Josh Schwartz's 'Rockville CA': Snap judgment
I’m a bit conflicted on TheWB.com’s Rockville CA, the new web-only series from Josh Schwartz, the man behind the curtain of The O.C., Gossip Girl, and Chuck, and Alexandra Patsavas, the woman behind said shows’ killer indie-minded soundtracks. It’s got an interesting concept: short five- or six-minute episodes featuring a cast of vaguely-familiar looking castoffs from Privileged and Veronica Mars (to name just two) who hang out in a fictional L.A. concert venue, showcasing performances from real-life buzzworthy bands. The fact that the show is Internet-only adds to its appeal, for me at least (speaking as someone who’s gone long periods of time without cable and is more likely to visit Hulu than to tune in the night of).
The only problem is that the show’s characters aren’t very compelling — although it’s probably still premature to fully judge. The first four webisodes debuted today, which roughly equates to all of 22 minutes. Still, the main characters kind of make me want to die inside. There’s Hunter (played by Andrew J. West) fulfilling the Seth Cohen archetype. You know, the sort-of nerdy, music-loving, fast-talking motormouth whose obnoxiousness is charming rather than off-putting. And then there’s Deb (Alexandra Chando), the beautiful girl made quirky by vintage T-shirts and a pair of thick-framed glasses. Deb and Hunter meet, flirt, bicker and then flirt some more, all while philosophizing over life, the opposite sex, and music.
About that music: There are brief clips of bands performing ineach webisode (with The Kooks being the most notable from today’squartet), but the site also posts videos of two full-lengthperformances and short in-studio interviews. The musical component iswhat drew me into the show initially, especially after I saw theuber-indie lineup of Lykke Li, Frightened Rabbit, Passion Pit, KaiserChiefs, The Little Ones, and a dozen more. But the performances end upbeing nothing more than background music, even if we can see the bandsin the flesh. And judging by The Kooks’ screechy rendition of “AlwaysWhere I Need to Be,” the Rockville stage doesn’t exactly inspiremelt-your-face-off performances.
At this point, Rockville CA is still just a concept — a dubious one, at that. During the first webisode, Hunter spouts thefollowing when asked about the band performing that night: “I saw themeight months ago when there were, like, six people here, but four ofthem had blogs. And voila — the band gets signed to a label, where itwill now no doubt put out an overhyped, overproduced EP. And before youcan Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the blogosphere — which proclaimed themas the next great — will take even more pleasure in being disappointed.And ergo, the band — despite their admitted solid to decent songwritingabilities — will be over before they’ve begun.” First, no one talkslike this. Second, while it’s a fairly spot-on criticism of the Internet’s propensity to generate hype, plucking buzzworthy bands fromobscurity, this is precisely Rockville CA’s premise. Though, when it’s up-and-comers like Passion Pit (whose kinetic synth-based “Sleepyhead” has cracked my iTunes’ top 10 most played), how can I complain?
Where do you stand on Rockville CA, PopWatchers — solidentertainment, failed experiment, or too early to tell? Do you think it’s something you’llbe tuning into weekly, or is it simply nothing more than a curio?