TV Quick Hits: Supergroups, Supernovas and a Tourgasm
by Scott Long
Some quick hits on the summer TV season.
As Will Carroll mentioned a few weeks back, VH-1's "Supergroup" is great. The best reality show I've seen in the past year that didn't feature Danny Bonaduce. Former Skid Row lead singer, Sebastian Bach was the break-out star from the show. It takes a lot to steal the series from the motor city madman, Ted Nugent, but Bach is David Lee Roth minus 50 IQ points. Each week it was like watching the movie "Big", with Bach playing the role of a grown man inhabited with the behavior of a 12 year-old. Best moment was when the 5 band members were trying to come up with a name. It was as funny as anything in "Spinal Tap".
Keywords by Sebastian: "I'm a Savage Animal! You're a Savage Animal! We're all Savage Animals! This has to be the name of our band! I can't accept any other name. (Half-second pause) Damnation. Let's call the band **Damnocracy!"
Vh-1 has figured out that Heavy Metal music is the most telegenic genre to cover in music. It's like Pro Wrestling, as the performers live their lives like they are "Caligula". Director Penelope Spheeris proved this when she followed up her great documentary on the early 80's LA punk scene "The Decline of Western Civilization" with the even more entertaining "The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years" which put a microscope on the ridiculous late 1980's Sunset Strip LA hard rock bands.
Ever since VH-1 moved away from being the adult-contemporary video channel, they have given us a steady diet of Behind the Music and History of Metal episodes. It's not like the music is good, but the back stage stories and behavior make them TV Gold. While Bach is undeniably the star, the other members of "Supergroup" are interesting as well. Biohazard member and former actor on "OZ", Evan Seinfeld is a great story of how rock and roll can score you a woman way out of your league. His wife, porn star deluxe, Tera Patrick makes-out with Bach's wife, while Seinfeld photographs them in one episode. Seinfeld looks like some villian from "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome", but still manages to have some hypnotic charm over his physical goddess.
Take it from the guys at The Juice. "Supergroup" is must-see TV.
Readers here will remember that I was a serious pimp for last summer's show, Rockstar: INXS. Well this season kicked off last week and I'm not as confident in the quality of year 2. Number 1 problem is the idea that a band consisting of Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jason Newsted (Metallica), and Gilby Clarke (sorta Guns and Roses) could make music in 2006 worthy of being considered a supergroup. Can someone tell me the great song that any of these guys wrote? Newsted wasn't allowed to get anywhere close to songwriting from bandmates Hetfield/Ulrich, while Clarke wasn't even with GnR when they recorded their first 3 albums. While Tommy Lee is a kick-ass drummer, I always thought the other 3 members of the Crue were the more involved composers. Whoever the band chooses better be able to write some songs.
While it's too early to tell if the crop of singers on the show are of the same quality as last year's contestants, it does seem strange that no one in the first week sang a metal song. I will say that 3 of the performers during the first week showed rock star talent. (Dilana, Lukas, and Toby) Dilana has a unique voice, with a dynamic stage presence. Originally from Australia, she is like some hypnotic blend of the lead singer of the Divinyls combined with the edge of Courtney Love. Lukas is almost as strange and in the rock business that's a compliment. Australian Toby has the movie idol looks and a great voice, but does he have the pipes to sing metal songs? It will be interesting to watch the performers, though I predict whoever the band chooses to front them won't matter much, as the rest of the band is past their prime. How about some truth in advertising, CBS? Instead of Rock Star: Supernova, let's try Falling Star: Supernova.
HBO has a new sitcom called "Lucky Louie" which was created by writer/stand-up Louie CK. The first few episodes of sitcoms are always difficult to make funny, as you have to set-up characters and develop chemistry between the actors. (If you don't believe me, watch "The Seinfeld Chronicles.") While uneven, "Lucky Louie" has moments of great comedy, with Louie's wife, played by Pamela Adlon, stealing every scene she is in. The scene in episode 2 where Adlon and CK are still trying to figure out each other's bodies just might have been the most realistic sex ever shown on TV. No perfect bodies, perfect movements, or perfect music playing in the background. Just 2 people who've done it way too many times for any BS to enter in to their marital bed.
Louie's neighbor, Jerry Minor, also is a stand-out. CK is at his best, when dealing with the racial components that occur with living next to Minor and his wife. I'm not sure what to think about the appearances each episode by Jim Norton, except to say that when he is on-screen, it's like the sitcom scenes from "Natural Born Killers", with Rodney Dangerfield. Besides Norton, Louis CK has added comic friends like Laura Kightlinger, Nick DiPaulo, and Todd Barry, which is a positive, as stand-ups as actors generally force more reality into a scene.
While it's still in its developing stage, the show's adult nature and the way it's the anti-thesis of the glamorous life portrayed by "Sex in the City" and "Friends" that is most refreshing. Keep an eye on this show, as it has the potential of reviving the modern sitcom.
Also on HBO is a documentary about a comedy tour led by Dane Cook called "Tourgasm." If you were not aware, Cook has become a stand-up sensation. Many people ask me what I think about his comedy and I'm a fan, though I explain that he is bigger than just a stand-up, as he crossed over into that world of being more like a rock star. Dane has brought his comic friends, Robert Kelly, Gary Gulman, and Jay Davis on the tour. Kelly has stolen the show, so far, as he has star power. Gulman might have the best material of anyone on the "Tourgasm", but the rock show atmosphere that Dane Cook shows have don't seem like the best place for him to shine. Davis is one lucky bastard to have such a great friend like Dane Cook, who has given him such an incredible opportunity to get so much attention.
In case you are watching "Tourgasm" I will let you in on a little secret. What happens on the show is nothing like what stand-up is like for us mere mortals. We don't have assistants. Our tour buses are small Toyota's. We perform for audiences between 20 and 200, not a sold-out show at the Fleet Center.
I like the show, overall, as it does a nice job of showing stand-up comedy in a positive light. I cannot say the same for this year's version of "Last Comic Standing." The first season of LCS was a bit too East Coast/West Coast in it's flavor, but I still thought it was a high-quality reality show. The second season was loaded with really talented comics who demonstrated the talent and substance that top-notch stand-up can offer. This summer the show seems to be more of a traditional reality program, worried about filling demographics more than demonstrating a positive view of the business. Some of the comics that made it to the house this year are talented, but being put through challenges like heckling each other and being forced to go into a no-win situation on a morning radio show are very uncomfortable for me to watch. Hopefully, the challenges will improve.
Finally, Jay Mohr is completely missed from the show he helped intially develop. New host, Anthony Clark offers nothing. He's like Dillinger in the way he steals money each week. I take that back because at least Dillinger put some effort into his heists, as Clark performs with all the energy of a cue-card reading robot. Having said this, I would gladly trade with one of the comics on the show, as it is a completely unique platform to demonstrate your talent and personality to Millions of people.