Adventures in Hollyhood

Winning an Academy Award changes lives. Actors receive better scripts, directors better movies, and producers better percentages. If Adventures in Hollyhood is to be believed, Oscar-winning hip-hop groups move to L.A. and chronicle their lives on MTV.

The show details the adventures of the Memphis crunk outfit, Three 6 Mafia, as they set out to “make it big in Hollywood,” according to the group’s never-quiet leader Juicy J. The first African American rap group to take home an Oscar when “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp” won Best Original Song, the crew asserts they mean to “strike now, while the iron’s hot.”

You might wonder about that hotness, given that the Oscar triumph was a full 15 months before Hollyhood‘s debut episode last week. In the hot-one-minute, ice-cold-the-next world of celebrity, Three 6’s window already looks closed. The truth is that it’s not their fault: MTV kept the show on the shelf for months, so now it all looks dated.

This became clear when Juicy J and his partner DJ Paul met their first potential clients: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, and the cast of Jackass Two. The motley gang of fools wanted Three 6 to write a song for the movie’s soundtrack, and gave them less than a week to work more of that Oscar-winning magic. Returning home from the first meeting, Juicy offered some typical Three 6 insight into the songwriting process: “When we think of Jackass, they are crazy, they are idiots. Ahhhh.” The writing, at least as depicted in the show, proceeded along these less-than-traditional lines. Could a group work less hard?

Against odds, Three 6 managed to eke out a demo. And surprise: the song, “Gettin’ Fucked Up,” which features Saliva front man Josey Scott on vocals, provided the only convincing moment in the episode, which was otherwise littered with typical reality TV show fare. Juicy J and DJ Pat arrived at the Dickhouse office, and played the recording for the assembled Jackassers. By the end, everyone in the room was bumping his head to the beat. Knoxville especially loved it, embracing the band members one by one. It looked like Three 6 had another hit. Juicy, always ultra-confident, announced, “We might get a second Oscar out of this,” as he left the office.

Aside from wondering if this is how decisions in Hollywood are made — did the hug seal the deal? — and wishing Hollyhood provided more insight into any kind of creative practice, this listening session is special. Watching Juicy pitch the song before he played it, nervous and self-assured at the same time, provided a window into the inner workings of an industry with which MTV viewers are fascinated. For just a scene, the outsized personalities we’re accustomed to seeing on TV receded, and something approximating “real people” emerged. In that room, it was an old story — one group hoping another few will accept them — and it made for compelling viewing.

This scene, as effective as it was, does raise a question: why did MTV hold off before debuting Hollyhood? (The network pushed the show back at least once, as it was originally scheduled to premiere in mid-March.) The “Gettin’ Fucked Up” scene would have been somewhat relevant four months ago, when the movie opened, and might have benefited from tagalong advertising. Now, Jackass Two is long forgotten, and “Fucked Up” along with it.

The most likely answer has to do with the rest of the premiere episode, which was definitively boring. The members of Three 6 ogled girls (“Hey ladies, can I have your number?” Project Pat hollered at some joggers from the window of the Rolls), and pronounced that L.A. is “nothing like Memphis.” The welcome “party” they threw was a total bust. One guest, an elderly white woman, told Three 6 they should appear on Leno, slow down their songs, and wear suits. Perhaps the boys enjoyed mocking her at the time, but as “entertainment,” the scene is neither charming nor interesting. They only come off as dicks.

It’s not hard to see that the very premise of Hollyhood is ridiculous, designed to wring yet another dollar out of the Oscar win. Why would the group need to be in L.A. at all to “make it big?” They can collaborate and create on the internet, they can cut deals over the phone and fax, and for face-to-face meetings, Juicy and Big can always hop on a charter plane to the Left Coast. They are heroes in Memphis. The reality show might highlight contrasts between their aesthetics and those of entrenched Hollywood, but really, that idea is old too.

At the beginning of the premiere episode, Juicy J explained his grand scheme to Big Triece. He wanted to drive cross country in the Rolls, pull up on Rodeo drive, and announce Three 6’s arrival. Triece considered this plan, looked at Juicy and said, “That shit happens every day in L.A.” The same can be said of Adventures in Hollyhood: this shit happens every day on TV.

RATING 4 / 10