How Jay Cutler makes ‘Very Cavallari’ surprisingly watchable

Confession: I can’t honestly remember the last reality show I tuned in to watch. Well, maybe “Hard Knocks.” Does that count? I say no.

But I’ve been strangely anticipating the appearance of everyone’s least-favorite unemployed quarterback, Jay Cutler, and the new series on E! on which he’s appearing in an unfamiliar role: that of sidekick.

It’s clear early on in the series premiere of “Very Cavallari” — which documents the trials and tribulations of Kristin Cavallari, Cutler’s wife, as she launches her new product line — that this is not his stage. Not really, anyway.

And that’s fine. Cavallari, a native of Barrington, might now be famous for being famous, but she’s making the most of her opportunity to change that. Smart move.

She makes a good point early in the debut episode. Cavallari asks Cutler when he’ll know he’s 100 percent done with football. It’s clear he’s keeping a toe in that door. But she has been making sacrifices for him the past eight years they’ve been together, she notes, and that “this is my football.” Also: “This is my turn.”

Cavallari is determined to build and expand her Uncommon James brand — her shoe-née-jewelry line, plus other stuff it sounds like — and that statement is laid down three minutes into the first episode.

Still, she says this right after Cutler had just slammed a cooler full of dead elk meat on the posh kitchen counter, so it’s not as if he hasn’t marked his territory a bit. There’s a balance here. It strangely works. Cutler always did have those sneaky-brilliant moments in his weird, even underwhelming career; he outgunned Tom Brady last season, you know?

But Cutler and Cavallari are also a team. A good one, it seems. All those stories about a handful of Chicago Bears teammates really liking Cutler — they probably are true. Cutler seems pretty square with his wife getting this great opportunity, and why wouldn’t he? He even helped her name the brand, providing the crucial first word in her line, “Uncommon James.” (The James comes from their daughter’s middle name.)

Let’s get the football out of the way, as the show does rather summarily: Is Cutler done? “Probably,” he says, but that won’t be official until, like, September. As for how the QB who has started 153 NFL games (14 last season for the semi-dreadful Dolphins) might be keeping himself in game shape … well, there’s a little lounge time involved.

“I like to keep myself pretty free,” Cutler explains, “so if something does pop up, I can bounce right into it.”

Same, Jay. Same.

While Kristin Cavallari is the star of E! Entertainment’s new reality show, “Very Cavallari,” her husband, Jay Cutler, plays a key supportive role.
– Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal

Cav reveals Cutler’s latest hobby is watching deer cams. You know, live video feeds of deer eating food on other people’s property. And he apparently does it all day long, at least when he’s not arriving early at his kids’ school to beat the moms in the pickup line.

Cutler, in other words, is dominating retirement.

“I’m not looking to do a lot of work right now,” he says nears the conclusion of Episode 1. “I’m looking to do the exact opposite of that.”

Yes, Cutler is (football writer opinion alert coming) clearly the best thing about “Very Cavallari,” at least so far. The show is a lot of Cavallari’s business building — be warned. It might have been seven years ago since she left “The Hills,” but this seems like an offshoot of pretty close facsimile, or really just like any dime-a-dozen reality shows about celebrities. At least what I’ve read about since, you know, I don’t watch that stuff.

We know, we know. It’s early July. This is how you know you need football. This show, if you’re needing your fix, isn’t exactly your methadone. But if you’re a Cutler fan at all, though, it’s something. And it’s mildly funny to watch him do normal-guy stuff. Stay-at-home dad mundanity. No clue why it works.

Our unsolicited advice to producers: less singing boyfriend of one of Cav’s assistants, more Cutler. This isn’t hard to figure out.

Maybe the deer cam is secretly riveting, but we don’t find that out from him. Cutler appears a little bored. Then again, he appeared bored most of his career. It’s part of his charm, like the bartender you hate but always get drinks from. No one can explain this mystery. It just is what it is, as Cutler might have said after a three-pick loss to Green Bay.

“Jay retired last year,” Cavallari says, almost like she’s trying to speak it into existence. Do I think she fears he’ll pick up the phone in August when some starter blows an Achilles? Yeah, I do. But she also seems to want him to pick a hobby if that call never arrives.

Cav: “I think Jay just needs something to do right now.”

To this point, he appears supportive of Cavallari’s business — she’s running it out of the house to start things out — but also territorial about his den. “Sooo, when are these chicks coming over?” he asks. That’s a direct quote. Semiretirement can’t change a man.

Cav has a simple request when we meet her new associates: “Can you just be nice to the girls when they come?”

“I’m going to be neutral,” Cutler said.

I’m dead.

There’s more: After not saying hello to Cavallari’s girls when they walked in, Cutler promised to give “more byes than HI’s.” Amazing stuff.

Later, he texts Cav (from upstairs) after one of her assistants parks in the Cutler lawn. Oh yeah, this is the goods.

“I would love to sit here and say that I am not afraid of Jay, but I honestly am,” one assistant, Shannon Ford, says. “I don’t even look Jay in the eyes anymore because I am honestly afraid that he’ll steal my soul.”

That’s not all. Later, he takes a different Cavallari assistant out to the garage to “play a little game.” He’s wanting to position several bright-orange pylons as part of a “Where Would You Park In The Grass?” stunt. This is the best part of the show. It’s the Cutler we came to know so well in the NFL. She oddly doesn’t seem that into it.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “If you guys wouldn’t park in the yard so much, we wouldn’t have this problem.” Cutler is wearing a brown beanie when he says this. This is not Cavallari, but an assistant. She complains that she has just gotten back into working out after a two-year absence, given that her hairdressing career gave her a decent amount of physical exertion “with a blow drier and stuff, you know?”

[Dramatic pause] …

“You can’t be serious,” Cutler said, shaking his head, never cracking a smile.

It’s all too much.

Cavallari knows Cutler is a pain in the rump. She says she nicknamed him “Les Mis” for his eternal eye-rolling annoyance. That’s funny. She thought he’d be thrilled that she just told him the business is set to move out of the house in a mere four days. This was supposed to get him excited. But Cutler is skeptical of this announcement, saying he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, relating to the Christmas gift that never comes. This is the sober, in-home version of the infamous “doooon’t caaaaare” that became the classic off-the-field story during Cutler’s playing career.

But Cavallari genuinely seems to get the guy and appreciate the best of him. They’re trying to do more date nights, and he planned one of them. That’s kind of, well, great. We can’t speak for the Denver folks, but even media who covered Cutler early in his Chicago career and found his short, snarky responses to be annoying mostly learned to appreciate the guy. He could be rather good, most Bears beat writers will tell you, and it’s not untrue. Cutler actually is a funny guy, and we’ve known — duh, Vandy — that he’s smart. Once in a while, he’d be pretty darned good on an NFL podium.

And his life annoyance is somewhat overplayed. Jay wanted to move the family to Nashville after going to school there, she tells us, always wanting to return to raise his family. That’s why they’re there, and Cavallari seems to love it. She seems more outwardly excited about being there than he does, but Cutler clearly isn’t going to gush about anything.

Am I going to watch every episode? Oh, boy, that’s going to be a tough commitment. But I will watch a few — enough, by the completion of Season 1, to master the spelling of Cavallari’s last name. More than that, though, I’ll see what Cutler is saying while his wife launches her business. He’s just a different cat, and it’s strangely entertaining. This is as far as I can go into reality TV, but it’s something.

• Eric Edholm is a senior editor for Pro Football Weekly. Follow Eric on Twitter @Eric_Edholm.

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