On The Tube
The wonder of me5/1/2013
A teenager films himself in ‘Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous’
Viral-video star Bo Burnham is well cast as a would-be viral-video star in “Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous” (Thursday, 9:30 p.m., MTV). He plays Zach Stone, a motormouth high school dork obsessed with his post-graduation plan: making a reality show about his life. With a two-man video crew in tow, he puzzles his family and friends by playing to the cameras throughout the ordinary moments of the day. At breakfast, for example, he calls for a retake when he’s dissatisfied with his reaction to the news of a distant relative’s death.
“Really, Jesus, REALLY?” he cries, gesturing to heaven in his new-and-improved reaction. As his parents look on in horror, Zach says, “Annnd…scene! Nailed it!”
In one way, Zach’s project is about reshaping reality. He’s intent on making himself seem more fascinating than he really was in high school for an imagined audience.
But in another way, Zach’s project is born of fear. As friends prepare to leave for college, he throws himself into his project as a way to stabilize his suddenly unstable world. Over the course of the first episode (co-written by Burnham), we perceive desperation in Zach’s bravado. And that lends this farce an unexpected depth.
“Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous” looks to be one the spring’s best new shows. As Zach himself would say: Nailed it!
‘Dear Mom, Love Cher’
Monday, 9 p.m. (Lifetime)
Where on Earth did Cher come from? I never thought about it before, but it couldn’t be anywhere normal, right? “Dear Mom, Love Cher” affirms that the unconventional singer/actress/force of nature did indeed emerge from an unconventional background. The documentary is Cher’s affectionate portrait of her mother, Georgia Holt, who didn’t conform to Norman Rockwell’s ideal of the post-World War II housewife. She married seven times and mostly raised her two daughters by herself while living in poverty on the fringes of the Hollywood dream.
Georgia had walk-on roles as “the beautiful girl” on “Ozzie and Harriet” and “I Love Lucy” but never struck it rich as her Arkansas family thought she might. In the meantime, she slid around the era’s repressive social norms, determined to set her own course. Now in her 80s, Georgia is embarking on an unlikely singing career.
“Dear Mom, Love Cher” reminds me how much I love the fringes of the Hollywood dream.
‘Newlyweds: The First Year’
Monday, 9 p.m. (Bravo)
Bravo’s series about four fledgling couples notes that 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce. I wonder if that number rises to 100 for couples who allow reality-show cameras into their bedrooms. Such lovebirds don’t mind if people see them bickering, or making love, or revealing intimate details. Can a marriage last if a woman tells a national TV audience that her husband “farts all the time?” Should it?
The only ones who appear to have a chance in “Newlyweds: The First Year” is the gay couple. While the three male-female pairs flaunt their immaturity, Jeff and Blair are able to talk through their problems like adults. They exhibit a sense of perspective in their relationship, as when Jeff says, “It’s just a matter of us learning that we won’t always be who we want the other to be.”
To judge from “Newlyweds,” gay people might be traditional marriage’s last, best hope. CV
Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.