Since this is a show about the college experience (er, mostly), let me quote the great author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who famously wrote: "There are no second acts in American lives."
But if America truly is the "land of second chances," then I happen to think that Americans love nothing better than a story about second chances, stories about hope from defeat, the underdog giving it another go, about another opportunity when it appears there is none.
This isn't one of those stories.
After watching an hour of this reality program, I was stunned by two things:
Surprise #1: Rock musician Tommy Lee is surprisingly affable, likeable and even downright earnest about pursuing a college education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Surprise #2: This show is completely devoid of any entertainment value whatsoever.
Having lived the life of a celebrity rock musician for most of his adult life, Tommy Lee has missed out on the college experience. The college experience is, as anyone who has done it will tell you, not so much about book learning and the diploma as it is "preparation for the quote-unquote 'real world'."
And by "real world," dear students, we mean the soul-crushing tedium of everyday life--living day-to-day and hand-to-mouth, performing demeaning, menial and often pointless chores for negligible rewards while competing against peers you can never fully trust for favor in the eyes of the powers-that-be, all the while knowing that when you are finally given sweet release from this servitude that the next stage in that life will continue to be banal, uninspiring and mind-blowingly mundane.
But, hey, at least when you're a student, you can show your ID at the movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and get a $3 discount on a matinee ticket. Rock on!
Never Too Late to Matriculate
Without much preamble about why Tommy Lee has chosen to attend college, how he selected the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) or why he would do this now, Tommy Lee bids his mother farewell on his way out the door to school.
If this wasn't a staged moment by the producers, then, frankly, I don't know what is.
The producers are, of course, keeping their fingers crossed for the success of this show. If Tommy Lee Goes to College becomes a hit, be sure to look for Axl Rose Goes to Medical School and Whitesnake Does Habitat for Humanity.
Lee's mother, speaking in a thick, unidentifiable accent, tells Tommy to "comb his hair" and "pull up [his] pants," which, really, if Lee mater had done a better job instilling such lessons in her son a few decades ago, the world may not have experienced the musical rapture that is Home Sweet Home. ("You know I'm a dreamer/But my heart's of gold/I had to run away high/So I wouldn't come home low.")
Fast-forward to Tommy Lee buzzing down the highway toward Lincoln (looks like Mr. Lee is driving a Corvette Stingray, but I could be wrong about that). As he drives past a fraternity house, the students outside greet him: "Hey, Tommy!"
"Wassup, y'all!" he replies.
He stops to ask directions to the chancellor's office from two attractive female students, who smile and give him directions.
"I love Nebraska!" Tommy declares.
Car + Dean - Good Sense = College Comedy
So far, Tommy Lee Goes to College is following the formula of the "unorthodox older student returns to school" story popularized by such cinematic giants such as Dangerfield's Back to School and Sandler's Billy Madison:
1. Matriculate under the most specious of reasons.
2. Arrive at school in flashy automobile.
3. Be instantly popular with other students for no discernible reason.
4. Make friends with crazy roommate and/or classmate.
5. Struggle through classwork despite best efforts.
6. Meet attractive tutor.
7. Find one teacher who "believes in you."
8. Mean ol' dean/president/chancellor of school (who simply doesn't see the value in having a good time) would like to see you expelled.
9. Pull off amazing results on important academic event, despite not having opened a single book for entirety of film.
10. Throw party at pep rally wherein entire student body appears and dances in middle of campus and/or middle of football field. School mascot somehow demeaned.
...and, really, it's a formula for success I intend to follow when I myself return to school next year, so who am I to hate?
Make First Impressions Your Best Impressions
As Tommy Lee walks across campus, the strains of Pomp and Circumstance play in the background, which is a funny choice, considering that Tommy is matriculating and has not actually graduated.
I, mean, really, wouldn't Bad Boy Boogie be a more appropriate song choice? ("I'll make the toast you raise the glass/Just a few words to kick the world in the ass.")
