Hogan Knows Best may be the realest reality show ever. Of course, the bulk of that reality took place when the cameras weren't rolling. The program followed professional wrestler and '80s icon Hulk Hogan and his family -- wife Linda, daughter Brooke, and son Nick -- through their daily lives.
For the most part, they seemed like any normal American family. They sometimes clashed, sometimes found themselves at odds, and always loved each other, no matter what.
The behind-the-scenes truths were a lot darker. While the show itself isn't really responsible, it absolutely marked the point at which the Hogans were torn apart as a family unit. Something that was intended to show them as a unified group instead became the flashpoint for their disintegration. In retrospect, there's a sad quality to the program, as we now know how much pain was taking place in the parts of their lives not shown to the public.
Below, we give you the full rundown on the show's conception, its rise, and its ultimate demise. At the center is a family whose members didn't know how dramatically their lives would change when they began filming.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets Behind Hogan Knows Best.
15 Hulk only did it to help his daughter's music career
The success of MTV's The Osbournes made it a hot career move for celebrities whose fame was on the downswing to do reality shows giving viewers a peek inside their lives. Many of those shows were very successful. Most people assumed Hulk Hogan was simply hopping aboard that gravy train. In truth, he had an entirely different motivation.
The Hulkster was a guest on CNN's Larry King Live, where he told the host that he thought doing the show would help Brooke's burgeoning music career. VH1 initially approached him to do a reality series about his return to wrestling, but he wasn't interested. He changed his mind on the format when his daughter decided to get into music, because he knew she would need a boost.
"We thought this would be a great way to give Brooke an awareness, to make people know who she was," he informed King.
14 Plots for the show were scripted
A lot of reality shows are dogged by allegations that they're scripted. In the case of Hogan Knows Best, its star acknowledged during a legal proceeding that his show was "soft-scripted." That's a term used in television when the producers formulate plots for each episode, meaning that scenarios are pre-planned rather than natural.
Hogan was quoted as saying that there was a manufactured theme for every installment.
The family would be briefed on the theme, as well as given instruction on specific things to do or talk about while the cameras rolled. He cited an example where they were told to discuss a family vacation at some point during their day. Hogan additionally claimed that the family was fed lines or directed to discuss particular subjects in the moment.
It's clear that -- in this case, at least -- the "reality" was shaped by the producers.
13 Brooke's racy photoshoot
Although Hulk was the nominal star, it quickly became clear that Brooke was every bit as central to the show as he was. She became a viewer favorite, especially with male audience members. That popularity led to something that has become a requisite for reality show starlets -- a racy photoshoot.
Brooke did one for the "guy magazine" FHM, but it was a bit different from most of its kind. She was only 18 when she posed for the cover. Liquor companies, who advertise heavily in such publications, don't buy ads when the celebrity on the cover is not of legal drinking age, lest they be accused of marketing their product to minors. That's also part of the Distilled Spirits Council of America's code of conduct.
As a result of Brooke's appearance, no alcohol was advertised in her issue.
12 Nick's car accident
On the night of August 26, 2007, during the show's fourth --and what would become final -- season, tragedy struck. Nick and some friends were in Clearwater, Florida. They decided to have a drag race. Nick and his friend John Graziano were in one car, two of their buddies in the other.
During the high-speed race, Nick lost control of the vehicle on a wet road, slamming his Toyota Supra into a tree.
Griaziano, who was not wearing a seatbelt, suffered severe brain injury that requires him to be cared for around the clock to this day. Nick was found to have alcohol in his system. Authorities charged him with multiple offenses, including driving under the influence and use of a motor vehicle in commission of a felony. A judge sentenced him to eight months in jail, five years of probation, and 500 community service hours.
11 Hulk had a relationship with his daughter's friend
One of the defining things about the show took place off-camera, and it altered the Hogans forever. At the same time that he playing a devoted family man on television, Hulk was engaging in an extramarital affair.
