ATLANTA – After a decade and a half of spending more time on the police blotter than the pop charts, Bobby Brown (search) wants the world to know he's not really a bad boy.
"They've made my life out to be problems, problems, problems," said Brown, who spent the 1980s and early '90s on the charts with his group, New Edition (search), and as a solo artist. "It's not like that. I'm not a bad person."
He'll take his case to the public starting Thursday, when "Being Bobby Brown," (search) a reality TV series promising "an artist striving to clean up his life," premieres at 10 p.m. EDT on Bravo (search).
The series follows the lives of Brown, wife Whitney Houston (search) and three of his children.
With beer bottles littered throughout an Atlanta hotel suite, Brown dragged on a cigarette on a recent afternoon and recalled being approached for the series last year while he was in a Georgia jail for violating probation on drunken driving charges.
"Basically, with all the garbage press that I've gotten, I found out that people are still interested in Bobby Brown," said the 36-year-old Grammy winner, who lives in suburban Atlanta.
The program promises to be a study in contradictions. The eight half-hour episodes will shed light on Brown's relationships with his children, his brother and Houston — the 41-year-old multiplatinum pop songstress he married 13 years ago.
It will also document his release from jail and one of many courtroom appearances — including for charges of hitting Houston during a 2003 argument.
In the series' opening scene at a restaurant, Brown chats up a pair of businessmen who know his reputation but don't realize they're talking to the man himself.
"You recognize me now?" Brown asks, bending over and pushing his hands behind his back to mimic being handcuffed.
Tracey Baker-Simmons, the show's executive producer, said she dreamed up the show after repeatedly seeing Brown in the news for his arrests, court dates and jail stints.
"The idea was that there had to be more to the person," said Baker-Simmons. "He is someone's husband; he's someone's son. There are other titles that people don't normally attach to him that make him human."
In the late 1970s, Brown was one of five friends who began singing together while growing up in Boston. The teens went on to form New Edition, a group that topped the charts with bubblegum hits such as "Candy Girl" and "Mr. Telephone Man," paving the way for boy-band phenoms such as New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys.
Brown left that group in 1986. His 1988 album, "Don't Be Cruel," sold 7 million copies, producing smash singles including "My Prerogative" while pioneering "new jack swing," a marriage of rap and traditional R&B.
An album of remixes "Dance! ... Ya Know It!" went platinum in 1990, then "Bobby" was released to moderate success in 1992.
The same year, he married Houston and began a stretch known more for tabloid headlines than hits.
He was arrested in 1993 by Atlanta police for lewd conduct during a concert. Then there was a pair of brawls in 1995, at a Disney World nightclub and a Los Angeles hotel, and a 1996 drunken driving arrest.
He's been in and out of court on charges of failing to pay child support to a former lover and on drug charges including marijuana possession and refusing to retake a drug test that showed cocaine in his system.
His most recent jail stint, which began in February of last year, was for probation violations including the battery charge against Houston, not submitting to drug testing, failing to pay supervision fees for three months, and failing to prove he completed court-ordered counseling.
Brown, who said he's been diagnosed with "ADD (attention deficit disorder), bipolar or whatever they want to call it," blames drugs.
"I had to smoke weed to come down to other people's level and, for me, it moved on to other things," he said. "Those are the things that didn't agree with me. It took away my personality."
Brown says he still occasionally drinks — he told a judge in 2000 that he's an alcoholic — but takes no illegal drugs.
"The narcotics are done," he said. "My kids were the best inspiration for me. ... They didn't know I was high, but at the same time they knew something was wrong with me and they would tell me."
Houston has had her own troubles. In March, she checked herself into a rehabilitation center for the second time in a year after saying she was using prayer to quit drugs.
Despite Houston and Brown's problems, Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick said the series doesn't focus on cheap sensationalism.
"Bravo is really committed to providing programming that goes very deeply into the internal worlds of creative people," she said of the cable network that airs reality programs including "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." "When you do that, you can't shy away from risks or unconventional ideas for programming."
Brown still hopes to revive his career. He said he has more than 1,000 songs ready to record and that he's working to promote a pair of music projects by his children.
He said he also would like to shoot another season of the reality show — largely because having cameras around makes it easier for him to avoid using drugs.
"My desire now is about my family, my kids, my music and my work," he said. "That's where my frame of mind needs to be."
Days after that interview, two members of Brown's entourage were stabbed during a fight at Justin's, an Atlanta restaurant owned by rapper/producer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, where Brown was performing at an open-mic showcase.
The next week, a Massachusetts judge issued an arrest warrant for him for not appearing at a child support hearing.
For Brown, turning off the cameras doesn't stop the reality.