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Tuned In: WB's 'Rock Star' slips into annoying rhythm

Thursday, March 14, 2002

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Shameless arrogance and self-promoting bravado is probably part and parcel of the drive to become a rock star, but that realism doesn't make it any more enjoyable to watch.

In The WB's "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star" (8 tonight, WCBW), Jason "Jace" Darnell (pretty boy Oliver Hudson, son of Goldie Hawn) proclaims his goal early on: "Make millions, screw your brains out, make a place in history, and, uh, screw your brains out."

Oh, and he knows he'll make it because, he says, "Maybe I was just too sexy to fail."

The WB's press notes call Jace "charmingly self-possessed." To me he's an annoying poseur.

Jace is lead singer for a band called SlipDog, and while this TV show isn't great, their song "Getaway," which becomes the show's theme song, isn't half-bad.

Other members of SlipDog include lead guitarist Doc (Kevin Rankin), bass player chick Joe (Lauren Hodges, who looks like a young Laura Innes) and a rotating roster of drummers because "drummers have a short shelf life," Jace explains.

Tonight, two half-hour episodes of "My Guide ..." air, and the dialogue gives away how long this thing's been sitting on the shelf. Jace, in a meeting with unemployment counselor Sarah (Emmanuelle Vaugier), is told he's obviously not trying hard enough because "the economy is booming and jobs are plentiful."

Turns out Sarah is a deejay and keyboardist, and, after seeing Jace with a phallic microphone stuck down his pants, she expresses interest. Jace starts drooling and invites her to join the band.

The perpetually broke band members do their best to scrounge up funds, including Doc, who dresses up as a blind priest and begs for change on the street.

"I am wiped. Begging for money really takes it out of you," he says. "I don't know how those televanelgists do it."

OK, so that's kind of funny, but most of "My Guide ..." is crude and tries too hard to wring laughs (at a funeral for a band member, mourners join in a rousing rendition of "We Will Rock You").

"My Guide ..." is based on a British series called "The Young Person's Guide to Becoming a Rock Star," and the whole thing hinges on star Hudson. In quieter, less self-aggrandizing moments, he's appealing, but too often he's showboating as he prances around in his underwear. Given the choice, I would have skipped that chapter of this "Guide."

'Providence' will return

This is for all the viewers who have e-mailed and called, wondering where-oh-where their Friday night NBC drama has gone. It returns March 22.

An NBC spokeswoman said the show has been pre-empted since the end of the Olympics in order to build a reserve of episodes. When "Providence" returns, it will air uninterrupted through May, she said.

Unless you see a cancellation notice in these pages, your show will be back eventually.

'Alias' alert

For anyone wanting to get into ABC's serialized spy drama "Alias" (9 p.m. Sunday), this week's episode is a good primer.

Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is interrogated by an FBI tribunal because they suspect she's mentioned in an ancient prophecy as someone who will bring about the end of the world. As part of that debriefing, Syd recaps how she got involved with SD-6, which she thought was a secret CIA agency, and later came to work as a double agent for the evil SD-6 and the real CIA.

The episode's mostly a clip show; however, it does advance the story in an inevitable way, even if the circumstances for a revelation are unexpected.

Despite praise from some quarters, "Alias" remains less interesting than the other spy series that premiered this season. Fox's "24" is more exciting, and CBS's "The Agency" has better stories.

Maybe if there weren't other, better serialized shows with mythological arcs -- "Angel," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Smallville" -- "Alias" would seem fresher than it does. Last week's introduction of the "DSR" division was little more than a generic version of the FBI's X-Files investigators from that (too) long-lived Fox series.

Garner is an appealing star in a myriad of ways, but the show's mythology doesn't come off as new. Rather, it's a slapped together hodgepodge of plot twists we've seen before.

Colin Quinn's show

No one will accuse this week's live premiere of "The Colin Quinn Show" (9:30 p.m. Monday, NBC) of political correctness. The first of only three scheduled episodes featured Quinn doing stand-up in front of a coffee shop set, all the while shifting his weight from foot to foot in a distracting movement that was followed by the camera.

Perhaps NBC picked the wrong day to begin Quinn's show, falling as it did six months after the Sept. 11 attacks. Most of the humor was somehow related to Sept. 11, save for a lame taped sketch about annoying co-workers that fell flat.

In a rap session with other comedians of various ethnicities, jokes were made at the expense of all. Much of it seemed to aggressively walk the line or step over it (some viewers were no doubt offended), but a joke by an Italian comedian who defended "The Sopranos" elicited laughs without causing outrage.

"I'd rather be known as a mob boss who owns a strip club than portrayed in a commercial as a guy who takes someone from Italy to the Olive Garden for dinner," he said.

A skit with Quinn and former "Saturday Night Live" star Cheri Oteri as a bickering couple inspired only a few laughs, but a package featuring audio from a speech by President Bush laid over video of Americans behaving like wrestlers or "Jackass!" contestants offered amusingly pointed commentary.

A live prime-time sketch comedy show is a refreshing change, and Quinn's humor, uncomfortable though it may be, is more charged than most lame sitcom jokes, but Monday's show wasn't all that funny.

At a time when viewers are seeking comfortable TV programming, confrontational Quinn has his work cut out to win over an audience. With NBC only giving him three weeks, that's a near impossible task.

Rob Owen can be reached at 412-263-2582 or rowen@post-gazette.com. Post questions or comments about TV to www.post-gazette.com/tv under PG Online Talk.

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