The infamous David Hasselhoff cheeseburger “incident” looms so large that the celebrated star of ‘Knight Rider’ and ‘Baywatch’ (and brief ‘Dancing with the Stars’ contestant) felt it was essential he address the topic in the first episode of his new A&E reality series, ‘The Hasselhoffs,’ co-starring his two daughters, Taylor-Ann, 20, and Hayley, 18 (who starred in ABC Family’s short-lived but critically acclaimed series ‘Huge’ last summer).
The “incident” was the surreptitious release in 2007 of an embarrassing home video shot by Taylor-Ann that showed The Hoff on a bathroom floor, apparently drunk and struggling to eat a cheeseburger, after which he underwent treatment for alcoholism. In his new show – premiering Sunday night at 10/9c on A&E – he addresses the situation during a speaking engagement at the University of Arizona.
“It never should have gotten out,” he says on the show. “[But] if people can look at that and realize that someone in their family has got that same problem and it can help, maybe that’s why it happened. They say there’s a reason for everything. Sometimes, life gives you a wakeup call.”
In an interview over lunch in Manhattan, Hasselhoff, 58 – who was joined by his daughters – explained that he wanted to dispense with the cheeseburger issue quickly in order to move on to the series’ true purpose, to spotlight his “ordinary” life as a single dad and promote his daughters’ singing ambitions. He also talked about the song that made him “Number Two” among all German pop stars.
Why did you decide to throw your hat into the reality-TV arena?
Why not? It’s kind of like, play the cards in life that are dealt and reality [TV] seems to be it, and they kept bugging me. When A&E called, I said, ‘It’s not going to be about, you know, alcohol and press and damage because that’s not who we are. It’s going to be about [his daughters’] music and [A&E exec] Neil Cohen said, ‘I want it to be about who you guys are as a real family.’ And we had a meeting here in this restaurant, and I said, ‘Neil, you’re gonna allow us to do the show in our way.’ And he said OK. It’s also kind of like an ad for who we are. It’s kind of like, Wow, we have a half-hour of television to do whatever we want, and I said, ‘Why not?’
Did you talk to other networks besides A&E about a reality series?
I was with E! in the beginning when I was going to do a series called ‘Tales from the Hoff’ with Ryan Seacrest [producing] and it was scripted. It was basically going to be like ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’ But E! decided not to do it after about a year in development. I couldn’t find a writer who would just write what I asked him to write! It was just garbage!
Preview Hoff’s New Reality Series:
I assume you’re well-aware that the market’s getting saturated with these celebrity-family reality shows. Are you worried that people will hear about your show and groan, Uh-oh, here comes another Hollywood family on television?
Taylor-Ann: I think we’re a more special family because we’re very different. We have a single father over here. We’re a close-knit family, a beautiful family with two daughters and a wonderful dad and [viewers] will get to see that relationship. So I think it’s gonna [help] a lot of single dads who are raising daughters to see what it’s like and maybe even getting advice from watching the show.
How do you make a show about ordinary family life interesting?
David: I’m an entertainer and my goal is to bring entertainment to the world. Entertainment is to me [inherently tied up in] emotion, so if you make people cry, it’s entertaining. If you educate people, it’s entertainment. If you make people laugh – like when I say on the show, ‘Oh my God, look at what they’ve written!’ And Hayley comes running in and says, ‘Why don’t you sue those bastards?’ And I said, ‘I already have! And it took me a hundred thousand dollars and 34 phone calls and I won [the suit] and all they wrote was, “Sorry we hassled the Hoff!” ’ And so, it’s almost an education for people. We say in the very beginning of the show that people really have no idea who I really am. I think it [addresses] people’s curiosity to see [that].
Why does TV continue to turn to David Hasselhoff? (For example, Simon Cowell reportedly just hired him to be a judge on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ for which the Hoff will be paid $750,000.) What is so fascinating about you? Is it all because of ‘Knight Rider’ and ‘Baywatch’? I mean, really?
‘Baywatch’ had the same characteristics as ‘Knight Rider’: One man can make a difference. It’s why I think people watch ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ They wanna feel good, they wanna root for somebody, they want somebody to get up off that dance floor, get off the damn mat and take control of their life. I also think it’s because I’m accessible. I’ve been around so damn long I think [people] see me as part of their family.
What’s the most ordinary thing we’ll see on the show?
I think cleaning up dog [$#*!]! [Also] the fact that we’re an emotional family. I think that’s pretty ordinary. The very first episode is the most emotional episode [in the series], addressing the tape and the garbage we had to go through. We kind of get that out of the way right away.
Watch David Hasselhoff Tackles Fatherhood:
Then what’s the most extraordinary thing on the show, something your family does that maybe an ordinary family cannot do?
We got to experience something really interesting. [His hit single in Germany] ‘Looking for Freedom’ in 1989, before the Berlin Wall came down, became an anthem to the East Germans and no one believes that. So, [for the A&E show] we went deep into [the former] East Germany to do a personal appearance at an Audi dealership to help them mark the 20th anniversary of Audi establishing dealerships inside of East Germany.
What’s with this whole Germany thing and you?
The reason is because I sing inherently the German schlager type music. It’s a really happy, peppy [style of singing].
Are you more popular even than German singers who do the same thing just as well because they’re, in fact, German?
There’s one song considered to be the Number One song ever [in Germany]. It’s called ‘Verdammt, ich lieb dich,’ which means, ‘Damn, I love you,’ done by a guy named Matthias Reim. And the Number Two song that people know more than any other song is ‘Looking for Freedom’ by David Hasselhoff. And every kid knows it – it’s crazy.
When we get to the 10th and final episode of the season, does it wrap up a storyline that’s been on-going for the previous nine half-hours?
It ends in Austria, with 10,000 fans yelling “Hoff! Hoff! Hoff!” It’s fantastic!
‘The Hasselhoffs’ premieres Sunday night at 10/9c on A&E