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When Will Smith first appeared on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, his character’s name was easy to remember because he used his real first name. Since it was after he had built a name for himself in the rap business, everybody already knew him.
Others such as Bill Cosby (The Cosby Show), Martin Lawrence (Martin) and Ray Romano (Every-body Loves Raymond) also cashed in on using their real identity in sitcoms.
Another such success story is Bette Midler’s sitcom Bette, in which the singer/songwriter stars as herself. It is like one huge advert for herself, bordering on a reality show format.
In the sitcom, Midler is adored by her fans as a divine celebrity from heaven. However, just to put some sort of distance between her real life and the show, we never hear of Midler’s character’s surname or that of her family. But to confuse you, her true celebrity friends – including Oprah Winfrey, Tony Danza and Danny DeVito – all appear as themselves as guests on the show.
Interestingly, a young Lindsay Lohan is the lead character’s daughter, but this was before the drugs and the drunk-drving charges.
Most of the script is centred on Midler’s real career, even when it comes to its dips, which is a brave thing to do.
It is interesting that actors let us in on their lives. While this show was not a true reality TV production, you could almost call it that. Having been recorded in 2000 after many of Midler’s lifelong achievements, it could pass as an autobiography.
To make it a little less serious Midler uses her comedy back-ground, and it gels well. Although it aired for only one season, the show is known in hollywood as the “one- season wonder”.
The show helped Midler with other facets of her life that she needed to revisit, like making music. At some point when the show was running, there was a time when Midler’s character recorded a new CD and went on to win a Grammy, and we all know how musicians need the accolades. She even did some charity work on the show, which turned out to be a true story.
There is no way of measuring how this show bumped Midler back into the spotlight, but selling a chunk of your life and having friends bring out their star-power spells out one thing: desperation. Watch and find out if it was indeed a one-season wonder.
• Bette, Tuesdays, 8pm on e.tv.