Cover Story: How Much Jessica Simpson Is Too Much?

Ubiquitous blonde ruled pop culture in 2004

Darin Overholser

When future generations find the 2004 time capsule, they'll undoubtedly ask: How could the American people demand so much of singer/reality TV star/cosmetics spokesperson Jessica Simpson? A huge faction of the current generation — myself included — is wondering the same thing.

The blonde beauty dominated pop culture this year like few could, and her public awareness triumph was the hit MTV show, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica, with husband, 98š singer Nick Lachey.

If it seems like Newlyweds is on every hour, the truth is only slightly better. The show is actually on every other hour.

Simpson also headlined her first North American tour this year, appropriately titled the "Reality Tour Live." If you missed it, don't worry: The tour highlights DVD is currently available.

Fans of commercial Pop radio (something I refuse to listen to) heard cuts from Simpson's 2003 album In This Skin a lot. The rest of us couldn't escape from her single, "With You." The song was everywhere, blasting from mall sound systems and car radios.

Yes, yes, yes ... we all know she can let her hair down, with nothing but a T-shirt on, blah-blah-blah.

The tiny Texan with the big lungs also graced the cover of every major woman's magazine, thanks in part to her foray into cosmetics with Dessert, a "kissable, tasteable" fragrance line she developed, according to her Web site,

A primetime ABC holiday variety show with Simpson and hubby Nick aired earlier this month, her second holiday special. Her new record, ReJoyce: The Christmas Album, sits on store shelves throughout the country. And, oh yeah, her sister Ashlee's own burgeoning music career is everywhere you turn, too.

Isn't this enough Jessica for one year? The sad answer can be found on Newlyweds: The Complete First Season, just released by Paramount Home Video on DVD. Reliving each Newlyweds episode from the inaugural season seems redundant, given its overplay and that its broadcast premiere was only 16 months ago.

Still, the show broke some new ground. While MTV loved providing a peek into the daily life of Ozzie Osbourne and his whacked family in The Osbournes, it had a better idea in mind when it launched Newlyweds. After all, here were two up-and-coming superstars willing to let us witness their adjustment from single life to married cohabitation.

Ozzie and Sharon were well settled into their life by the time the cameras rolled into their house. Nick and Jess hadn't even completely moved in together when the first footage was shot. It would be a great exercise in reality television.

What's more, the Lacheys were both in and for the MTV generation. Is it any wonder that the network tried so hard to make Ozzy's offspring, Jack and Kelly, the stars of The Osbournes? They would have no such challenge with the Newlyweds, since kids across the country already knew and loved Nick and Jessica.

On the first season DVD set, a tidy two-disc collection with minimal frills, we're treated to all 10 episodes, including the pilot that set up the Newlyweds concept. Right from the words "I do," we're plunged into the world of two mid-level recording artists trying to broach superstardom.

The moments behind the show biz curtain provide an honest look at life as a celebrity. Watch how record producers treat them, how boring personal appearances are and how fans on the street (literally) bother them.

But the turn-on for so many is the look inside their lives away from the spotlight. See Nick as the ultimate Midwest, blue-collar, do-it-yourselfer. Witness the grotesque messes Jessica makes and then leaves in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in her walk-in closet. Wow, you say, they're just like us — except they're not.

Simpson might claim in interviews that she perfected her "dumb blonde" persona for the show, but that would make her the second coming of Meryl Streep. No one can act dumb that naturally, asking why they call it "Chicken of the Sea" if it's tuna.

But after multiple viewings of Newlyweds, Simpson's total ignorance is no longer charming — unlike Joey in early episodes of Friends. Matt LeBlanc, after all, is an actor, and the lines were scripted for him. The dimwitted Joey becomes funnier with each watch.

With Simpson, it's suddenly clear that someone in real life is that foolish, despite her protestations that it's all an act. Simpson becomes sad, not funny.

Ironically, her dumb blonde personality makes Lachey more compelling as a television character and as a husband. You wonder how he puts up with her mindless statements, her spoiled rich-girl attitude and her ever-present mess.

Access the "Jessica moments" on the Newlyweds special features disc for examples. The montage of Jessica-isms will first make you laugh, then cry.

In a better world, Jessica Simpson's popularity will fade in 2005. One person simply can't be that overexposed and remain dead center in the public eye.

This bad news just in: MTV signed on for a third season of Newlyweds starting in January, and Simpson was cast as Daisy in the Dukes of Hazzard movie due out next summer. ©

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