How many comebacks does it take to actually come back?

Lindsay Lohan’s team (cut to Dina Lohan swigging from a bottle of unoaked chardonnay) hasn’t exactly worked out the numbers yet. We have covered Lindsay’s fits and starts several times. Lindsay’s career burnout and downfall is in no way exceptional. Her partying isn’t legendary – she was a famous kid who moved to Chateau Marmont on her own at 16. Of course she was running around trying to f-ck Leonardo DiCaprio (even if she had to settle for Lukas Haas). What was she supposed to be doing, studying for a chemistry quiz in her bungalow, with every party and temptation right outside her door? Lindsay didn’t make or break the childhood star mold, she simply fit into it.

She is part of a generation of famous young women who were expected to act like innocent jailbait, and when the adult-like messiness became too real, they were mocked and discarded. They generated a lot of press, but they never held any power. Even now, we are seeing how women like Amanda Bynes are recovering from that era. Lindsay also has a newly released digital cover for Paper, including a full interview, most of which she spends talking how she is misunderstood and held to a higher standard than her peers

As is often mentioned on this site, celebrities get stuck – they stop maturing at the age they became famous. For Lindsay, that makes sense. In the promo for her new MTV show, she mentions that “people have always given me trouble for going to clubs.” That was true when when she was 16, 19, 21… maybe even 25. But she’s 32 now. No one cares if she’s clubbing. Leonardo DiCaprio is 44 and probably at a club right now. Clubbing is not Lindsay’s problem. The problem is she presents herself like a precious wunderkind. She’s stuck at 16. 

The partying curtailed her work options, but it’s not exactly what killed her career. Over the last 10-15 years, the most consistent thing about Lindsay is that she lacks work ethic. She stopped showing up and that was always her biggest problem. She did it to Garry Marshall. She did it to Oprah. In the Paper interview, her publicist asked that it be noted that she showed up on time to a photo shoot, which is really the bare minimum.

Her new show, Lohan Beach Club, released its first teaser yesterday. It’s Lindsay calling herself a boss bitch and talking about an empire. Look, I live for trash TV. This is supposed to be like Vanderpump Rules (my guiding star) but I’m not feeling Lindsay patting herself on the back as a “boss bitch.” At this point in her career, Lindsay can’t be presented as a successful matriarch like Lisa Vanderpump, because people don’t perceive her as wealthy, busy, and competent. She’s more like Scheana singing on the Pride parade float. (If you know, you know.) 

Reality TV is a harsh bitch to conquer because the audiences must accept the contrived formula and be entertained enough to look beyond the fakery. A cornerstone of the genre is embarrassment – everyone has to not just feel embarrassed, but kind of enjoy that feeling. It is equal parts sadism and masochism, making the audience both ashamed of and superior to the people they are watching. We know we are wasting our time watching, that there will be no truth, growth, or resolution, and we still commit to it every minute. Sure it’s the lowest tier of television, but there’s still an art to it. 

The confessionals are a major part of the connection to the audience. There are a handful of Housewives who have transcended the genre to become bigger than their ensemble (like Bethenny Frankel and Nene Leakes). The thing that these women do very well is sit in a room alone, offering commentary to the camera. The one-liners are crucial. The meme-able and gif-able content is a must. The confessional is how the audience decides if they will love or hate a reality TV star. 

I suspect that at this point, some personalities use professional writers for their jokes and off-the-cuff comments and you know what? I’m OK with that. It is part of their work. Exceling in reality TV, rising above the sheer volume of shows and casts, requires a lot of hustle and a lot of extra-ness. Lindsay saying, “I’ve gone through so much in the past” doesn’t cut it. Tell me Lindsay, have you gone through Stassi slapping in you in the face at a dinner party after she found out you slept with her ex-boyfriend Jax while your boyfriend Tom (Jax’s best friend) was asleep in the next room? Because that happened to Kristen on Vanderpump Rules, and that is going through something. 

Reading Lindsay’s new interview and watching the teaser just shows she’s been out of the game for a very long time and might not even know what the game is anymore. 

That said, I will commit to at least two episodes. I’m not made of stone.