Making the Band
Making the Band, the ”reality” show about creating a male vocal group, launches its second season this week. The allure of this show is as old as rock & roll itself: the idea that anyone — with a little talent, good looks, a good song, and the gorilla weight of a major record company promoting you over the likes of, say, Aimee Mann — can be a star. What’s new about this series and its sister show, ”Popstars,” is that they ride the current trend of teen idols (Britney, ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys) by suggesting that 21st century pop stardom is something that can be constructed from a no-fail music biz blueprint. The heck with being a performer: ”Band” and ”Popstars” offer viewers free crash courses in how to create and exploit performers — you too can become a mogul!
According to these shows, you just hold auditions in major cities and see what talent turns up; you cherry pick the ripest fruit and get them to smear their signatures on a record contract; you hire a vocal coach, a choreographer, a photographer, and a video director and let them pummel your band of strangers into shape. Presto: screaming fans, sold out arenas, hit singles, and MTV’s Carson Daly telling the world — well, the ”Total Request Live” world — that ”Making the Band”’s O-Town and ”Popstars”’ Eden’s Crush are the coolest new items you must consume now.
As television, ”Making the Band” has it all over ”Popstars.” Coproduced by ”Real World”/ ”Road Rules” creators Mary Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, ”Band” lathers up a docu soap opera about the members of O-Town — Ashley, Erik, Jacob, Trevor, and Dan — five cute, clueless guys. Last season, they were the puppets of Lou Pearlman, the Orlando based Svengali behind ‘N Sync and Backstreet. This season, they’ve been signed to J Records, led by Clive Davis, a music industry legend who’s made hits with everyone from Barbra Streisand to Patti Smith, but to Erik, just an old guy who ”has a lot riding on us.”
It’s obvious that pretty, sweet Ashley is the star of this act — obvious to everyone except the other four dudes, who throw delightful diva fits whenever ”Clive” isn’t ”down” with their musical decisions. Baby boomers should be on the lookout for episode 3’s secret hero: producer Mark Hudson, who the boys obviously don’t realize was once part of a boy band himself — the ’70s flash in the pan Hudson Brothers. (Hey, kids — he’s Kate Hudson’s uncle!) Hudson is wonderful: jaded, witty, kindly, firm. The moment when, in the recording studio, he wearily tells his tuneless little mediocrities, ”I’d like to get this while I’m still in my 40s,” is priceless.