It was inevitable that the music industry should feature prominently in the reality TV genre. Whether it be “Rebel Billionaire” with Richard Branson where contestants had to pick and promote a band to be featured at that year’s V Festival, or the various episodes of the Apprentice where the teams had to work with Jessica Simpson (!) and other “hot” musical acts, music is often fertile grounds for reality TV drama. Of course the various “Idol” shows as well as the “Rockstar” franchise go to show that people just can’t seem to get enough of that long hard slog over, ahem, 6 weeks to make it to rock and roll super stardom. I suppose then that it was inevitable that MTV, that corporate music whore and Rolling Stone, the legendary music and culture mag should get together and try and spin a little bit of reality TV magic their way. The result is “I’m From Rolling Stone” a TV show chronicling six aspiring writers who intern with the mag for the summer hoping to land a coveted contributing editor spot for the next year.
Now I must confess, I have a love/hate affair with Rolling Stone. I was a long time subscriber who suffered through its turn away from rock and roll to People magazine on steroids and I can’t say that I turn to it much for music writing these days. I do pick it up occasionally for the odd political piece or for things like the cover piece on John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but I tend to get my music writing from mags such as Bucketful of Brains, The Big Takeover, Ugly Things, Magnet and this thing called the Internet. That being said I decided to check it out because I still have a place for Rolling Stone in my magazine rack and I was curious about what some of these interns could do.
Of course as with any of these shows, the key is how it has been edited and its pretty clear that the idea was to get as disparate a group as possible for the show since that would obviously make good TV and give the editors a lot of room to maneuver. Therefore you have to make sure that there is in equal parts sexual and racial tension and the clash between street culture and the more mainstream music scene championed by Rolling Stone because nobody wants to watch a bunch of eager writers just well, writing. That is not to say that I am disparaging the talents of the cast of the show. Far from it. From what little I have seen it impresses me that people out there still want to write, and who treat the well written word with the reverence it so richly deserves. I think its the writing and not the star fucking that is what I will be looking out for in future episodes because that’s what working at Rolling Stone should be all about. Of course, Jann Wenner initially started Rolling Stone so he could meet Mick Jagger so it was never a purely journalistic enterprise from the get go.
So what’s my verdict? Too soon to say. The first episode was a little dry and I’m already annoyed with Peter the surfer dude and Russell (despite the fact that you get the impression that he is the most talented). Still, “I’m From Rolling Stone” isn’t that bad. I choose not to look at it as one big ad to subscribe to the magazine and instead as an opportunity to maybe inspire a bunch of kids out there to grab a pen and paper or I suppose a Macbook and bang out the next great record review. Just call it the romantic in me.
And if you think you can write, check out the link above where you can submit your stuff to Rolling Stone in a competition for the public. You just might be the next Lester Bangs or Hunter S. Thompson!
“I’m From Rolling Stone” airs Sunday nights at 10:00 PM on MTV and Thursday nights at 10:30 PM on MTV Canada.
UPDATED! For an interesting take on the show from a former Rolling Stone writer check out I was once ‘From Rolling Stone,’ and it wasn’t anything like MTV’s new show by rock critic Jim DeRogatis for his cynical take on the whole Rolling Stone “experience.”
UPDATED AGAIN! These are the best and brightest out of 2,000 applicants? Of course not. I learned, from an insider on the show, that writing samples and photos weren’t all that were required from applicants. They were asked such questions as: “What was the last thing that made you cry?” So writes Rolling Stone alumni Ben Fong-Torres in He was from Rolling Stone — he can tell you what it’s really like as he pretty much rips the reality program, and Rolling Stone in the process. I’m still watching but I have to admit my interest is dimming after each episode. The actual process of writing and editing magazine articles as depicted on the show is fascinating but the six interns are all just just getting a little annoying.