The Anna Nicole Show Fan Site

Episode Guide

Episode 17:
“Knee Deep”

After a big boo-boo leaves Anna Nicole traumatized and immobilized, she surrenders her life of luxury for one day of toiling as a mere mortal, and admits a pretender to her throne.
(Aired March 30, 2003)

The Anna Nicole Show

In my book, it's virtually impossible for there to be a bad episode of The Anna Nicole Show. As long as she's on camera, and the producers aren't manipulating her into looking stupid, I'm going to be quite content with whatever they put on the air. But this episode ventures perilously close to the outskirts of crap. It could have been a really good one, but unfortunately it's too scripted, too poorly edited, and altogether too half-assed.

Two of the new dramatic conventions established for Season Two get thrown by the wayside in this fourth outing. Each episode was supposed to have one single "sitcom" plotline from now on, but here there are two distinct stories: Anna Nicole injures her knee while rollerskating, and Anna Nicole trades places with a waitress. We're also back to using videotaped post-interviews with the cast to link segments, instead of simple voiceovers, for reasons that become obvious.

The Anna Nicole Show The problem with Anna Nicole's accident at the skating rink is that the E! camera crew wasn't there to record it. That must have been a rare day with the gang gets a little peace and privacy. It's nice to know that they go out and do things just for fun, instead of everything in their lives having to be a stunt for the show. But you just know the producers were kicking themselves when they found out Anna Nicole fell down and busted up her knee and they didn't get it on tape. Not to be callous about her misfortune, but that would have made a much better episode than what we ended up with.

They had to explain the injury somehow, since Anna Nicole is going to be disabled on the show for a good long while. Stuck without footage of the incident, the producers concocted an overblown mockumentary complete with melodramatic narrator, making this out to be a tragedy of epic proportions. But the thing is, it's just not funny. There's no focus to the humor. I guess the joke is that Anna Nicole is being a big baby over a minor bruised knee. It doesn't hold water to say she was being a hypochondriac drama queen, because she says herself she didn't want to call an ambulance or go to the hospital. Even if it wasn't a gruesome compound fracture, I'm sure it still hurt, and I don't see what's funny about someone in pain.

The drawn-out "newsreel" has a loose grip on the facts as well. The announcer says the accident happened on February 23, 2003, which is completely untrue. I first learned about it on February 7, and she made her first wheelchair-bound public appearance on February 18, when the mayor of West Hollywood proclaimed "Anna Nicole Smith Day." Then there are interviews with the anonymous "Show-Off Kid" who allegedly caused Anna Nicole's accident, his face obscured by shadow. I find it very difficult to believe that the boy's parents would consent to such an appearance, especially with his incriminating confession that "the big lady" angered him and he deliberately "took her out." Who's going to let their kid say that on a TV show that co-stars a lawyer (a.k.a. "the tall geek")? I'm just about positive this kid is an actor and not the actual culprit. Either way, it's really, really stupid.

On a positive note, the knee injury segment finally gives us a proper introduction to Howard's sister Bonnie, who went unnamed in the background of Kimmie's birthday party in Episode 12. We also meet Anna Nicole's neighbor Kris, who will figure prominently in upcoming episodes. And Anna Nicole herself, in her bedridden recollections of the accident, manages to be as sweet and charming as ever. It's no fault of hers what a horrible mess this first half of the episode is.

The only way I can rationalize it is that E! was satirizing the typical media coverage of the bumps and bruises of Anna Nicole's life. Always on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Hollywood, The E! True Hollywood Story, heck, even her Playboy video collections, she's been subjected to this overly grim and grave treatment, with moronic narration intoning heavily about "life or death" this and "hand of fate" that. Maybe that's what they were getting at, but I'd think the network that invented the True Hollywood Story would be capable of lampooning itself with more subtlety and skill than this. The tabloid tone of this segment reminds me of what has been so refreshing about The Anna Nicole Show up to this point: no editorializing, no condescending narration, no bullshit. I just hope the show will never sink into such a cesspool again -- tongue in cheek or not.

The second half of the episode skips ahead several weeks, with Anna Nicole now able to walk around fairly well without her crutches. She goes to the trendy-retro Airstream Diver in Beverly Hills with Howard and Kim. When Anna Nicole complains about how much her life sucks, Howard argues that lots of people are much less fortunate, such as their waitress. So Anna Nicole "suddenly" decides that she'd like to switch places with her.

The whole set-up is about as spontaneous and natural as a kindergarten class play. Why do we need to have all this make-believe? Howard even has to explain the premise to the home viewers in a post-production interview, which means the staged scene they shot at the diner must have been too abysmal to broadcast. It's depressing to see how clueless the producers have become about the appeal of this series. I think they've all forgotten the original slogan: "It's not supposed to be funny. It just is."

