LeAnn Rimes takes on tabloids in new TV series

Posted Thursday, Jul. 17, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

LeAnn & Eddie

• 9:30 p.m. Thursday

• VH1

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There’s a fascinating moment in the debut episode of LeAnn & Eddie, a new TV reality show that airs at 9:30 Thursday on VH1.

The scene succinctly sums up the combative relationship that LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian have with the gossip media.

The celebrity couple is en route to the 2013 Hollywood movie premiere of The Best Man Holiday, in which Cibrian is a co-star.

Rimes is concerned because she knows that members of the press will be clamoring for a comment about a Star magazine headline that claims a $50 million divorce is in the offing.

That’s when Cibrian slyly choreographs a headline-making stunt of his own.

“Why don’t you try to tongue me on the red carpet?” he suggests. “You tongue me and I’ll do the no-tongue kiss. I would guarantee someone will blow that out of proportion.”

And sure enough, someone takes the bait.

Amid the tabloid magazine/website gossip coverage of the event is half-baked commentary and analysis about LeAnn being “denied” an open-mouth kiss during their red-carpet photo op.

“WHAT COULD THIS MEAN?!” one write-up disingenuously wonders.

The obvious conclusion, if one puts any stock in this kind of quasi-news coverage, is that the $50 million breakup rumors must be true.

But viewers will arrive at a much different conclusion from watching LeAnn & Eddie.

The episode, titled “Fifty Million Ways to Leave Your Lover,” paints Rimes, the country music queen who got her start in North Texas, and Cibrian, the actor who married her three years ago, as unfairly targeted victims of the tabloid press and a vindictive ex who has gossip reporters on speed dial.

“Everyone has used our lives as entertainment,” Rimes, now 31, said last week while promoting the show at a Television Critics Association gathering. “We wanted to actually kind of take our life back and have fun with our story.”

As a result, LeAnn & Eddie works on two levels: While serving up marginally interesting slice-of-life celebrity adventures, scenes that are typical of this genre, such as Rimes getting a tattoo and the both of them going skydiving, the show also goes on a not-so-subtle counterattack.

Rimes and Cibrian — who are executive producers along with the creative team that made A&E’s Duck Dynasty such a huge hit — are essentially launching a propaganda campaign to discredit what they consider vile coverage they’ve gotten for five years.

“If they want to stop writing about us,” Cibrian, 41, told reporters at TCA, “then we won’t have to set the record straight anymore.”

If this attempt at spin control under the guise of a TV realty show works, if they succeed in recapturing a not-so-notorious public image for themselves, don’t be surprised when other beleaguered stars follow the couple’s example with reality shows of their own.

Not that Rimes and Cibrian are completely without blame in this story.

Even if you haven’t followed every sordid detail, you probably know the basics. The 2-inch-tall headlines on magazine covers in grocery store checkout lines, after all, are hard to miss.

Once upon a time, LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian were merely famous, the kind of celebrities in whom tabloid reporters and photographers took little interest.

That changed when they co-starred in Northern Lights, a 2009 TV movie for Lifetime that would be completely forgotten today if it hadn’t led to an ill-advised affair.

The problem was that each star was married at the time: she to dancer-turned-chef Dean Sheremet; he to Real Housewives of Beverly Hills personality Brandi Glanville.

For pursuing a romance that ended two marriages, Rimes long ago made her mea culpa. “I take responsibility for everything I’ve done,” she told People magazine in 2010. “I hate that people got hurt. But I don’t regret the outcome.”

The screaming headlines have continued nevertheless. That’s why, in the opening moments of LeAnn & Eddie, the two look straight into the camera and address the matter once more.

“I think we should just get it out of the way now,” Cibrian says.

“Our relationship didn’t quite start off like we had planned,” Rimes says, adding the classic understatement of, “It did make a few headlines.”

On cue, a series of name-calling news clippings and unflattering paparazzi shots flash across the screen.

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

Later in the same episode, Rimes notes that, during the early years of their relationship, “seeing all the negativity and lies that were written about us was super difficult.”

But now, five years later, the two say they’ve weathered the storm because they’re able to make light of their predicament and mock the over-the-top coverage.

“We’ve both gone through a lot of private things with the public eyes watching,” Rimes said during the press conference for the show. “Eddie and I really have coped with it all by laughing.

“There is, I feel, only great things to gain by being who we are and allowing people to see that.”

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