We gave it a C+
The idea behind Influences is to bring contemporary music stars together with their formative artistic influences. In this first show, pop rapper M.C. Hammer salutes soul master James Brown in an hour taped last March. The two men are shown meeting to rehearse for a concert in Oakland, Calif.; they are obliged to offer each other a lot of sincere but stiffly phrased praise (Brown: ”You make me proud”; Hammer: ”There’s only one Godfather”), and it is clear very early on that the format of the show isn’t going to work. Both musicians are too self-conscious about the HBO cameras to let any real emotions show.
Then too, the stars are mismatched. Hammer, while a talented, disciplined, and, by all appearances here, very nice fellow, isn’t remotely as charismatic or original a performer as Brown. It’s only when we glimpse Brown giving instructions to his band, or tearing through a quick version of ”Please, Please, Please” in great voice, that we can enjoy the musicianship that is the inspiration for this show in the first place. C+