The Anna Nicole Show The idea of Anna Nicole trading places with an ordinary working-class woman is a good one, but they did it all wrong. They should have had Anna Nicole saying she's tired of being famous and wondering what her life would have been like if she'd never become a celebrity and kept working as a waitress back in Texas. So then they could have set out to find a waitress for her to swap lives with for a day, instead of "spontaneously" deciding to do it over lunch. There could have been a poignant "road not taken" angle to it, instead of Anna Nicole just acting like a spoiled princess.

Anyway, Anna Nicole agrees to take over for their waitress Valerie, returning to the profession she abandoned over a decade ago. This would have been really funny to see, if it was all real. There are some good scenes of Anna Nicole dealing with a snooty customer's veggie burger complaints, which seem to be genuine, but then there's a gaggle of yuppie patrons sitting at the counter who are obviously fake. These jerks are screaming at poor Anna Nicole all at the same time, doing everything but pounding their knives and forks in unison. There's no way these are real customers.

A minute or two into the segment, Anna Nicole is already admitting defeat: "My knee's broken, my back hurts, I want to go home and go to bed." If I were going to script out a comedy situation for the show, I would at least build in some rising action and falling action instead of having her learn her big lesson right off the bat.

The saving grace of this episode is Valerie's two little kids, whom Anna Nicole has to go home and take care of. She gets off from "work" and arrives at Valerie's house to relieve her babysitter, and then Anna Nicole is left alone with toddlers Aidan and Ruby. These scenes are absolutely great. It's always fun to see Anna Nicole handling a situation entirely by herself, without Howard or Kim or anyone else helping out. And the wonderful thing about these kids is that their parts can't be scripted. Aidan and Ruby are by far the most authentic element of this episode.

The Anna Nicole Show Being a mother herself -- not to mention a living embodiment of nurturing fecundity -- Anna Nicole is naturally fantastic with kids. Her maternal skills get tested immediately when her nose informs her that Ruby needs a diaper change. Once she gets her bearings and makes sure brother Aidan is safely in sight, Anna Nicole fixes up "Stinky Pants" like a pro. She even warms up a handi-wipe between her hands "so it won't be cold on your hiney," which is clearly the mark of a veteran diaper-changer.

Next it's time to feed the kids, and Anna Nicole decides to serve them "one of my specialties": grilled cheese sandwiches. We don't get a complete run-down of the recipe, but it involves a lot of butter. Aidan and Ruby might be a little young for grilled cheese, but they do eat some of it, which is probably a ringing endorsement for toddlers their age.

Back at Anna Nicole's house, Valerie gets to try filling her glamorous shoes... or fluffy pink bedroom slippers. She takes a frilly cherry-patterned nightgown from her closet (possibly the same one Anna Nicole bought at Trashy Lingerie in Episode 2) and lounges on the bed with Sugar Pie watching TV. When Valerie goes looking for a snack, she opens the refrigerator to find it packed full with a couple dozen jars of pickles. This would be hilarious if it was real, but considering how prefabricated this episode is, it's probably just a gag set up for the camera. The shame is that we'll never know for sure.

Valerie enjoys living the pampered life until she has a moment of panic: "I suddenly realized that I had left my children alone with Anna Nicole Smith." But she needn't have worried. Anna Nicole gives the kids their baths and keeps them entertained by singing "Little Bunny Foo Foo" and blowing soap bubbles.

"All things considered, I thought I was doing pretty well, she says. "But as usual, it seems I charmed the boys better than the girls." Indeed, Ruby is bawling when her mom gets back home, but Aidan is stone-cold chillin' on the couch next to his blonde bombshell babysitter. Anna Nicole has had fun pretending to be someone else, but she's ready to get back to being herself. I wish the show's producers would take her words to heart the next time they're contriving some high-concept scenario for her to perform: "I guess I just have a knack for being me."

Of course, there's much more to being Anna Nicole besides couch-potatoing and eating vinegar-preserved cucumbers all day. So I was happy to see some acknowledgement of that in the closing-credits epilogue, in which Valerie tries to pose for a modeling shoot. Aw, yeah... now this is an arena where Anna Nicole can kick any average woman's ass! Poor Valerie looks hopelessly lost in front of the fashion photographer's lens, and not at all like a cultural icon. So this mediocre episode does wind up with a decently salvageable message: it's not so easy being a goddess, after all.

Anna Nicole Says...
"I felt like my whole kneecap just like broke in half."
"The pain was so bad, I mean, it was just like, what do I do? My knee's on the floor and I can't pick it up!"
"I didn't want to call an ambulance because every time I end up in the hospital someone says, 'Oh, Anna Nicole did drugs, or she did...' It's, you know, it's always a made-up lie."
"What's so bad about my life? Oh, let me think. Gettin' up early in the morning, havin' to get my hair and makeup done... havin' to do talk shows all the f***in' time."
"They said they wanted 'em strong, and I never made a martini before."
"People yellin' and bitchin' and just bein' stupid. It's not like the old days where people were nice, like when I waitressed."
While changing Ruby's diaper: "Get your hiney all shiny... A little Vaseline on your little coochie-cooch."
"I love being me. I love being in the spotlight."

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