E!’s new reality show Mrs. Eastwood & Company is created in the same, distinct mold as its predecessor Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Instead of showcasing the lavish lifestyle of Kris Jenner and her many, many offspring, Eastwood & Co. focuses on Clint Eastwood’s wife Dina, his two teenage daughters (including step-daughter Francesca, 19, from his previous relationship with actress Frances Fisher), and the a capella boy band from South Africa that Dina has begun managing in hopes of landing them a record deal. There’s also Dina’s brother, his wife, their newborn baby, Francesca’s celebrity photographer boyfriend, Tyler Shields, and a kooky Korean housekeeper named Lisa Thrash. It’s a lot to get your head around and it feels just so during the completely crammed first episode.
Just as Kardashians shoehorned its way onto television based primarily on Kim’s rising fame as a tabloid star, Eastwood & Co. is appearing on our screens only because of the clan’s wildly famous father. Yes, it is jarring to compare Kim Kardashian to Clint Eastwood, but these are the terrifying days we’re in, everyone. Also, to answer the most pressing question, Clint does amble into the episode near the end to mumble something around the dinner table, but mostly looks like a deer in the headlights when facing down the E! cameras.
It’s fair to assume that his presence will be doled out in bite-sized snippets over the course of the season, so that the meat of the show will be the day-to-day goings on of the family. There’s a certain panic in the feel of the show, as though the producers were fearful we’d suddenly realize it wasn’t an E! reality show following Clint Eastwood around while he films movies with A-list celebrities and swings by the Academy Awards. The producers nearly kill themselves trying to show how much we can all relate to this decidedly non-normal family by shooting almost exclusively in Dina’s bright kitchen or while cradling some of the many animals they foster (including a giant and completely terrifying pig named Penelope). It does seem that their lives don’t include lots of Escalade rides or velvet ropes, but that's also because they live in the sleepy, Northern California town of Carmel. (Clint has a long history in the upscale town, where he has lived for decades and was also the mayor from 1986 to 1988. He also made it legal to enjoy ice cream on the sidewalks again).
Dina met her famous husband back in the mid-‘90s, when she was a local television reporter who interviewed the actor-director, 35 years her senior. The two married and had their daughter Morgan, now 15, who is also the youngest of his seven children, by five different women—though Dina is only his second wife. As for the back-story on the a capella group, named Overtone, it seems that after Eastwood included one of their songs on the soundtrack for his rugby drama Invictus, Dina fell in love with their sound and brought them out to California. A few years later, they’re still living in Carmel and being shuttled down to LA to take meetings and hopefully make it big… as an a capella boy band might do?
As strange as the whole assortment sounds, the family seems primed for this type of show. Dina’s bubbly personality combined with the winning genetics of Eastwood’s two daughters make for a telegenic bunch, though the inclusion of the a capella group makes it all feel far too stuffed to the gills. The conflicts driving the debut are about as ham-fisted as these types of shows get. For example, we learn that 15-year-old Morgan desperately wants a belly button piercing, much to her mother’s chagrin. Just like mothers everywhere might never do, Dina decides the best way to convince her daughter it’s a poor decision is to go get herself a belly button piercing. The logic seems to lie somewhere in the fact that Morgan thinks her mother is uncool so if she sees one on lame, old mom, she'll forget her piercing dreams.
It’s a stretch, and the whole reveal plays out in pretty cringe-worthy fashion, though it’s admirable on some level to see Dina’s commitment to the whole bit. Heck, she actually gets her belly button pierced. She successfully grosses out her daughter (and us!), even going so far as to squish the new piercing around for her and make it pool blood in her belly button. It’s almost as horrifying as the aforementioned Pig Of Nightmares they all seem to find so adorable.
There are a number of loosely constructed plotlines also taking place: One involves Francesca being afraid of her newborn cousin for no discernible reason and another has a member of the boy band struggling with coming out of the closet. These are all tied up with bows by the episode’s end, as these E! shows like to do, though the sneak peek at the season ahead shows the requisite amount of tears, yelling, and drama. There may be some glimpses of the life of one of the most celebrated actors and directors still working today, but the truth is there will probably just be a lot more of that terror pig, some teenage rebellion, a bit of mother-daughter bonding, and a group of awkward South African a capella singers snapping their fingers in unison.