Christiane Plante was not only "the other woman" - she was also a friend of Brooke's.
Plante told the National Enquirer that Hulk and Linda "privately knew their marriage was ending" at the time of the fling. That may or may not be true, but there's no denying that it was, at the very least, the final nail in the coffin.
There were some serious ripple effects, with Brooke caught right in the middle. Plante used social media to issue an apology, writing, "I will never be able to fully forgive myself for this. I have lost an amazing friend."
Hulk, meanwhile, found himself estranged from his angry daughter for a time.
10 Brooke's song flopped
Hogan Knows Best was conceived to help launch Brooke Hogan's singing career. To that end, the video for her first single, "About Us", made its premiere following the finale of the second season. It then went into heavy rotation on MTV. This was supposed to be the moment when the celebrity offspring became a full-fledged pop star.
Except that didn't quite happen.
Despite the exposure provided by Hogan Knows Best, "About Us" failed to make much of a splash.
The tune debuted at #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week ending August 19, 2006. That was an impressive start, earning it the "Hot Shot Debut" designation given to the highest-charting new release. The following week, it bounded to #33 -- and then quickly went backwards from there. The song was the proverbial flash-in-the-pan.
Brooke's album, Undiscovered, fared no better, selling a meager 127,000 copies.
9 Hulk made offensive remarks on tape
One of the biggest scandals surrounding Hogan Knows Best involved Hulk's affairs, which created a ripple effect. Other bad behavior on the wrestler's part made its way into the media as a result. That includes a videotape showing him being intimate with the wife of his friend, known as “Bubba the Love Sponge.” Also included on the tape were some shockingly racist and homophobic remarks.
In one section, he used the N-word to describe an African-American man who worked on Brooke's CD. In another, Hulk was recorded talking about Hogan Knows Best with his mistress. He told her that the show's producers came up with an idea for a storyline in which he would return to the house he grew up in. Hulk is heard using an ugly term to describe the gay man who they discovered lived there when that episode was filmed.
8 Tragedy caused the show's cancellation
Nick's car accident had a direct negative impact on Hogan Knows Best. Filming had already stopped for the season when the incident occurred. However, network executives were faced with the daunting question of whether or not the show should return for another series of episodes in light of what happened.
A 2007 article in the Tampa Bay Times pointed out that the program was, by nature, rather light-hearted. Therefore, should it continue, there were only two options -- remain light-hearted and appear to be ignoring the gravity of the accident, or directly address the aftermath of the tragedy Nick caused, which would alter the entire fabric of the show.
Neither option was particularly appealing, so VH1 opted to cancel the show altogether. There was just too much of a dark cloud over it to continue. Brooke went on to get her own spinoff series, entitled Brooke Knows Best.
7 Ratings dropped quickly
Hogan Knows Best made its debut on July 10, 2005, airing on the VH1 cable channel. There was great anticipation for the show. Hulk was a beloved, iconic professional wrestling figure. It was also the relatively early days of such celebrity reality shows, so the novelty value was in full effect.
The network believed Hogan Knows Best would be a ratings winner.
And they were, for a short while. The pilot episode was a smash hit with the target audience of viewers age 18-34. When the stats came in, 1.31 million people in that bracket tuned in -- a number that was huge for a VH1 original program.
Apparently, a portion of them must not have been all that impressed with what they saw. Ratings for subsequent episodes plunged alarmingly. Among that same demographic, the average audience for each subsequent installment was 849,000.
6 Linda dated a much younger man
It was shocking when Hulk cheated on Linda, especially since it was with a woman twenty-one years his junior. He wasn't the only one with an attraction to younger partners, though. Following their split, Linda began dating a man named Charlie Hill -- and the age difference was even greater than the one between her ex and his mistress. She was 48 at the time, he was just 19.
He was a former classmate of her daughter's.
Their relationship didn't have a better outcome than hers and Hulk's. After four years together, the couple broke up. Hill later sued Linda for $1.5 million, claiming that she forced him to do menial labor, such as fertilizing avocado trees, maintaining her yacht, and performing various landscaping duties around the lakeside mansion where she kept him.
