By Lori Acken
It was William Shakespeare who most famously wondered, “What’s in a name?”
I’m guessing if you ask the William Shakespeares of San Diego; Las Vegas; Park City, Utah; St. Petersburg, Florida; Phoenixville, PA; Levelland, Texas and onward across the country, they’ll tell you something along the lines of, “plenty of trouble making restaurant reservations.”
At least that’s the experience of 27-year-old Texas native David Hasselhoff Jr., who affably demonstrates his knack for getting hung up on in the July 24 premiere episode of CBS’s new reality series Same Name.
The show — which also introduces us to non-famous versions of Charles Barkley (a caucasian lawyer from North Carolina), Denise Richards (produce department associate at an Illinois Walmart), Jessica Simpson, Michael Bolton, Drew Carey and a dark-haired, down-home Pamela Anderson with mall bangs — pairs up famous folks with their workaday namesakes and has them swap lives for a bit.
Thus, David Hasselhoff of Baywatch/Knight Rider/I’m A Rock ‘n Roll Legend In Germany fame (we’ll call him Famous Dave) finds himself in a single-story ranch house in teensy Lake Jackson, Texas, with nonplussed “wife” Corey, baby Braxton and game-as-all-get-out “mom and dad” Candy and David Sr. , while David Hasselhoff, high voltage power technician and part-time landscaper (Not Famous Dave), wings off in a private jet for the gated estate and gilded life of his famous counterpart.
The show is a natural fit for Famous Dave, who has proven time and time again that as long as he has an audience, he is game for anything and happy as a clam.
Complain about his “rancher’s special” dinner on a TV tray? A 6am Frosted Cherry Pop Tart breakfast? Or a family reunion at the local legion hall? No sir! He is downright gleeful about them — especially the latter, where he takes knee-slapping, name-crowing pleasure in meeting Duke Hasselhoff, Helmut Hasselhoff and the dozens of other Hoff kin who’ve, as he puts it, “come out of the woods” to greet him.
Stepping into Not Famous Dave’s work boots proves a bit more challenging, but no less entertaining. Pondering the enormous white electrical breakers into which he will need to climb in order to scrub down their oil-encrusted innards, he cheerfully admits, “I don’t even know where the breaker is in my house. I’m an actor — the lights go off in my house, I move.”
Same goes for the commercial mowers Candy uses for her Care Free Landscaping business. As she and an utterly tickled customer named Judy look on, Famous Dave lurches about in circles, sometimes clipping some grass as he goes, sometimes clipping the barn. He is rewarded for his hard work — 12 lawns mowed and one truck unstuck from the muck — with a night out with the family at Kicks country and western club.
Though Famous Dave more than indulges the bazillion locals who crowd around him, he faithfully dotes on his new clan, objecting not a bit when Candy breezily dismisses a youthful blonde looking to cut in on their dancing.
Meanwhile, out in L.A., Not Famous Dave is greeted by Famous Dave’s bodyguard Joe-B, his older daughter Taylor (toting a miniature pig, much to NFD’s amusement) and house staff Hilda and Maria, then enjoys an evening spent wandering through his new digs, peeking into drawers and posing with the truly disturbing enormous Hoffleganger statue thingie cribbed from The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie and now at rest in the “Africa Room” on what looks like a rowing machine.
After a good night sleep in Famous Dave’s cushy bed, a luxurious breakfast spread (I see capers!) and a morning meet-up with FD’s sister Joyce and father Joe, he embarks on life as a celebrity.
The dogs get groomed. Not Famous Dave gets groomed. A meeting with the agent, where he learns exactly what Famous Dave does with his day. Then it’s off to actually do one of those things — visit the personal trainer (in a sweet black vintage Mustang).
Now I am not 100% certain that Barry of Barry’s Bootcamp wasn’t doing it up a little for the cameras, but if I had to deal with his non-stop, headset-assisted “motivational” hollering day in and day out, I would indeed put a big old Texas boot up his camp — regardless of what I have to do to look good on stage. Secure in the knowledge that this is only temporary, Not Famous Dave just grins and bears it, trying to master a switch-footed hop while clutching two dumbbells.
Then it’s time to clean up and head off to meet with the — I swear I am not making this up — Knights of the West Coast, the official fan club of The Hoff. No mention is made of whether there are also Knights of the East Coast or the Midwest, but the group embraces Not Famous Dave as if he was their very own icon, even letting him sign their Hoff-tographed photos right next to that of the real thing.
On his last night in LaLa Land, NFD heads off with Larry Thompson, FD’s manager, for The Hoff’s favorite sushi at Geisha House in Hollywood. He concludes that the fish heads he is served “smell like bait,” but with Larry’s help, discovers that a little soy sauce makes the noggins palatable …even tasty.
So here’s the thing.
While the show could easily have been reduced to mockable camp by its “country boy/city boy/vice-versa” premise, at least in this episode you never lose the feeling that each David Hasselhoff is genuinely enjoying his experience. So while there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, they’re the “laugh with you, not at you” variety. And there are some moments that are just plain touching.
Like when Candy’s only non-family employee, C.J., explains to a rapt and somber Famous Dave that a broken-down mower can mean no food on the table for his and the Hasselhoff’s family.
Or when Not Famous Dave gets his own copy of The Knight Rider Companion from author Nick Nugent, who explains that he was a lonely latchkey kid who saw Michael Knight as his substitute father figure.
Or when Famous Dave gamely gets up in the middle of the night to feed baby Braxton and enjoys it so much that be begins to croon the boy a lullaby while he eats.
Suffice it to say that the show saves the real choke-up moments for the end — if you don’t walk away feeling at least a little warm and fuzzy, you’re one tough cookie to crumble. And if the rest of the episodes follow suit — and I really hope they do — this could be just the funny, feel-good hit that summer TV begs for.