Tuesday, August 19, 2003

'N&J' debut airs couple's dirty laundry

By Larry Nager
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Musician Nick Lachey and his wife singer Jessica Simpson perform a duet at a hotel in Hollywood during the presentation of "Newlyweds."
(AP photo)
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You can take the boy out of Cincinnati, but you can't take Cincinnati out of the boy.

That's one of the lessons of Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, MTV's latest "reality" series, starring budding pop queen Jessica Simpson and Cincinnati's Nick Lachey, lead hunk of 98°.

The half-hour show premieres at 10:30 tonight, taking us into the fabulous Los Angeles mansion shared by the newlyweds, who married in October in a fabulous ceremony in Austin, Texas, Jessica's home state.

But even with platinum albums on the wall, Nick, 29, remains a Cincinnati kid. In tonight's episode, he packs his sparse bachelor-pad furniture into his $39.95 U-Haul truck with the help of younger brother Drew (also of 98°) and a buddy.

His down-to-earth, thrifty attitude is at the core of the show's drama, because he and his new wife are polar opposites.

"I've had a record deal since I was 14," says Jessica, 23, in defense of her inability to perform the most basic household chores.

The woman apparently never even has opened a can of tuna. She ponders the mystery of what they're eating. "I know it's tuna, but it says 'Chicken by (sic) the Sea.' "

That's the most important point at which The Osbournes and Newlyweds intersect. What we really want to see is household names helpless in their own households.

As we struggle to pay our bills it's satisfying to see the rich and famous acting like dim-witted kids, clueless about life in the real world.

On The Osbournes, we watch with smug smiles as Ozzy - hands shaking, bleeps pouring from quivering lips - screams for wife Sharon when he can't turn on a kitchen appliance, work a telephone or deal with a disobedient dog.

Tonight, we get to chuckle at the newlyweds' literal dirty laundry, as Jessica whines and stares helplessly at the growing mound of designer duds.

Meanwhile, Nick is complaining about Jessica's sloppiness to the sexy dancers he's rehearsing with.

To Nick's credit, he breaks down and hires a housekeeper. Again, the thrifty Cincinnatian kicks in.

Here's a woman who will be cleaning house for pop stars Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. She could take photos, sell information to the tabloids and earn thousands. But Nick's main concern is that she may be overcharging them a few dollars. "Twenty bucks an hour seems like a lot for folding clothes, doesn't it?" he asks his brother Drew, who shrugs.

Hey Nick, that's cheap for a cleaning lady in North College Hill, let alone Hollywood.

The in-laws make an appearance, as Jessica's parents are apparently concerned that Nick isn't spoiling their daughter rotten enough. (They certainly did a good job; Jessica confesses she never made her own bed as a kid.)

Nick is not the perfect husband, of course. "Do you realize, Nick, all we watch are sports," Jessica pouts as he stares vacantly at their wide-screen TV.

Tonight's premiere does offer a happy ending. The cleaning lady sets their home to right for $120, which we see Nick reluctantly count out.

Jessica promises she'll do better.

"I'm working on hanging up my clothes after I take a shower." It's not easy, Jessica admits, "But I guess it keeps us normal and humble, and that's definitely a huge thing that Nick has taught me."

TV today

• Everyone sing along, while watching Inside TV Land: Top 40 Theme Songs (8 p.m., TV Land).

• Get that '70s feeling, as I Love the '70s continues with "1972" and "1973" (10 p.m.). VH1 also replays "1970" and "1971" (7-9 p.m.).

• Wild West High Tech looks at guns used by Billy the Kid and Wild Bill Hickok (9 p.m., History).

Talk show guests

Regis and Kelly (9 a.m., Channel 9): Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kevin Spacey, Carly Simon, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Connelly.

Wayne Brady (10 a.m., Channel 9): Lauren Hutton, Cyndi Lauper.

The View (11 a.m., Channel 9): Cuba Gooding Jr., Dennis Franz, Keifer Sutherland.

Caroline Rhea (3 p.m., Channel 19): Michael Michele, Scott Cohen, Tyrese.

John Kiesewetter and TV Data contributed to this report.

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