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Crap Moguls

O-Town and Making the Band: Metaphors for the declining teen economic market or simply talentless pukes?



At least once a week someone asks me, “How much TV do you have to watch to write that column?” You know, with tone in their voices that sounds as though they’re really asking, “How many nails do you have to hammer through your testicles for a paycheck?” These people just don’t appreciate television, let alone the recreational value of nailing … well, let’s not go there.

Tube Town, later subtitled The Only TV Column That Matters™, was invented three years ago this month precisely because I watch a ridiculous amount of television, not the other way around. Though they never write and thank me—or anything else—I believed TV-heads deserved better than what other papers were spoon-feeding them. (I also thought I’d get paid extra. Man, was I wrong on at least one count.)

Lest you think this is one of those self-stroking Here’s-Why-I-Write-This-Column pieces, otherwise known as I-Didn’t-Have-a-Damned-Thing-to-Write-About-This-Week pieces, there is a point hurtling forth: As many hours of TV as I do absorb, I still can’t watch everything. Even with preview tapes pouring in from networks and three VCRs whirring away at home, some shows have just gotta go unseen.

Making the Band (ABC, Fridays, 7 and 7:30 p.m.) was one such show. I mean, as a disgruntled hack guitarist for several fabulously failed Salt Lake City bands over the years, did I really need to waste precious minutes watching some pampered pimple-jockeys (dubbed “O-Town”) being molded into a microwave boy-band by Lou “I Like to Touch Young Men’s … Lives” Pearlman and handed a record contract, oh, five minutes later? This evil impresario unleashed the Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync on the world. It would be like watching Making the Incurable Mutant Virus Strain: Fun up to at least the first commercial break, but still inherently wrong.

That was then, this is now—and I don’t mean Now, one of those compilation pop McNugget CDs. After a dismal downturn in viewership from the first season, ABC yanked Making the Band from Fridays during May Sweeps, reinstating it last week as a summer burn-off (i.e. playing out the leftovers with little hope of a fall comeback). O-Town’s self-titled debut album, after hitting hype-induced platinum, has been plummeting steadily on Billboard’s Top 200 for 19 weeks (O-Town was clinging to the 40s at last count). Those teen-skanks from the other TV-bred insta-group, girl-band Eden’s Crush of The WB’s Popstars, are gaining chart ground fast—and their show is a lock for next season. My guess is that this isn’t the first time Trevor, Erik, Ashley, Jacob and Dan have had their clocks cleaned by girls, and it probably won’t be the last.

In general, everyone’s sick up and fed with these pre-fab teen-poppers, and that light at the end of the tunnel has been created by the consumers of America pulling their collective head out of their ass and saying “No freakin’ more!” All indicators point to a kiddie-entertainment recession in movies, TV and music coming soon and coming hard. In this new context, tuning into Making the Band can actually be fun, not unlike watching bugs die on the sidewalk.

There have been tastes of O-Town’s impending doom in previous episodes of Making the Band: The boys’ atonal oh-the-humanity debut on the televised Miss America Pageant (as one review on the deliciously vicious said, “The camera adds 10 expected key changes”); producer Mark Hudson enduring studio time with the vocally-challenged pukes, telling them they’ve gone “from genius to suck” during a particularly grating session; the ongoing odyssey of Jacob’s whitey-dreads (OK, so I have seen an ep or two).

They’ve already been outed as talentless shills in progressively unfolding chapters—will Pearlman come forward after MTB is flushed and say it was really all just an indictment of the teen-pop machine, not a celebration? Is he bent on destroying what he’s created, using O-Town as collateral damage in his vengeful/conceptual takedown of former protégés (now litigants) ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys? Damn, that’s practically Shakespearean, in a Malcolm McLaren kinda way.

Whatever the reasoning, the final acts of the Making the Band comic-tragedy qualify as must-see TV in my book: Ashley’s ex-girlfriend shows up! O-Town foolishly attempt to perform live again! Jacob still insists his hair is “dope”! Besides, MTV, which produces the show, has agreed to run with MTB should ABC abort O-Town’s summer run—now that would be going from suck to genius, but only if it were paired with reruns of 2Gether.