July 11, 2005 -- "Rock Star: INXS"
Tonight at 9 on CBS/Ch. 2
IT'S official: Rock is dead.
It must be, if this is how a major rock band goes about choosing its lead singer today — on a prime- time game show.
"Rock Star," from ubiqui tous producer Mark Bur nett, plays less like a real tryout to join INXS than an audition for a Broadway mu sical about the Australian rockers — in the manner of musicals such as "All Shook Up" about Elvis.
On the premiere of "Rock Star" on CBS, you'll meet 15 at tention-starved young people who simply cannot live another moment without achieving rock stardom.
"I don't have a choice — I have to be a rock 'n' roll star!" declares one of them, tattooed redhead Heather Luttrell, 27, of Atlanta.
Adds Brandon Calhoon, 31, of Beaverton, Mich.: " 'Rock Star' means to me every thing that I've wanted to be ever since I was 4 years old [and standing at] the mir ror playing air guitar. It's been a lifelong dream to be a rock star."
This level of ambition in a toddler has always fascinated me. When I was 4, I had no goals or dreams other than wondering where my next cookie was coming from.
Brooding Brandon and the other dreamers of "Rock Star" are on hand ostensibly to compete for a position that became available in November 1997, when the original INXS lead singer, Michael Hutchence, was found hanged in a Sydney hotel room, an apparent suicide.
In each episode of "Rock Star" (which is scheduled for three installments per week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), one contestant will be eliminated following some sort of challenge — in this case, a performance of an iconic rock song.
But wait a minute — they're not performing with INXS. Those guys are in the audience judging the performances, along with co-host Dave Navarro, notable guitarist and husband of Carmen Electra.
The singers are fronting a band of anonymous musicians, which, to me, kind of misses the whole point of a show headlined by INXS.
In fact, the members of INXS, along with Navarro, are the most interesting characters on the show.
Unfortunately, though, the wannabe contestants seize the majority of screen time. And that's a shame because they're all dull as dishwater.
Aside from the anonymity of the backup musicians, the performance portion of "Rock Star" is the show's brightest section, especially if you love karaoke.