Hall in the Family?

One or two things about Rose's fiance Kiana Kim (second from left, with her kids and him) remind our reviewer of Sofia Vergara. Can you guess what? Hint: You're wrong!
One or two things about Rose's fiance Kiana Kim (second from left, with her kids and him) remind our reviewer of Sofia Vergara. Can you guess what? Hint: You're wrong!

Our TV critic checks out the former Phil's reality show and sees a hidden Cooperstown agenda - and a likeable trophy wife. No, really.

Posted: January 14, 2013

They don't call him Charlie Hustle for nothing. Pete Rose is now taking the appeal of his lifetime ban from baseball to the court of "reality" TV in TLC's "Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs." The first two regularly scheduled episodes air Monday, with sneak previews Sunday at 10 and 10:30 p.m.

What at first looks like just another series about a seemingly mismatched pair - Rose's fiancee, Playboy model Kiana Kim, is a never-quite-specified number of decades younger than the 71-year-old former Phil - shows its true agenda in its third installment, scheduled to air Jan. 21, in which Rose and Kim take her kids to Cooperstown, N.Y., to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And that leads to one of those painfully manipulative conversations in which a couple of children young enough to be Rose's grandchildren are asked to pretend to care deeply about the lack of a plaque for their future stepfather inside the building whose door he refuses to darken until "they invite me in."

Rose family values

Kim actually seems to think this will be some teachable moment for her son and daughter, who may not understand why betting on baseball's a no-no for a baseball player but are supposed to take away the lesson that failure to own up to own's failings can have lifelong consequences.

It's a lesson somewhat undercut by her own insistence that it's time for Rose to make another appeal to baseball commissioner Bud Selig to undo the agreement Rose made in 1989 that rendered him ineligible.

Not to mention by Rose's telling the kids that baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti "had a heart attack and died five days after he suspended me."

What's the lesson there, exactly? Don't mess with the stepfather?

What a character!

Shows like this generally require the participants to adopt a persona and stick with it. And when he's not picking the scab of his ineligibility for Cooperstown, Rose actually manages this for minutes at a time.

Seated on the sofa next to Kim answering questions from a never-seen interviewer, he could easily be channeling Ed O'Neill in ABC's "Modern Family," just another slightly befuddled older guy with a hot young wife-to-be and a shot at a second family.

Or, in Rose's case, a third. (The children from his first two marriages, all grown, are conspicuous in their absence from the couple's engagement party.)

Kim's the wild card here. Like Sofia Vergara's Gloria, she's not quite the bimbo you might be expecting. For one thing, she's anxious to rid herself of the breast implants that she now considers a mistake. (Rose may not be so convinced.)

Hi, dad, we're home

Setting aside her touching conviction that her own father never noticed the ginormous bump in cup size in the first place, she seems pretty normal - or at least as normal as anyone ever seems discussing her private life on television (and dragging her kids along for the ride).

It's Rose who seems sadly delusional, whether it's comparing his personal situation to Hugh Hefner's or obsessing about his absence from the Hall.

"There's no question that the punishment don't fit my crime," he says. "The battle's with one man - the commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig."

If that's true, Rose might be better off if Selig misses "Hits & Mrs." altogether.

"Pete Rose: Hits & Mrs." airs Mondays at 10 and 10:30 p.m. on TLC, with sneak previews this Sunday at those times.

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