The sport of spotting contradictions and dopey little ironies when stars try to rejigger their public image is really the only reason to watch celeb-reality shows like Denise Richards: It’s Complicated. (Hey, I still mourn the train wreck of tears and self-delusion that was, briefly, Hey Paula.) The big idea with this E! exercise in fly-on-a-famous-wall programming is that we’re supposed to see the curvaceous husband-swiper (Richie Sambora, from Heather Locklear) and thrillingly non-gifted actress (Wild Things, Starship Troopers) as a dedicated single mom ready to retire from being co-star of a bad marriage to Charlie Sheen and show the world Who She Really Is. Which is, apparently, a foul-mouthed spray-tan addict who thinks one more Playboy pictorial isn’t such a big deal and openly confesses a love for well-endowed men. (I can see the eHarmony ad now.)
In last weekend’s peppy installment, Richards gets excited about a meeting with producer Joel Silver that she hopes will point her movie career away from the sexy and toward the substantial. Silver smartly suggests she go the sitcom route — one thing going for Richards is an infectious, honest good humor — except then she happily obliges her Wild Things fan base with a strip-down in the shower for a bronze spritz beforehand, and camera time in a bra as she changes clothes at home afterward. Don’t go thinking this is some sneaky bit of editing retribution: Richards is a producer on the show. In fact, this ability to eat her cake and have it, too, regarding her well-ogled sexuality probably indicates she’s savvier than we all realize.
I wish Richards the best in finding some road out of tabloid-headline hell and onto that great Habitrail of fame-for-fame’s-sake happiness, but I think it’s safe to say she’ll never acquire enough nuanced image do-overs in her loopy spotlight life to warrant being the subject of an arty Todd Haynes biopic deconstruction down the road.