FOX Reality’s House Husbands Are Realistic

Given the recent attention the media has given to stay-at-home dads, the likelihood of a related reality television show was inevitable; so leave it to the minds at FOX to seize upon the opportunity first with their original series, “House Husbands of Hollywood.” The program, which premiers on the FOX Reality Channel August 15th, follows five men who stay at home while their wives hold successful careers in Hollywood.

The guys come from varied backgrounds and represent men at various stages in their marital relationships and, where applicable, their family roles. I say “where applicable” because two of them have no children while the other three are fathers with children ranging from cuddly babies to dramatic tweens.

Meet the cast

The first member of this merry band of house hubbies is Darryl Bell, an actor who 80’s fans will recognize as motor-mouth, Ron Johnson, from the sitcom “A Different World.” It’s heartwarming to see that Darryl has never lost the hope of staring in his own Different World spin-off, given that he hasn’t broken character in over a decade. Darryl is still convincing in his old role as a mischievous, irresponsible wise-cracker chasing after a daughter of Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable. However, instead of college, Darryl’s now at home, goofing off on a daily basis until Tempestt Bledsoe (a.k.a Vanessa Huxtable) returns from her auditions to scold him for his latest antics. (I’m convinced Dr. Huxtable will be making a cameo to extol fatherly advice to the young, unmarried couple.) Still, Darryl is House Husbands’ comic relief whose quips endear him to viewers.

Danny Barclay is the other cast member without children—that’s a good thing. Quitting just short of becoming a doctor, Danny is now pursuing a more stable career as an actor/inventor. He hasn’t landed a gig yet, but Frat parties will forever be changed by his invention: the “keg-orator,” a mobile refrigerator that allows the world to tap beer from two perfectly chilled kegs when one keg just won’t cut it. While his wife Katherine works as an attorney, Danny spends his time obsessing over a grail quest for an elusive “man-cave” he can call his own. (My wife and I started a drinking game where we sip wine every time “man-cave” is uttered—we were plastered before end of one episode.) Of course, I suppose his search is understandable given how his new bride’s mouth is set to “lethal-whininess” in her complaints about wanting children, a larger house and Danny Boy to finish the list of tasks she emails to him on a regular basis.

Speaking of “honey-do” lists, Charlie Mattera is familiar with the concept since he not only gets one daily, but he also gets 835 phone calls from his wife wanting to know of his progress in completing it. She works as a psychologist who, I theorize must be part of the witness protection program since we never see her. (The official line is that it’s to protect her patient’s privacy, but it sounds like a PR spin to me.) However, that’s nothing compared to the revelation that Charlie did eight years in the pen for robbing banks before marrying Mrs. Pixelface and becoming a father their son. This makes Charlie, hands down, the most intriguing character of the bunch. (An ex-con with a baby and a wife in witness protection? That’s sitcom gold, people!) Oh, and one other thing you might pick up on: Charlie is best friends with actor Ryan O’Neal, a fact referenced almost more than Danny’s man-cave search. With Charlie’s wife literally out of the picture, viewers will get to see a hard-core “bro-mance” in action between Charlie and O’Neal, and it will leave audiences wondering if Charlie dropped the soap more than once while in the Big House. I jest here, and regardless, Charlie is a dedicated husband and competent stay-at-home dad.

Representing the stay-at-home dads with toddlers is Grant Reynolds who is the show’s king of cool. He can simultaneously play with his two year-old daughter and fix motorcycles while demonstrating an equal degree of natural adroitness that allows him to seamlessly bridge traditional gender roles. Married to Jillian Reynolds, the most recognizable wife in the group (she hosts "American Idol Extra" and Good Day LA."), Grant’s self-assuredness minimizes any issues he may have with his masculinity stemming from his parenting duties or from his wife’s semi-celebrity status. Being a former Marine sniper only enhances his coolness factor and gives stay-at-home moms one more reason to swoon.

The final member of the House-Hub Club for Men is former Los Angeles Dodger, Billy Ashley. After a career-ending injury, Billy now pinch-hits for his wife Lisa, making sales calls to promote her popular cosmetic products while also taking care of their two pre-teen daughters. As he talks, it’s clear Billy harbors a justifiable sense of loss over his past as a professional athlete, but it doesn’t overshadow his present role in supporting his wife and taking care of the girls. Like Grant, Billy appears to retain his masculinity with a certain degree of comfort as he hosts cooking demonstrations for Lisa’s friends or takes his daughters to shop for clothes.

Here's what happens

Each episode mimics the typical reality show format, following the guys around while cutting back and forth between personal interview clips. Near the end, the men then get together for a little guy time, engaging in masculine activities like skeet shooting, playing hoops, and drinking beer from Danny’s keg-orator which makes him the perpetual target of their cut-down jokes. These moments are obviously staged, as are others. Such is the nature of reality TV. Even so, the show’s arranged scenarios, for the most part, don’t detract from the overall believability of the characters or the issues at hand.

For example, there is the tension between Grant and Jillian over their individual interaction as parents with their daughter. Spending a large part of her day away from her daughter, Jillian looks lost and almost aloof when they are together, a sensitivity further aggravated by Grant’s laid-back familiarity in knowing how to tend to their daughter’s routine needs. Whether this particular drama is over-played for entertainment value or not, it’s still a viable topic many stay-at-home dads and their spouses contend with. But on a larger scale, the show retains a subtle curiosity over the men’s ability to be effective as the primary caregiver. Even childless Darryl and Danny are tasked with baby-sitting duties to see if they will succeed or blow up their respective guinea-kids. (*Spoiler: Darryl does fine. Danny, on the other hand, should be prohibited by federal law from procreating out of concern for the well-being of any potential children.)

The Lunchbox's verdict

With FOX’s reputation for raunchy concepts in the reality TV genre, I expected “House Husbands” to be an overly-staged performance from buffoonish, narcissistic Fabios who would perpetuate the Mr. Mom stereotype through their general ineptitude. (Think Paris Hilton as an at-home dad.) The show does over-hype the wives as being diva-esque power-mongers, which isn’t exactly the case. (Nagging and a tad over-controlling would be more apt in some cases.) Still, I found myself pleasantly surprised to see that “House Husbands of Hollywood” does a decent job (at least in the first three episodes I saw) of balancing entertainment without sacrificing the image of competent stay-at-home dads in the process. I give it four out of five cups of beer from the keg-orator.

“House Husbands of Hollywood” debuts on the FOX Reality channel August 15th at 9 PM Pacific (8 PM Central). Episodes can also be downloaded from

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