Within the first couple minutes of “The Family Stallone,” the new Paramount+ reality series following Sylvester Stallone and his family, we’re greeted with a predictable introductory trope: the behind-the-curtain producer prompt. Stallone takes a seat for his talking head and a producer — typically an invisible hand in reality TV, feeding questions rarely ever heard on-screen — can be faintly heard from behind the camera, asking, “How did Sylvester Stallone end up making a reality television show?”
It’s an opening that is about as by-the-book as a famous-family reality television show can be, but it’s also a particularly pertinent question here. The new show comes off of the heels of yet another professional resurgence for Stallone. After a decades-long career in film (Stallone has, astonishingly, been the only actor in Hollywood history to have a film debut at the top of the box office in six consecutive decades), the 76-year old actor turned to television for the first time with his recent Paramount show “Tulsa King.” The series was a hit for the streamer and will undoubtedly see a decent shelf life for Stallone for the next few years.
So, truly, why is he doing a reality show? This particular genre, shows about the small dramas and gilded inner lives of famous families, tends to be reserved for either top-tier celebrities that have largely retired and have little to do (i.e. “The Osbournes,” “Run’s House,” etc.), or wealthy families who became famous through the show itself (“Keeping Up With the Kardashians”) — not A-listers busy with new professional breakthroughs.
In the opening scene, Stallone responds simply: he wanted to use it as a way to force his three daughters to spend more time with him. It’s a cute answer that in a way is actually closer to the real truth than he might want to let on. At the start, “The Family Stallone” is a bit of a monument to Stallone and his stardom, but mostly, from the two episodes available for review, it looks to all be an excuse to provide a platform for his daughters, a trio of nepo babies who neatly fit into the Kardashians’ empire-of-sisterhood reality TV framework.
And based on this early glimpse, they fill that framework with relative competence. Jennifer, the matriarch of the family, along with youngest daughter Scarlet, who is gearing to go off to college by the third episode, take more of a back seat to Sistine and Sophia, the real stars of the show. The pair goof off together, prank their father, and visit the garish funhouse apartment of their Uncle Frank, Stallone’s younger brother.
Stallone himself exists more as the grouch in the background. His protectiveness as a father is a major early theme, though it becomes overbearing considering the fully adult age of the two elder daughters. There is ultimately a good rapport and dynamic here that forms a solid skeleton for a show like this, one in which the familial love feels genuine and there is little forced drama for the show to ratchet up. Ironically, it might do better to allow some more conflict, or at least a mood, to settle into some pockets. The episodes are arguably too short, forcing scenes to often move at a breakneck pace, with a restless soundtrack constantly trying to punch up the atmosphere.
This may be a simple issue of early goings, with producers worried about keeping viewers entertained while we’re just starting to get to know the players, but it would help for the show to more fully understand the Kardashian-esque appeal it has in its hands: pretty people in often rather boring, slow scenes, languishing in the quotidian polish of quiet luxury. The Stallone sisters are certainly built to fill in that appeal, and the show may find success in leaning into it as viewers become more familiar with them (the sisters already have strong followings online, and a podcast to boot).
Yet this all brings us back to the show’s opening question. On its face, a non-trashy reality television show about Sylvester Stallone and his family would appear to mostly lure older viewers who are tuning in simply as diehard fans of Stallone himself, which is also to say people who aren’t exactly tuning into reality television to begin with. (One of the more surprising and fascinating moments is one purely for boomer viewers: Al Pacino, unaware that he’d be showing up to a camera crew, comes to hang outside a pizza joint with Stallone, and the two Hollywood stalwarts lovingly rib at each other for a couple minutes.) And yet, its actual tone and aim is centered around the Stallone sisters and their influencer allure.
This is all perhaps four-quadrant speculation best left to the suits, but it is all a bit of a random left turn from Stallone — or just the work of a father who really wants to help his daughters become famous in their own right. Regardless, for fans of a certain strain of ambient reality TV — a family-friendly way to vicariously experience the pristine Calabasas life — there’s something in here worth tuning in for. Just don’t expect content built for “Rocky” stans.
“The Family Stallone” premieres Wednesday, May 17, on Paramount+.