Wednesday, July 13, 2005

What You Don't Need--Rock Star: INXS

Network TV broadcasts seldom cross my TV set, but I did catch the premiere episode of Rock Star: INXS, the latest reality presentation from Mark Burnett (brain trust behind the Reality TV megahit, Survivor) Monday. Bald-faced sentiment made me watch the premiere, but no force of God, nature, or fate could make me continue on.

Rock Star is essentially a redux of American Idol, with fifteen fresh-faced wannabe's competing in sing-offs to become frontperson for Australian pop group INXS (singer Michael Hutchence committed suicide in 1997). The five surviving members of INXS help determine who gets eliminated. The winner will go on to front the band, record a CD, and go on tour with them.

Big surprise, the show's horrible.

First, there's the inherent ghoulishness of the premise to consider. And even by the low standards of the reality TV genre, Rock Star's pilot episode was pure hackwork, with a rushed, half-arsed directorial style that made Fear Factor look like Ingmar Bergman. We're given the stalest, barest minimum of between-song human interest and conflict here.

Not that these fifteen candidates for stardom are worth following in the first place. Just look at 'em. They're all shiny, competent, and vacant archetypes--the sad byproduct of two decades of MTV's fascistically regimented idea of what rock stars should look, act, dress, sound, and think like.

INXS were never rock and roll revolutionaries, but Michael Hutchence's versatile and sultry vocals elevated the band head-and-shoulders above the eighties dance-rock pack. Hutchence possessed that indefinable combination of calculated theatrics, spontaneous charisma, and distinctive pipes that defines all memorable rock frontmen. Love him or hate him, he was one-of-a-kind.

It's only fair to mention that the late singer's former bandmates seem like genuinely nice blokes. The stench of opportunism seems to waft more from Rock Star's producers than from the band, but there's a distinct aroma of sadness suffusing this attempt to re-capture lightning in a bottle. You've had the brass ring of pop star glory in hand once already, fellas; go gracefully into that good night.

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