5 Brooke was furious about Nick's legal woes
Brooke and Nick didn't always get along on Hogan Knows Best. In fact, they were often seen bickering and feuding with one another. Nevertheless, as is often the case with siblings, that needling quality belied the fact that the two actually care deeply about one another.
When Nick was sentenced to eight months in jail for causing a car accident that left another man badly injured, Brooke took it almost as hard as he did. Specifically, she was upset about how the public viewed him in light of the incident. She used her MySpace blog to express her feelings, saying “most of the public thinks my brother is some rich little selfish kid, but no one knows the real story, and I'm really [angry] that the truth didn't come out from either side.”
Apparently realizing that this would add fuel to the fire, she deleted the post soon after.
4 Linda's scathing letter
A divorce is emotionally difficult for anyone. Getting divorced under the watchful eye of the American public and the entertainment media just kicks everything up a couple of notches. Linda was interviewed by the TV program Inside Edition nine years after she and Hulk split up. It was apparent that, nearly a decade later, she continued to suffer from the fallout.
During the interview, she read sections of a letter that she wrote to Hulk about his affair, which happened during the time they were all filming Hogan Knows Best. “You have single-handedly ruined our 25-year marriage and our family,” she penned. “You took me for granted and never appreciated me or our beautiful family... I will never forgive you.” Linda additionally accused him of “hiding behind those sunglasses” and a “false smile.”
Linda cried while reading this letter, clearly showing that the hurt was still there.
3 Hulk's emotional issues after cancellation
Because so much discord emerged from Hogan Knows Best, its eventual cancellation was even more laden with sorrow than it would have been otherwise. Hulk didn't just lose a show, he lost his marriage, damaged his relationship with his daughter, and saw his son behind bars.
Unsurprisingly, that took a toll on the star. Hulk appeared on a segment of Oprah Winfrey's Where Are They Now? where he recalled hitting "rock bottom" when the show went off the air. "Everything got dark," he said. "Everything happened at once." Hulk further revealed that he began drinking heavily as a way of self-medicating, which, of course, made everything even worse than it already was.
At one point, he felt so low that he contemplated ending it all, convincing himself that this would be "an easy way to fix things." A positive encounter with some adoring fans made him believe life could still have meaning.
2 Hulk the show was a mistake
Agreeing to do a reality series where camera crews follow you and your family around all day can seem like a good career move. There are, however, some real drawbacks to it. Hogan Knows Best is perhaps the quintessential example of that, as it marked the point where the Hogans fell apart.
Hindsight being 20/20, Hulk came to realize that, despite his initial good intentions, signing on for the gig wasn't the wisest idea he ever had.
In a 2008 interview with People magazine, he acknowledged that the stress of production was one of several contributors to his divorce from Linda. He additionally lamented the effect celebrity had on his children. “I just think the reality show amplified the problems that were already there,” he revealed.
During the interview, Hulk also expressed regret for his temporary estrangement from Brooke once the program ended.
1 The Gawker lawsuit
During his years as a professional wrestler, Hulk Hogan took down a lot of opponents. In real life, he took down an entire media company. In 2006, Hogan had an affair with his friend's wife. He claims not to know that they were being videotaped at the time. Gawker, a popular media/gossip website, got their hands on that tape and posted portions of it online. Claiming invasion of privacy among other things, Hogan sued them for $100 million.
A nasty legal battle ensued. In the end, Hulk received more than he asked for. Gawker Media, which owned the website, was ordered to pay $115 million in compensatory damages, plus an additional $25 million in punitive damages. Gawker had to file for bankruptcy and sell its assets.
In Hogan's corner was billionaire Peter Thiel, who had his own beef with Gawker and contributed to Hulk's legal battle against them.
What are your thoughts or memories about Hogan Knows Best? Tell us your opinions in the comments.
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