds itself a new hit series.

House of Carters [E!]

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.