Bret Michaels is a bit of a unicorn in the reality television pantheon — if only for the sheer length of time he has remained compulsively watchable. No matter how many cartoonish, nightmarish women he sucked face with on his hit VH1 dating show Rock of Love, Michaels remained likable (and even sincere). Anyone who remembers Michaels' exploits with Destiny, Heather, Daisy, and Frenchie knows that it was a far less family-friendly Bret who charged his way through three seasons on Rock of Love before shifting into a new and comfortable career as Bret Michaels, Reality Star 2.0.
In his second phase of that transformation, Michaels appeared as a family man alongside his daughters and their mother in Bret Michaels: Life As I Know It, and even went on to win Celebrity Apprentice 3 on NBC. While his newest turn as the host of Rock My RV on the Travel Channel feels like yet another gear shift, the series is actually well-suited to the personable but aging rock star. If he's not going to be running an oversized bandana factory, or overseeing the placement of rhinestones on T-shirts, Rock My RV is about as Bret as it gets.
Those who have followed Michaels' TV pursuits know that, for all his Sunset Strip-ness, he's a surprisingly outdoorsy guy who loves riding motorcycles and camping. He also maintains a career as a solo touring musician who spends so much time on his tour bus that the entire third season of Rock of Love was moved there. Travel Channel has smartly found a way to blend Michaels' interests and turn him into the Xzibit of RVs. Rock My RV apes the low-frills format of the trailblazing MTV show Pimp My Ride. It's a simple formula that merely slaps Michaels' familiar face (and bedazzled jeans) onto the tried-and-true makeover show format.
In Sunday's episode, "Epic Sausage Wagon," Bret meets with an adorable couple named Sally and Bill, who have a vintage 1974 Canyon Lands motor home that looks a bit like an inflated Datsun painted a faded, pale yellow. The interior is a wreck with dirty carpeting and barely functional appliances, which is especially problematic for the couple because they're hoping to expand their small sausage business while out on the road. The couple launches into a story about Bill volunteering to cook for the firefighters trying to save his Colorado town from a raging fire a few years back, and you have all the elements for Bret's "vision" of the new RV.
What is that "vision"? The work of a slew of fabricators, painters, and builders, who continually refer back to "Bret's vision" as they work to update the RV. Michaels is talented, but it's hard to imagine that he actually spent time learning how to design or in front of Adobe Illustrator to put together the renderings of the RV that appear on the show. But Rock My RV wants us to believe he's the brains behind the operation, cooking up each facet of the makeover, instead of just the celebrity personality they've tapped to host. Watching the show requires ample suspension of disbelief to accept Bret when he pulls out his fancy graphic designs, telling the team he worked on them "at his computer."
The plan is to turn the RV into something called "The Sausage Wagon," which is pretty self-explanatory. The vehicle will serve dual purposes: A travel home, and a station for Sally and Bill to expand their sausage business and serve food while they're on the road. That last bit involves an especially dreamy bit of imagining, where one side of the RV is cut open to create a drop-down serving window, like one might see on an actual food truck. It stumps the fabricators and builders, who need to build it without damaging the structural integrity of the vehicle; when they scale back the grandiose design, it works just fine. A deadpan Michaels turns to the camera and says, "Sometimes I can dream much bigger than I can fabricate," which is, in itself, worth watching the show for.
The final reveal of the Sausage Wagon is quick and delightful, as Sally and Bill "ooh" and "aaah" at their new, fire-engine red RV. The show's unveiling is especially Bret Michaels-ish: He screams "Let's Rock!" and two sexy rocker girls pull down an enormous curtain to reveal the face-lifted RV. Two huge flames shoot up on either side of RV, as Bret stands in front of it making devil horns, his black eyeliner glinting in the light. The logo for Bite Me Sausages is slapped on the side and beautifully embroidered in their custom seats, as well.
But the RV actually has some practical (if a little less fun) updates. The RV's flooring, ceiling, seats, upholstery, and appliances have all been replaced so that the vehicle is essentially unrecognizable inside. The team has installed a top-of-the-line kitchen that will allow them to sizzle up sausages as they putter along the open road, and an automatic awning that unfurls to create an outdoor area alongside the RV.
It's no surprise that Sally and Bill are enormously happy with the Sausage Wagon, as Michaels declares this one of the "harder transformations" he and his team have taken on. It's an impressive makeover, to be sure. But the real transformation is the one Michaels has found in his half-decade on reality television. Michaels has somehow morphed from a partied out-hair metal singer chasing after anything with blonde extensions in a miniskirt to a cheery, helpful host on the Travel Channel, helping a quaint couple realize their dream of traveling the open road and cooking sausages. It's an admirable step forward for Bret Michaels, Reality Star 2.0 (but let's still not give up hope on Bret Michaels: Bandana Factory of Dreams just yet).
More reality show drive-bys...
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- I hate Ayn Rand — but here's why my fellow conservatives love her
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- The weird obsession that's ruining the GOP
- A scientific fact-check of 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Why Peter Capaldi has a bigger challenge than any Doctor Who in history
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- The secret to Gabrielle Hamilton's amazing grilled cheese sandwiches
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
Subscribe to the Week