"Long hallways scare me," Tommy says, approaching the chancellor's office.
As the chancellor's receptionist directs him to sit down and wait on the chancellor, she, too, is given the chance to camera talk.
She says, "My first impression was one of excitement. I thought he was handsome." Everyone, meet the world's most recent (and possibly oldest) Motley Crue groupie.
The chancellor then camera-talks and confesses: "I did listen to a Motley Crue album to get myself in the mood" and admits he found it an acquired taste. (Just be lucky the members of Nelson didn't decide to attend your school, buddy.)
As if reading from a prepared script, the chancellor reminds Tommy that UNL is a "serious academic institution" and begs him not to "trash it."
Tommy Lee laughs uncomfortably. So much for first impressions. I wonder if the mean ol' chancellor gives every incoming first-year the same spiel...?
Bookstore Battles and Roommate Hassles
Tommy's next stop is the bookstore. By the time he is done, Tommy's stack of books is taller than he is.
Here's a multiple-choice question.
By the time he is done in the university bookstore, Tommy Lee's stack of books is taller than he is. This is because:
(A) Tommy Lee is taking 60 credit hours in one semester.
(B) Tommy Lee's professors are the most hard-assed instructors we have ever seen.
(C) Tommy Lee doesn't get the concept of the university bookstore and does not need to buy every text that catches his attention.
(D) I need a cigarette and another drink with vodka.
Next, Tommy Lee goes shopping for a roommate. List in hand of students looking for roommates, Tommy Lee goes from dorm to dorm.
The first two are strikeouts since they have either (1) never owned a Motley Crue album (not surprising, considering he was probably learning how to ride a bicycle when Crue released their last original album) or (2) never actually heard of Motley Crue (not surprising, since the student appears to be a Chinese exchange student with a shaky command of the English language).
Candidate #3's homosexuality does not bother Tommy Lee in the least...but his snoring does.
Candidate #4 (Matt) opens the door and shouts, "Whoa! Tommy Lee!"
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.
Tommy Lee tells his new roommate that he needs to "kick some ass" in his classes, and he hopes Roomie Matt is smart.
Matt tells Tommy that he pulled a 3.5 GPA last semester. Tommy looks disappointed until Matt explains that it's "3.5 out of 4.0."
"I'm used to 10's," Tommy tells him, straight-faced.
While Matt is out, an interior design crew shows up to redecorate the spartan dorm room.
Like an episode of While You Were Out (only without the irritating host and on crack), Matt returns to find his dorm room done up in black paint, with guitars hanging on the walls, a martini bar, modern appliances and a big screen television hooked up to a PlayStation 2.
"But where's my stuff?" Matt asks.
"No, seriously," Matt adds.
Let the Learning Begin
Tommy appears for his first day of classes in a sweater vest and...are those capris? I mean, what the hell...?
The first class of the day is Physics, where Tommy Lee is asked to introduce himself.
He tells his fellow classmates he intends to "treat this with nothing but love and respect," which Physics was glad to hear since Physics hasn't been treated so well since that ugly breakup with Galileo. (Look, you try to come up with some jokes about this train wreck.)
The professor jumps right back into the lecture, teaching his students that the formula to calculate the distance of a wavelength is "C equals lambda times nu."
"So the next time someone asks you 'What's nu (new)?' you can say, 'wavelength.'"
And, that, dear reader, characterizes the reason I majored in Journalism and Mass Communications and not one of the hard sciences. (Well, that...and Beginning Newswriting was one hell of a lot easier than Organic Chemistry. Oh, and vendors are also a lot more likely to come around to places where ex-mass comm majors work and drop off delicious things like donuts. When's the last time you saw a Corporate Express salesperson leaving a tray of Krispy Kreme at the biolab?)
After Tommy's next class (English), the professor asks Tommy whether he even read the material.
"I skimmed it," he tells her. (Note: Professors and bosses do not like this answer.)
