Sad reflections on pop culture, take 1…

Category: Blog — @ 12:39 pm June 15, 2005

So I watched that new super-exciting sure-to-be-a-hit reality game show last night on one of the big 3 networks (can’t remember which, seeing as I rarely watch any of the trio these days) — the show where they dig up the corpses of ’80s one-hit wonders, roll their bloated carcasses on stage, plug them into a 220 and we all get to watch the effects of the aging process right before our eyes and decide who’s suffered the least ill effects. The only one suffering, however, are the people watching the show.

I’m talking about Hit Me Baby One More Time, the gameshow where five bands from the ’80s “reform” to play their one hit along with a cover of a “modern-day classic.” It’s somewhat obscene, almost prurient in its voyeuristic attempt at taking advantage of the post Babyboomers/Gen X’ers who yearn for a return to a “better day” when the bands were fun and music was delightfully insipid.

A year ago, VH1 tried a similar nostalgia-fueled program called Bands Reunited, where the host spent an hour tracking down members of long-broken-up bands and tried to convince them to get together one more time for a night of reminiscing and rock. Throughout the journey, viewers were told the band’s history in classic Behind the Music style, explaining the rise and fall and ultimate break-up, confronting band members one-by-one to get their take on what went down. If the show was successful and got all the members to agree (and they weren’t always, Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Extreme never took the stage), then we were shown the moment when the band meets again for the first time, followed by a one-day practice session and a performance in front of an audience later that same evening. I loved Bands Reunited. It answered a lot of questions while weaving in real human pathos as band members were confronted with their pasts… and futures that didn’t include being rock stars again.

Hit Me Baby One More Time, on the other hand, is somewhat vile. Each reunited band is given a 15-second introduction before being lifted out of the stage amidst a plume of steam (as if being reincarnated from some sort of rock and roll hell). They trot down on stage, take their spot and rip into their “hit” song. Program 1 featured a sad, bloated Loverboy, a blink-and-you-missed-her-the-first-time CeCe Peniston, a should-have-known-better Arrested Development, a pregnant Tiffany and a one-man Flock of Seagulls. And here (beyond just being sad and cheesy) is the program’s biggest flaw. A Flock of Seagulls was one of the bands featured on VH1’s Bands Reunited last year. You saw the real pain the band went through to reconcile for that performance, including two brothers burying the hatchet for the good of the reunion — it felt, well, triumphant. Last night’s version of A Flock of Seagull included only one member — the lead singer. The rest of the flock consisted of replacement hack players. Most of the young kids who watched this show may not realize that they’re not really seeing the reunited band at all, only the bloated front-person. The 12-members of Arrested Development were whittled down to three and a bunch of faceless session people. No one knows who was in Tiffany’s band, so it probably doesn’t matter — she was a novelty act anyway. Loverboy appeared to be only the frontman as well. And I’m still trying to remember who CeCe Peniston was, though she probably sounded the best of the bunch.

After singing their hit, the bands were trotted out again to sing a modern-day cover — painful for the bands and the audience. Then the audience got to pick “a winner” among the five, apparently deciding which held it together the best over the years. Arrested Development won on program one.

Program 2 (which followed directly afterward last night) was only slightly better, thanks to The Knack, who put on a pair of decent performances. The same can’t be said for Haddaway (the guy who sings “What is Love?” the One Night in Roxbury song), The Motels (only the frontwoman), Tommy Tutone (who knows how many on stage last night were in the original band) and America’s biggest prick, Vanilla Ice. Mr. Word to your Mother won that one.

I’m told the show is a big hit, which is no surprise considering that a piece of shit like American Idol is one of the top (if not thee top) program on American television — a program that literally deifies America’s bad taste in music. It now has a worthy companion.

Tomorrow: column 29 — a new man at the helm of Homer’s…

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