LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian image PR backfires with terrible new reality show


Eddie Cibrian and LeAnn Rimes, the picture of marital bliss. (VH1)

There are a lot of people gunning for the “Worst Person on Reality TV” title — but we might have a couple of new frontrunners after Thursday night’s premiere of “LeAnn & Eddie,” the awful, smug new reality show starring LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian.

The show is marketed as “the real truth” about the controversial couple — and as those who skim supermarket tabloids are well aware, both are desperately in need of some image rehab. Rimes (country music star) and Cibrian (TV actor) have been inextricably linked ever since 2009 when they had an affair while filming a Lifetime original movie.  Both were married to other people at the time.

In an unusual twist, Cibrian and Rimes didn’t deny it. Instead, they left their respective spouses and got married. What followed has been years of an astonishingly messy, personal family issue played out in a very nasty, public way — pretty ugly stuff, even for a celebrity scandal. Now, apparently not quite ready to let go of the spotlight, Rimes and Cibrian have decided to dredge it all up again with a reality series on VH1.

Rimes and Cibrian’s explanation for doing the show is this: Tabloids and paparazzi have profited off their personal drama for years, so they want to take control of the story. They feel this is necessary because Cibrian’s ex-wife, Brandi Glanville, (the mother of his two sons) parlayed Cibrian’s betrayal into a gig on Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and two memoirs; in all projects, she goes into explicit detail about her former marriage. Glanville and Rimes have famously been in massive Twitter fights, while she and Cibrian feud across the tabloids about everything from child support to more cheating accusations.

LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian (Piotr Sikora/VH1)
LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian (Piotr Sikora/VH1)

Anyway, it’s pretty stomach-turning to see a family fall apart in the public eye, and not a surprise that Rimes and Cibrian want to repair some of the damage they’ve done to their reputations. Unfortunately, the show completely backfires, as they make a few crucial missteps along the way in the premiere.

First, they try to spin their marital issues as a light-hearted joke — because if you can’t laugh at your problems, then how else can you deal?! Sure, fine, except the “jokes” are actually cruel barbs aimed at their enemies, mostly Glanville. It makes them both come across as incredibly self-satisfied and generally terrible.

“Our relationship didn’t quite start off like we had planned,” Rimes says cheerfully at the beginning of the premiere, as previous tabloid covers fly across the screen with headlines like “LEANN CAUGHT IN AN AFFAIR” and “BRANDI CHEATED FIRST.” (Aww, keepsakes!)

“We were both married to other people when we fell in love,” Cibrian confesses sheepishly; the two are cuddled on a couch together. “And I know most of you think my wife is a homewrecker and a stalker.”

“You’re forgetting alcoholic, pill popper and children stealer!” Rimes pipes up, echoing rumors about the past and adding some tabloid theories about Cibrian: “And you’re also a moocher, you have no job, and you married me for my money.”

“Look, everyone thinks they really know how it is with us,” Cibrian says defiantly. “But there’s two sides to every story — and this is ours.”

That leads into the next problem — even though they claim to laugh off every tabloid rumor, they are obsessed with everything written about them. To that point, if there weren’t any tabloids, there definitely wouldn’t be a show. The entire episode centers about the fact that Star magazine published a story claiming they’re getting a “$50 million divorce.”

Ignore it? No, that’s far too logical. In a car on the way to Cibrian’s movie premiere, Rimes reminds him that everyone on the red carpet is going to be asking about the article. Cibrian says he won’t dignify those questions with an answer, but Rimes doesn’t like that.

“I don’t want to give anyone the pleasure of it playing out in the media, ” Cibrian responds — while on camera on his reality show.

Rimes is not pleased. “Well, it’s unfortunate that we have a third party in this situation that’s just a mouthpiece,” she snaps. “It doesn’t matter if we say anything because she’ll keep blabbing about it.”

Ah yes, the “third party” — Glanville hangs over the episode like a ghost, though apparently the show’s producers just assume viewers know the whole sordid backstory. Otherwise, it seems like this poor lady is just getting thrown under the bus by her ex-husband for no good reason.

“The likelihood of Brandi and I getting back together, I would say, would be slightly above the existence of Bigfoot and just below an actual zombie apocalypse,” Cibrian says at one point, very pleased with that dig.

That’s one of several jabs at Glanville — calling into serious question Cibrian’s claims that, according to a USA Today article, “he won’t dig into any divorce issues, and says that he and Glanville manage to co-parent amicably these days.”

Speaking of co-parenting, the worst scene of all is when Rimes goes to get a celebratory tattoo over getting out of a 20-year record contract (oh right, her singing career — no time for that here) and her friends spot the Star magazine that just so happens to be in the tattoo shop.

“You don’t want that in a market while the kids walk by,” their friend advises wisely.

Rimes explains that Cibrian’s sons know all about tabloids lies. Once, one of the kids told her, “The magazine said that mom [Glanville] and dad were getting back together — and I for sure know that’s not true.”

“That’s a smart kid,” Cibrian jokes. Laughs all around about traumatic family experiences!

The rest of the episode plods along as Rimes continues to be upset that Cibrian refuses to deny the divorce rumor in Star magazine. Finally, it resolves where every problem should: At a picnic table with “Extra” host Mario Lopez. Before a charity skydiving event, Lopez grills them on the rumor, until Cibrian finally decides to take the advice “happy wife, happy life” and comment on the story.

He calls it “ludicrous.” Rimes is thrilled.

“For Eddie to comment on this, when I know he did not want to do it at all, really means a lot to me,” she gushes.

So — happily ever after? Future episodes promise more clashes with the media. We all know that as much as certain celebrities — particularly in the reality TV world — claim to loathe the paparazzi, it’s a vicious circle, as the tabloid press fuels their careers. Some try to hide that fact, but it’s beyond obvious in “LeAnn & Eddie”; and frankly serves to make this whole spectacle even more embarrassing.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.
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Emily Yahr · July 17