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Kenny Smith stays cool in new reality series

Kenny Smith, with his family, is in a new TBS reality show debuting Friday.
Kenny Smith, with his family, is in a new TBS reality show debuting Friday. TBS

Tar Heel basketball stalwarts can argue, but for my money, Kenny Smith’s greatest performance came in a Houston uniform when – during a 1995 playoff game against Orlando – he poured in seven three-pointers, one of which tied the game and allowed the Rockets to win in overtime, and to go on to win the championship.

In other lives, Smith played for UNC coach Dean Smith and went on to make a living as an NBA analyst for CBS and Turner Broadcasting. Smith is cool in both senses of the word – he’s usually easygoing and he married a “Price Is Right” model, Gwendolyn Osborne-Smith.

On Friday, Smith and clan dip into the reality pool with the debut of “Meet the Smiths,” (9 p.m., TBS) which focuses on the family’s dynamic. Smith’s fans will enjoy getting to know him better; those from a later generation will wonder what the cameras are doing there.

Our expectations for family reality TV shows were shaped radically by “The Osbournes,” which ran for five seasons beginning in 2002. It is much underrated as a pillar of the reality genre, which is now skillfully dominated by Bravo and its ever-durable “Real Housewives” franchises.

It was “The Osbournes” that channeled the vibe of two ancient classics, “The Munsters,” last seen at 1313 Mockingbird Lane, and “The Addams Family,” dwelling in a neighboring network at 0001 Cemetery Lane. In each, we found a monstrous household that was, at its heart, as sweet as anyone’s.

That was the unexpected discovery we also found in “The Osbournes,” despite Ozzy Osbourne’s promiscuous intake of drugs and alcohol. And sweetness is what we find in “Meet the Smiths,” and that’s its problem.

Kenny Smith is steady as a maypole as his family life-dances all around him in their California home. Ill-mannered outbursts, the fuel that makes reality shows burn so much brighter, are not tolerated in this household, at least not in front of the camera’s flickering light. Table-toppling eruptions are not a Smith family value.

For drama, we must rely upon the pressure-valve releases by Mrs. Smith, who often finds herself frosted by her husband’s Zen approach to life’s bumps. Even those aren’t teeth-rattling, and the turbulence seems manufactured. Drop-ins are encouraged by Smith’s “Inside the NBA” pals Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal.

“Meet the Smiths” is at its best when the blended family’s hip daughters, Kayla and Monique, pick on their dear old dad, who is pitifully, hopelessly, irreversibly square. Sweetly savage, they remind us a bit of that guy in Chapel Hill who could pour it on, point by point, and never grow boring.

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs.

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