Earlier this week, Jessica Simpson turned 37, and she celebrated in pretty much the same way that she marks every other occasion – with a revealing bikini photo.
But Jessica’s bikini selfies aren’t the only reason her millions of Instagram followers flock to her page.
Many are there for the the photos of Jess’ husband, children, and idyllic homelife.
The scene she portrays is so serene that it’s enough to make one forget that Jess’ first marriage was messy from start to finish – but also wildly important to the career she built in its wake.
Some of our younger readers may not even realize that Jess was an MTV reality star back when the very notion of an MTV reality star was confusing to some and repugnant to others.
While the network was still struggling to find its identity in an age in which music videos could be watched on demand on the Internet, it experimented with the idea of celebrity-focused reality television.
The most famous of these experiments, The Osbournes, had critics up in arms at the time, but is now credited as (for better or worse) a pioneering series in a brand new genre.
Another, which aired around the same time, also found an unexpctedly large audience, but has become something of a footnote in 2017.
As its title suggests, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica focused on young, recently married pop stars Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.
Like The Osbournes, the show was basically intended to serve as an unscripted family sitcom.
And at first, Jessica’s amusing malapropisms and difficulty understanding simple concepts (her belief that tuna was made of chicken remains a classic), but producers had difficulty hiding a darker undcurrent in the Simpson-Lachey household.
In a new interview with Complex magazine, producers open for the first time about realizing Nick and Jessica’s marriage wasn’t as picture-perfect as it appeared from the outside.
“You could feel there was tension between the two of them. They were very different people,” former producer Sue Kolinsky recalls.
“He was a blue collar guy … he did a lot of things himself, like he and his brother would build things,” Kolinsky says of Lachey.
“He was frugal, and she had excessive taste.”
“In the end they weren’t suited for each other. The only thing they really had in common was their music.”
Kolinsky adds that the constant presence of Jessica’s controversial father, Joe Simpson, was also a factor in the couple’s early difficulties:
“She was really young; I think he’s seven years older than her. He wanted a family, and her father thought maybe she was too young.”
“Her father was very involved in her life. “
Simpson and Lachey wound up separating after just three years together, and both released confessional breakup albums shortly thereafter.
The whole thing was enough to leave fans wondering if the marriage had been a publicity stunt.
But Kolinksy says the show was actually far less scripted than most reality series.
She says believes that Nick and Jessica were really in love, and may have moved too quickly as a result of thier youth.
She also notes, that Jessica’s “dumb blonde routine” was “definitely not an act.”
These days, Jessica and Nick are both married, with families of their own, and while they reportedly have no contact with one another, it seems they’ve both found happy endings.
Just not the ones they would’ve imagined back when Newlyweds premiered in the those heady early days of reality TV.