July 3, 2006

TV Review: Rock Star: Supernova - The Tommy Lee Project

Premiering on Wednesday at 8pm on CBS is the second incarnation of Rock Star. Last year, in its debut season, the show was started to help INXS find a replacement for the late Michael Hutchence. They successfully found a singer who wasn't half bad in the person of JD Fortune. I didn't watch the show, actually truth be told, I avoided it like the plague. Pretty much the same thing I do with all reality shows. I was dead set against the idea of a reality show to find a new singer, especially one like Hutchence, whose voice I love. Anyway, I had the chance to watch the debut episode of this new incarnation.

This new season of Rock Star is different from the first, a fact you could probably tell by the The Tommy Lee Project tag. Instead of an established band looking for a new singer (rumor had Van Halen taking part in this reality porject), it is a supergroup of sorts looking for a frontman. The band is made up of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee (of course), former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted, and former Guns 'N Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke.

I admit, before getting too much further, I went into this with a bad attitude. This is not my cup of tea. Now that begs the question, why watch it at all? I don't know, like a moth to a flame, it was sort of look "Hey, I can see it before anyone else!" That, and I had a morbid interest, and this would be the only way they could get me to watch it.

It starts off with the introduction to the core members. They talk about how they have been friends for years and Tommy decided to look for a new rock star. There is plenty of footage of them in the studio, working on tracks with which to test the potential frontpersons. There is also a collection of clips featuring the final 15 candidates talking about hiw big of an opportunity this is. From there, we go to the opening credit sequence, which features an absolutely awful remixing of INXS' "New Sensation." Not a good start.

We pick it up in the studio with the trio jamming while the finalists watch from the sound booth, where producer Butch Walker is manning the boards. Next, the first test. The singers are all expected to write some lyrics on the fly for the music they just heard.

Chris Pierson is the first to give it a shot. He gets up to the mic and proceeds to sing some to the recorded track, it sounds decent, but we don't get to listen to much as we get a series of clips of the various contestants trying their hand at speed writing. Obviously some were better than others, an example of the lower end of the scale was a Texas girl named Zayra, who just didn't make a lot of sense, but splitting the difference was Phil Ritchie from Maryland who just hummed and made a strange noises, not singing, but making it work in a rather strange way. Then there is Ryan Star, who didn't sing at all.

The contestants have a lot of different vibes and come from around the country and the world. There are contestants from the east and west coasts, plus Iceland and Australia. It still boils down to the standard, one person goes home each week until they get their leader to record an album and tour the world.

All of the contestants live together in a rock star mansion with all the amenities. Kind of like a Real World Rock Star, let the back stabbing begin! They all go around introducing themselves and becoming friends with the competition. You get the typical personality clashes that foreshadow what will come later in the series. They all split off and start wandering the house. Not terribly compelling, it's just like all the bits and pieces of reality shows I've seen before, particularly The Real World.

The last segment of the show has the contestants selecting songs to perform. The songs were by artists such as Coldplay, Police, Nickleback, and The Goo Goo Dolls. It was kind of fun to watch Chris Pierson try to sing "Roxanne," turns out, it's a lot tougher than Sting makes it seem. The show moves to the closing credits with Ryan Star singing "Iris" in the dark in true loner fashion.

Now, it wasn't the disaster I was expecting, but I am pretty sure that I won't be interested in it again until they are near the end, or even after the winner is chosen. I think what helped me enjoy Fortune's work with INXS, is the fact that I stayed away from the show. All too often I feel my IQ dropping when I watch these shows. When you watch this premiere, there will probably be a few faces that jump out as potential winners, for me Chris Pierson stood out, as did the dude from Iceland, there is also Storm who also sounded pretty good during that early test.

The star trio has some talent, Tommy, through it all, is still a first rate drummer, Jason Newsted has become an excellent bassist, and Gilby Clarke, well, I don't have much of an opinion on his work, I haven't really heard all that much. It is interesting that there will probably be more new music for the contestants to work with, which is a plus.

There you have it, a look at the first episode of Rock Star: Supernova. Sound interesting? Well, don't forget to tune into CBS Wednesday at 8.


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