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Celebrity Skim

Posted: April 18, 2002

By Kevin Forest Moreau, Editor-in-Chief

Brothers and sisters, I have seen the future of television, and it is not us.

It seems so long ago suddenly, doesn't it? That far-off era when shows like The Real World and Survivor and movies like EdTV and The Truman Show seemed hell-bent on proving Andy Warhol's hopelessly over-extended axiom about fifteen minutes? Remember when just about every possible show-biz contrivance that didn't use actors or a script was referred to as "reality television," as if stranding a bunch of people on an island, or appearing on a game show hosted by Regis freakin' Philbin, already, were somehow less contrived, more organic than, say, The West Wing or The Sopranos? Remember when it seemed as if, sooner or later, every nobody in the country would get his or her own TV show?

Well, I'm here to tell you that that day is gone. Ain't gonna happen. And why? Because the hordes of media-watchers and bandwagon-jumpers eager to concoct some tenuous connection between "reality" and Temptation Island overlooked one vital fact: We're not celebrities.

Let's face it: Celebrities are our new gods, and our new myths and folk tales come to us via Entertainment Weekly and E! Entertainment Television and Entertainment Tonight. And the recent runaway success of MTV's The Osbournes has hit upon a stroke of genius: "Reality" television without all those boring real people. "Reality" television...with celebrities! (Well, okay, one celebrity and his crazy family, but let's not nit-pick, shall we?)

Already, as I write this, the press is documenting the first sparks of this new era's life, with MTV (looking to bottle lightning twice) reportedly talking with rapper P. Diddy about a similar program, while almost-has-beens like Cybil Shepard are pitching their own vehicles.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The truth, as it turns out, runs far deeper. MTV has done much more than just jaw with Diddy: It's hooked up with a smattering of famous musical celebrities (and their extended families), and shot a handful of "pilot" episodes of potential new series, awaiting only the perfunctory vetting of the network's corporate masters. Thanks to his shadowy industry connections, the Gentleman has procured copies of these ultra-secret tapes, which we here at Shaking Through World Headquarters have viewed many times over.

I have seen the future of television, my friends, and here are some glimpses into that glorious new era:

The P. Diddy Show

Based on this preliminary pilot episode, this series would revolve around the day-to-day adventures of Sean "Puffy" "Puff Daddy" "P. Diddy" Combs and his faithful manservant Farnsworth, as they ride around in large stretch limos, look after Diddy's various business holdings and prepare to record a new album. In other words, life on the streets. It could work, since the pilot does provide us with some human drama and fascinating glimpses into the hit-making process. Repeatedly throughout this half-hour segment, Diddy bitterly mourns the loss of his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, at one point breaking into tears and crying on his hapless butler's shoulder. And at one point, we see P. tooling around in a pricey sportscar, jamming to the Flock of Seagulls hit "I Ran." Soon after, he enters the recording studio, telling his assembled entourage "I gots this great idea for a song" and immediately breaking into "I Ran"'s familiar (if difficult to replicate) melody. The assembled throng cheers P.'s evident genius.

The Rocks

Arguably the most promising of the lot. Here MTV reaches back to its Real World roots, throwing together a couple of celebrities who have very little in common except for their names. To wit, Kid Rock; his new wife Pamela Anderson; and WWF wrestling sensation (and Scorpion King star) Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The pilot follows Kid and Pam as they elope in the middle of the night, running off to avoid the media and tie the knot in a candle-lit go-cart track. The couple then rushes off to a secret honeymoon on Temptation Island, where the happily-married Rock must fight off a bevy of swimsuit-clad hotties, who continually taunt him with lines like "Can you smell what my pudenda is cooking?" and "I want to...rock hard!" Most promising moment: The Rock is forced to resort to violence when former Anderson paramours Tommy Lee and Brett Michaels show up outside Kid and Pam's cabana, yelling for the former Baywatch thespian to return to them, even promising a cut of future sex-tape royalties.

Everybody Loves Bono

Another promising premise: In the pilot, a camera crew follows the ubiquitous U2 frontman and political gadfly as he jets between rehearsals for an upcoming album, Third World debt-relief conferences at the U.N., and heart-to-heart talks with his burgeoning brood. Most promising moment: An intimidated would-be suitor of one of Bono's daughters fidgets nervously through a grilling in which Pop threatens to "buy your entire f---ing family, you snot-nosed punk" and dispatches a couple of burly tattooed roadies to chaperone. Runner-up: Bono leads Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela and former president Bill Clinton in a late-night drunken rendition of "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?".

Life With Madonna (Or, Truth Or Dare: The Series)

A morose look at life with the former Ms. Ciccone. As affable filmmaker hubby Guy Ritchie tends to the day-to-day needs of young son Rocco and stepdaughter Lourdes, Madge spends her waking hours on the couch watching her old movies and (over and over and over) the racy "Justify My Love" video. In one hilarious scene, Madonna surreptitiously phones alleged former flame Vanilla Ice after watching him receive a merciless and punishing beating by Todd Bridges on Celebrity Boxing. She tries to convince him to meet her for an afternoon of illicit sex, but Ice refuses. Later, she asks Ritchie if she's "still got it," to which hubby gamely replies "Of course you do, dear. Now run along: I have diapers to change." Frequently, Madonna sits by the phone, waiting for offers of movie roles that never come. Occasionally, she picks up the phone, dials Sean Penn's number, and hangs up whenever he answers. She also calls Warren Beatty's house, only to hear Annette Benning shout a parade of bleeped-out obscenities. "I know it's you, you dirty little (bleep)!" we hear her scream through the receiver before Madge impotently hangs up.

Jon Stewart Living

More an audition tape/pitch meeting than an actual pilot, this tape shows the former MTV talk-show host, current Daily Show host and two-time Grammy Awards host in talks with MTV suits about a proposed series in which Stewart would chat with other celebrities interspersed with cooking and gardening demonstrations. After he hopelessly botches a box of Hamburger Helper Lasagna, the meeting fizzles out, with MTV execs promising to call as they hastily exit.

At Home With Aerosmith

I fast-forwarded through this, looking for even the briefest glimpse of Liv Tyler, or even Steven's other daughter, the plus-sized model. Neither makes an appearance, so I ejected the tape. Life's too short, after all.

So there you have it. Rumor has it that no less a pair of egos run wild than Courtney Love and Gene Simmons are also in negotiations with the network, but as of yet these talks could not be confirmed. In the meantime, stay tuned...and be afraid. Be very afraid.

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