When Barely Famous premieres tonight (March 18), viewers could be forgiven for being a bit confused. The VH1 series stars two beautiful, blonde native Angelenos who share a famous last name and spend a good portion of the series speaking directly to the camera, but it’s not reality TV. It’s something much more interesting.
“This is a crazy, over-the-top, scripted show,” Sara Foster, the 90210 alum who stars alongside her comedy-writer sister Erin in the series, says. “There’s nothing we’re exposing because we’re playing characters and nothing you see is real. If anyone watches this and thinks it’s real, well, I wouldn’t even know what to say to them.”
Of course, the characters the sisters play are named Sara and Erin Foster and they are indeed starring on a reality show. But thanks to the whip-smart humor the sisters—daughters of music mogul David Foster, who appears now and again with his wife on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills—employ, the series comes across more as a successor to The Comeback than anything in the Bravo cannon. To hear the Fosters tell it, that’s exactly what they were aiming to do.
“I’ve been a comedy writer for a while, and as a writer you’re always trying to figure out what your next thing is,” Erin explains. “And since reality TV is such a huge part of our culture, we wanted to shoot the show in the style of a reality show but make sure people understood it was a comedy. That was and is our biggest challenge.”
The series follows the characters as they attempt to live their version of “normal” lives, from going out on dates with regular guys to scaring up work, but always with a wink—and always with a bitingly funny celebrity cameo. One early episode finds Sara reminding Kate Hudson that her Academy Award nomination is more than a decade old when the actress has better luck than Sara does at an L.A. gifting suite. According to the Fosters, however, everyone on the series is willing to be in on the joke.
“Kate Hudson’s happy to make fun of herself; I don’t think she’s insecure,” Erin says. “Everyone we’ve had on the show has been really game to make fun of themselves. We’ve never been in a situation—with Jessica Alba, Courtney Cox or Kate Hudson—where someone’s said, oh, no, I’m not comfortable doing that. We knew we wanted a celebrity encounter in every episode, so we set out to make them as awkward as possible. Also, most of the celebrity encounters only make us look bad.”
And if there’s one thing that’s truly real about this entirely scripted show, it’s how well Erin and Sara work together, play off each other and, so they say, drive each other.
“In real life, sisters are each other’s biggest critics and their biggest fans at the same time,” Erin says. “That was the most important thing we wanted to get across.”