Im From Rolling Stone
I'm From Rolling Stone is what happens when magazines stop caring about content and start hiring underqualified idiots in hopes of a circulation boost.
MTV's latest reality show, I'm From Rolling Stone, follows six fortunate souls as they battle each other for fame and fortune. This will come in the form of a one-year contract as a contributing editor to the seminal music magazine. If the teaser at the end of the first episode is to be believed, along the way, Russell, Tika, Peter, Krystal, Krishtine, and Colin hang with Jay-Z, head off the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, and lead lives befitting rock stars rather than journalists. When they find time to sit down and write is unclear.
While some critics might quibble with this premise -- "This isn't anything like my internship" -- at least the creators admit that the camera crew accompanying interns' every move affords the "interns" special status. The simple fact of being on MTV means these kids can't possibly lead normal lives. So, quibble with calling them "interns," but don't say MTV should broadcast a show about real interns. For one thing, this would be impossible. For another, it's already been done, on MTV's own True Life. I'd rather watch the sextet fight over the plum assignments usually reserved for veteran reporters than witness Lauren "LC" Conrad tremble in mock suspense after she interviews for a job the whole world knows she's going to get (see my review of The Hills).
The show does have a significant problem, however, and that is the choice of the six contestants. They range from barely more qualified than the average summer internship applicant (Colin, an intern at Filter) to spectacularly underwhelming (Pete, who before appearing on the show had never written an article). One of these six will get a job that thousands of kids would kill for, yet none even remotely deserves to be so employed.
Then again, journalism is an industry ruled by nepotism, and who you know is usually more important then your talent. Given this, is getting a job at Rolling Stone via a reality television show any different than your parents having a few friends who can hook you up? Both candidates are minimally experienced, advancing past their more worthy peers for questionable, if not unjust, reasons. I'm From Rolling Stone is just the latest lesson that life isn't fair. This truth might seem a tad harsh, but exposing it is hardly a crime.
Still, you might imagine that even the luckiest kid with the most connections wants the job he is gifted. Not so for some noisy members of the I'm From crew. It appears as though they couldn't care less about Rolling Stone. Krishtine asks Jann Wenner, the king of the land, to spell his name. Don't you think if you knew someone from Rolling Stone was going to call, you would at least learn the man's name? Before Russell leaves his hometown of Oakland, he assures his boys that he probably wouldn't take the job if offered. Pete would rather party -- a fact he's not ashamed to admit. He even discloses to Steve Levy, Rolling Stone's executive editor, that he was "still drunk" when he wrote his initial assignment, his first essay ever. A better casting technique would have been to gather up 100 wannabe rock journalists in an obstacle course and tell them that the first six to finish would be cast. Then, at least, you would get some real passion.
But it looks as though Rolling Stone doesn't care about passion, desire or talent. Whoever wins will likely spend his or her one year reporting on Lilith Fair, chalk up a few by-lines, and then disappear into the sunset or onto next season's The Duel: Some Tropical Island. It's not as though RS needs more writers. In the age of Blender and blogs, what the magazine needs positive press, and there's no better way to reach the MTV generation than through the station itself (hence, the magazine-affiliated website).
Television shows, however, need characters. Pete, Russell, and Krishtine qualify. Would you rather watch Chuck Klosterman and his friends discuss the finer points of Led Zeppelin I-V or a drunken Aussie on a crew scholarship to UC-Berkley watch the World Cup? The choice is obvious, and it's no surprise that the boy from Down Under is Episode One's most winning personality.
As a struggling writer who moved to the city 18 months ago with the foolish idea that I could waltz in and write for Rolling Stone, I did consider applying for the show. I printed out the application, 18 pages of single-spaced questions. I even began writing answers. Then I realized that, while I was a decent writer, I wasn't insane or beautiful or even particularly compelling. I put down my pen, threw my application in the trash, and went on with the struggle.
After watching the debut episode of I'm From Rolling Stone, I know I made the right decision. My application, no matter how brilliant, would have been tossed into the trash pile. This show isn't about being from Rolling Stone, it's about being a TV personality. To paraphrase the famous Real World catchphrase, I'm From Rolling Stone is what happens when magazines stop caring about content and start hiring underqualified idiots in hopes of a circulation boost. The tactic might succeed, but I'll stick with Blender, thank you very much.