If you were young and pop-culture obsessed in the ’90s, Catherine Reitman has your dream job. The 31-year-old actress and comic was tapped by VH1 to go on excellent adventures with some of the era’s most well-known stars, and give viewers a revealing look at what their youthful icons are up to now, in the network’s upcoming series Miss U Much, which debuts with a sneak peek this Sunday, Dec. 2 at 10pm ET.
From paddleboarding with Baywatch stud David Chokachi (while not-so-happily wearing the famous red swimsuit) to singing karaoke with Saved by the Bell’s Mr. Belding, Dennis Haskins — and much more — Reitman indulges her inner “very geeky kid” to tap into what made these former icons so irresistible and find out how fame has treated them since their heyday.
“We were a family and I think people felt that,” says Family Matters heartthrob Darius McCrary, who played Eddie Winslow in the long-running sitcom — and boxes with Reitman in an upcoming Miss You Much episode. “I have people come to me all the time and tell me, ‘Hey, man, I didn’t have a big brother, so I always thought of you as my big brother.’ That’s quite an honor, when people let you not only into their homes and onto their television screens, but also into their hearts.”
Asked why she thinks our youthful idols still score so much real estate in our hearts, even decades after we take down their posters, Reitman says, “I think it’s something about the fact that they tap into the younger, more insecure and fragile version of us. They were these beautiful, dreamy, glamorous stars right when we were in this pivotal period of our lives — and now we get to see them and were all grown up and we get to connect on a different level.”
McCrary also believes that the era was particularly rich in shows that lasted long enough to build a passionate audience that latched on tight to favorite characters — in the case of Family Matters, one in particular.
“We all had the confidence that the show would speak to a demographic that needed to be serviced,” he says. “That was the beauty of being on a Miller-Boyett show [the sitcom super producers also responsible for Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Full House, Perfect Strangers and others]. However, we had no idea that Jaleel White (the show’s Steve Urkel) would come along and give us nitrous oxide. People can think of him as a little nerdy dude all they want, but that dude is nitrous oxide! He came in and he gave us a jolt and we went to the moon!”
Even though Reitman — daughter of producer/director Ivan Reitman — has spent her entire life around celebrity, she says every one of her interview subjects had the power to surprise her.
“Oh my God! Seriously — all of them! Because when you grow up watching these people, you have a concrete idea of who they are, [based on] the person that they played or the song that they sang,” she muses. “Now you’re standing in front of them and they’re a little bit older and a little bit wiser. They’ve gone through the rise and fall of stardom, and now they have families and kids and other jobs, and they’re all surprising. None of them are who you think they’re going to be. And in some ways, you’re like, ‘Come on! Be who I want you to be!’ But you have to accept them as this whole person.”
Pressed for a particular example, Reitman offers troubled Saved By the Bell star Lark Voorhies. “She was shocking. She was very different than I remember her on the show,” Reitman says. “I’ll let the episode do the talking, but she does a lot of painting these days and she paints a portrait of me that is pretty jaw-dropping!”
But jaw-dropping, Reitman adds, is pretty much how she found the entire experience of filming Miss U Much with all of its once-in-lifetime opportunities.
“What’s so cool about these interviews is that they’re sharing things that they might not share in a restaurant or over the phone,” she says of the show’s unusual format. “We’re just sort of hangin’ out. … Day after day, I would show up at the location and be like, ‘We’re doing what?!’ But I just kept saying to myself, ‘I get to interview this person, and this is a little dream come true, so I have to get over it … and go golfing with Coolio.’”
VH1’s sneak peek of Miss U Much airs Sunday, Dec. 2 at 10pm ET. The series is currently scheduled for a March 2013 debut. Among the other celebrities featured are:
- Aaron Carter (singer/actor)
- Alan Thicke (Growing Pains)
- Andrea Barber (Full House)
- Beverley Mitchell (7th Heaven)
- Brian McKnight (singer)
- Coolio (rapper)
- Corin Nemic (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose)
- Dave Coulier (Full House)
- Danielle Fishel (Boy Meets World)
- Jaimee Foxworth (Family Matters)
- Jamie Walters (90210)
- Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees)
- Jeremy Jackson (Baywatch)
- Jeremy Miller (Growing Pains)
- Justin Guarini (American Idol)
- Kelly Packard (Baywatch)
- Mara Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire)
- Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- Romeo (rapper/actor)
- Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks)
- Sasha Mitchell (Step by Step)
All images: Vh1