In 'Downsized,' reality intrudes into real life

Heather Bruce and Danielle Rumsey of the Bruce-Rumsey Heather Bruce and Danielle Rumsey of the Bruce-Rumsey clan make their way through the local Albertsons in two teams of three, each with a budget of $20 to buy all they need for a family dinner. The winner received a Starbucks coffee card and gift certificates to a new local ice cream parlor. ( WE TV ) ltc Photo Credit: WE TV Photo/

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: Real family coping under financial stress.

PLOT:

WHEN/WHERE: Saturday night at 9 on WEtv

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Under the bright Arizona sun, the good times seemed destined to stretch on forever, much like the distant mountain vistas. And then, they stopped. They stopped everywhere, but the screeching halt was especially dramatic in places like this because of the building boom and subsequent bust.

That's where Laura and Todd Bruce come in. He's a former contractor whose business, he says, was pulling down $1.5 million a year. That ended, and with it, a spending lifestyle that burned through (he says) up to $18,000 a month. Previously married, the Bruces "blended" their families into a Brady Bunch-like mass of kids, each jostling for shower time and high-school dignity. They are Bruce's kids, Heather, 17, and Levi, 15; Laura - a first-grade teacher - is mother to Bailey, 17, triplets Rex, Dylan and Whitney, 15, and Danielle, 10. In the premiere episode, the Bruces scramble to find $300 to pay the rent.

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MY SAY The first question that will occur to you, as it occurred to me, is the most obvious one under that hot Arizona sun: Did WE tv pay them for this? Per a WE tv statement, "They are paid a standard reality show fee, which they received after taping was complete." Taping was completed in July, so presumably - hopefully - the Bruces can afford the rent now.

"Downsized" is a terrific idea for a TV show - examining the hard knocks of the recession on real people instead of tracking Snooki en route to another bender - and the Bruces seem like good people. But based on tomorrow's launch, the core premise has a flaw . . .

BOTTOM LINE As you watch this, the fourth wall will keep getting in the way. You can't help realizing that just by the act of taping a reality show, the Bruces - all nine of them - are already employed in a job, albeit a temporary one. And if Todd really needs three hundred bucks, borrow it from the producer who's standing on the other side of the camera. He's good for it.

GRADE B-

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