Tommy's physics professor, Dr. Gay (I am not making this up), invites Tommy into his office to speak with him about his college experience.
"What are you reading in English?" Prof. Gay asks.
"Something Dunes," Tommy replies.
And, really, I've been asked about, oh, Lear's paternal relationship with Goneril and Regan as it relates to his feelings toward Cordelia and returned a blank stare, but I think that knowing at least the name of the work of literature is vital to passing the exam on it. Or maybe that's just the (finger quotes) "overachiever" in me again.
Dr. Gay recommends that Tommy Lee should get together with a tutor.
Brains and Beauty
Tommy patiently waits for his tutor...and in walks Natalie, a stunning senior student who tells Tommy that she's a senior, pre-med and teaches a course as part of her curriculum.
"Do you like challenges?" she asks him. Tommy is enraptured. "You're going to work for this."
Moments later, it becomes obvious that Natalie is talking about Physics.
Natalie uses big words like "quantum theory" and "atomic structure," and I start to tune out and wonder whether What Not to Wear is airing on TLC. Tommy's eyes glaze over like a ham.
Back in his dorm room, Matt asks Tommy "Were you able to stay focused?" after Tommy tells him about Natalie the Knockout Tutor.
"I was just checking her out," Tommy admits.
As Tommy strolls through campus, "pensive and plagued with doubt," he consoles himself later by convincing Matt to use his webcam to show him, Tommy, attractive students in his classes.
Unsettling and creepy, not unlike the premiere of this show.
Half Hour Episode Number Two
The next half-hour episode begins with Tommy and Dr. Gay discussing the various physics equipment in Dr. Gay's lab. Tommy seems to be enjoying himself, and amazingly, Dr. Gay seems to enjoy Tommy's company and explaining what all the equipment does.
"What's this switch?" Tommy asks Dr. Gay, who screams, "NO, DON'T!"
An NBC test pattern appears on-screen.
(Oh, that's rich.)
While the test pattern is designed to make us think that Tommy Lee has released, say, an antimatter flood into our universe, thereby annihilating our reality as we know it, I suppose our universe still exists since we roll past the credits to another episode of the show known as "The reason I'm an alcoholic" to more NBC interns than last season's Will and Grace.
Tommy is sitting in on his English class and is in a discussion group.
"I didn't design this class with Tommy Lee in mind," his English professor declares with disapproval etched over her worried face.
("Is nihilism prevalent more in Shout at the Devil or Dr. Feelgood? Discuss, citing specific examples from Knock 'Em Dead Kid and Rattlesnake Shake.")
Tommy Lee calls the work of prose "over descriptive" and criticizes the verbosity in the snow scene. His fellow students agree. (I would call my use of "verbosity" over descriptive.)
"And One Time, At Band Practice..."
While Tommy may be struggling through his science and English classes, one would assume that Tommy Lee the Motley Crue drummer would master at least one area of college life: band.
The UNL band leaders take the UNL band seriously, though. Apparently, the title "Cornhusker" is rife with portent.
Even the narrator with the cornball English accent (TM) realizes this, as he intones, "Surely, they would welcome the addition of one of the world's greatest drummers."
Tommy Lee is invited to sit with the band leaders and tells them that after high school, he landed a recording contract, toured the world, sold 40 million albums, yadda yadda--you know, the standard stuff they hear every day from a student looking to make the drum line.
They tell him that they're going to "set aside" his history. That rehearsal is 7 o'clock every morning, rain or shine. That there is no drinking, no swearing, no smoking and no drugs. Oh, and something will have to be done about all the piercings on his face, too.
Tommy Lee is aghast.
The next morning, Tommy is up just past 5:30 am for his first rehearsal.
The band leaders ask him to audition, to play a little solo on the drums.
He's so flustered he can only tap out a few notes before stopping.
So, let me get this straight: Berlin in front of thousands of fans? No problem. In front of a small group of Midwestern college band leaders Tommy Lee the Motley Crue drummer, musician for a band that has sold millions of albums, gets stage fright?
