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Reality clouds Bollea's career

The Hogan family series, like his future, is full of uncertainty.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY, Times Staff Writer
Published November 11, 2007


Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) and family,wife Linda (left), daughter Brooke, and son Nick, at their home between filming sessions of their show Hogan Knows Best at their Belleair home.
photo
[Dirk Shadd | Times]
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Nick Bollea's felony charge may cut short his career as a reality television star.

Bollea, 17, is the son of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and appears on the family's VH-1 television show, Hogan Knows Best.

Now in its fourth season, the show stopped taping earlier this summer, before the Aug. 26 car crash that left Bollea's passenger in a coma.

At the time of the crash, a decision to tape a fifth season hadn't been reached. As of Friday, there was still no resolution, a network spokeswoman said.

"In light of current circumstances, the return of the series still remains undecided," VH-1 spokeswoman Toni Herron wrote in an e-mail statement.

Bollea was arrested Wednesday and has pleaded not guilty to reckless driving with serious bodily injury. Police say he was racing before he crashed his Toyota Supra into a tree, critically injuring his friend and passenger, John Graziano, 22, an Iraq war veteran.

Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, said Bollea's arrest would dramatically change Hogan Knows Best.

If the series were to continue, the light-hearted, funny show would have to take on a different tone and address the accident and its aftermath, Thompson said.

"If you came back and ignored the crash it would seem really kind of heartless," Thompson said. "If you came back and dealt with it, that would really seem like this isn't the kind of Hogan Knows Best that I remember."

But Andy Dehnart, the editor of www.realityblurred.com, a reality TV Web site, said the tragedy could attract new viewers.

"Americans love to watch their celebrities be put in their place, and Americans like to watch celebrities fall and build them back up again," he said.

For every viewer threatening to boycott the series, there's another just hearing about it because of the attention surrounding Bollea's arrest, Dehnart said.

Bollea has two options: He can continue with the show and make amends or he can slip away from the public eye, Dehnart said.

The accident may also hinder Bollea's career in drifting, a motor sport where the driver puts a car into a controlled skid. The Web site devoted to his drift team, www.hogandrift.com, was recently closed.

Polaroid, which sponsored Bollea's drift car in 2007, didn't renew its contract after the accident, according toBay News 9.

But Thompson said the arrest probably won't have a lasting affect on Bollea's reputation because his fame is so marginal. Other than appearing on a reality show on a niche cable channel as the son of a celebrity, Bollea hasn't really been in the public eye.

"Which means it doesn't carry (as it does) when you go into a place for the next 15 years and say, 'My name is Monica Lewinsky.' 'My name is Paris Hilton.' 'My name is O.J. Simpson,'" Thompson said.

Thompson also said that unless they are somehow connected to the crash, Bollea's arrest probably won't affect his sister, an aspiring pop star, or his father, who will co-host NBC's American Gladiators.

Bollea is still a teenager and has options, whether he wants to pursue a public life or not, Thompson said.

"I always say the best solution to being 17 is to go to college," he said. "Then again, look at the trouble you can get in there."

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at (727) 445-4181 or tel-khoury@sptimes.com.

[Last modified November 10, 2007, 22:45:21]


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