Lifetime’s Whitney Maybe Should Have Been Called “BOBBY!”?

Whitney Houston holds Bobbi Kristina as she talks with Bobby Brown in the Lifetime movie Whitney.
Whitney (Photo: Jack Zeman / Lifetime)

Was the relationship between Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown the greatest love of all? Lifetime’s newest TV movie seems to think so.

Originally this post was going to be a drinking game for the Saturday night premiere of Lifetime’s latest movie Whitney. I decided against this for two reasons. One: this is the story of an incredible talent whose light was snuffed far too early under somewhat tragic circumstances. Two: I do not want the liability for what would happen to your liver, dear reader.1

This movie takes a look at the budding relationship between Whitney Houston (Yaya DaCosta) and Bobby Brown (Arlen Escarpeta), from their meet-cute at the 1989 Soul Train Awards through the tour following the release of The Bodyguard. As with most Lifetime movies, the timeline and details get lost in translation to the screen, but that’s not the main problem with the movie.

For a film touted as Whitney Houston’s story, the viewer is brought on Bobby’s journey from wrong side of the tracks nice guy, to too much love to give, to scoundrel, to penitent husband, to drunken scoundrel, to pre-Being Bobby Brown Bobby Brown. Whitney is presented as incredibly passive, not making her own decisions and proceeding along the path of least resistance. The combination of these forces doesn’t introduce much conflict in the story and for a good chunk of the movie it feels like nothing has happened.

Whitney marks the directorial debut of Angela Bassett, which would make you think she could draw on her experience from What’s Love Got to Do with It?, but the script doesn’t lend itself to that cause. Perhaps if a different timeframe were used for the scope of the story the film may have held together better, but where else could you go to achieve a happy-ish ending? Certainly not here:

Although the movie as a whole is kind of dull, tuning in for the musical performances is well worth it. Full versions of songs are performed and DaCosta and Escarpeta make convincing doppelgängers, albeit while lip-syncing. You should find yourself singing along a couple of times.

If you are expecting Whitney to be a tell-all or full-on biopic, you will be disappointed (and perhaps confused). As a Lifetime movie, the story is serviceable and there is plenty of drama for drama’s sake.

Whitney debuts on Lifetime Saturday, January 17 at 8pm.

  1. Oh fine, here are a few rules to get you started. Take a drink when:

    • You find yourself singing along to a song.
    • Someone uses nose candy.
    • Whitney says “BOBBY!”
    • It takes you more than five seconds to figure out which real life person an actor/actress is supposed to be. Finish your drink if it is Clive Davis.  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv
  • Clare Snyder

    Every time things got sexual, I wanted to throw up a bit. Like when Bobby proposed and sucked her finger before he put the ring on it. Yuck. Does that kind of thing turn Angela Bassett on? Why am I even wondering about this?