Nevertheless, they give him a shot but threaten to pull him from the band at showtime if he can't perform.
The Forest for the Trees
Things get progressively worse for Mr. Lee as he shows up for horticulture class and is taken around campus and asked to identify the trees.
"'Please don't call on me' is my new mantra," Tommy laughs.
It's not just the band leaders and his horticulture professor who are unimpressed with Tommy Lee. Natalie the Tutor shakes her head and says, "Little things seem to distract him."
Her indictment of Tommy Lee is confirmed when she catches him in the library, rocking back and forth in his chair.
"Have you ever done that in school? Rock in your chair?" he asks her, laughing.
"No," she replies, stonily.
After their latest meeting, Natalie tells Tommy that he needs to at least be trying in his classes.
Predictably, the next segment is clips of Tommy Lee studying his ass off to the strains of Survivor's Eye of the Tiger, which, quite honestly, is probably the number one cause behind most accidents in America from people striving to do physically impossible feats and then injuring themselves in horrible ways than any other song in recording history.
Eye of the Tiger apparently paid off, though, as Tommy returns to Horticulture class and nails the name of a tree when called upon.
He's not so lucky in his next endeavor with the band when Tommy shows a discernible lack of talent in following the steps that have been laid out for him.
"This guy's a rock star?" one of the leaders asks, burying his face.
(Well, it really depends on how you define "rock" and/or "star.")
Matt Discusses Tommy's Dirty Laundry in More Ways Than One
Tommy and Matt take their clothes to the laundry room, where a little roommate bonding took place.
The only bonding I ever really wanted to do with my roommate was to smack the holy living hell out of him, but that's a story for another day.
Matt asks Tommy if he does his own laundry, to which he replies, "Sometimes. I have a housekeeper. But she only comes once a week." (Tsk tsk, old boy.)
Then Matt asks the one question on every American male's mind, the one question that Matt will never, ever live down in any bar he visits the rest of his life if he doesn't ask: "How's Pam?"
"Amazing," Tommy replies.
"Do you ever get jealous?" Matt asks. "Playboy and stuff?"
(Remember, Matt may be one of the few dorm roomies on Earth who has seen his roomie's wife nude.)
"Not really," Tommy says.
"Well, now everyone's seen you naked!" Matt tells Tommy.
Tommy laughs. Matt laughs.
"How long is this laundry going to take?" Tommy asks.
Back once again with Dr. Gay, Tommy is asked, "Is your tutor really helping you?"
"She's awfully smart," Tommy replies (which is the right thing to say), then adds, "and hot" (which was not).
Speaking of the tutor, Matt offers to put down the PlayStation 2 and leave the room while Natalie comes by for the tutoring session.
When Tommy opens the door, he is greeted by...a Substitute Tutor, who, while I am sure she is bright and capable, does not have the same physical charm as Natalie.
"Do you have notes? A textbook? A list of problems?" she grills a stunned Tommy Lee.
"If you're behind, you're behind forever," she tells him.
Sorry to Be So Negative
All this studying makes a person long to blow off a little steam, I suppose, and Tommy Lee throws a party in his room. When Matt returns, he is stunned to find that his room is overflowing with attractive students, all shouting his name. And, really, I wonder what Matt wrote home in his weekly email to his folks in Cincinnati that week.
The party takes a toll on Tommy Lee, though, as he shows up for band practice the next morning and is put through his paces. He has a hard time keeping up with the others on the drum line and show his frustration.
The drum section leader has no sympathy for Tommy Lee. Ending this episode on a low note, he threatens to cut Tommy Lee if the rock drummer continues to show a lack of talent in learning and knowing how to play the music.
Next year, phat32 (firstname.lastname@example.org) plans on throwing a huge party at the 50-yard line after overcoming the dean's expectations and leading his team to win the Academic Decathlon. You are all invited to the party.