Having lived in Chicago during the initial year of (Dennis) Rod-mania, I feel
secure saying I understand what the hoopla is all about. I understand people's
fascination with this body painted freak, this gender-bending bundle of
neuroses, this monster-rebounding, spiraling mess of insecurities and
attention-sucking polymorphic perversity.
Dennis Rodman is a little boy
who likes to watch, who likes to hear himself say naughty words, not unlike
another pair of MTV personalities (that is, assuming Rodman has only two
competing personalities), whose big-screen debut was #1 at the box office last
weekend. But, no amount of explaining-away or freak-show curiosity could
explain the train-wreck that is MTV's "Dennis Rodman's World Tour" (MTV, Sunday
night, check local listings).
If you caught my piece (in "Music News of the
World") on M2 a few weeks ago, you'll remember I said that the diversity and
willingness to not program the obvious, and, most importantly, its
freedom from non-music programming, is what makes M2 an impossible-to-reach
oasis in a sea of MTV pabulum. Last week's (Dec. 22) episode of the Rodman show
was ample proof that not only has MTV lost any remaining edge it has
occasionally had, but that it has crossed further over into the knee-jerk,
star-fucking attitude it used to try and mock.
Rodman is entertaining in
Rodman is entertaining in small doses. But even a half
hour of his bumbling, stuttering, scripted nonsense is about 28 minutes too
much. In last week's unentertaining episode, Rodman staged a "spontaneous"
strip poker game between Frasier's Kelsey Grammer, the Foo Fighter's Pat
Smear and "Melrose Place" star Laura Leighton. Grammer, bless his obviously
confused heart (Regis and Kathie Lee never looked so bearable) seemed game for
anything, Smear was smirkingly up for tricks, and Leighton, well, she just
soldiered on with a befuddled, "what the hell am I doing here?" grimace that
you can be sure resulted in a few irate calls to her manager between shots.
The whole thing was less amusing than dead air or a test pattern, even
when Grammer got his comeuppance at the end, which, thankfully, didn't result
in his getting naked, but rather, receiving a tongue kiss from Smear and pecks
from Rodman and Leighton. Leighton, a good sport considering, was rightly on
the defensive from Rodman's "probing" questions about her sex life throughout
the show, which in his own perverse way, seemed to make Rodman more comfortable
even as it quite obviously made Leighton less so.
Rodman is a basketball
player, in case anybody forgot. And while MTV runs their equally insipid (but
for a good cause) Rock 'n' Jock Jams programming in an effort to connect rock
and sports, there is even less rationale for the Rodman show than something as
brainless as "House of Style," which at least has a tenuous connection to music
given the history of rockers dating models and the importance of fashion in
Rodman's show is part of an alarming trend at MTV, a station
seemingly hell-bent on driving away music fans. Like the Big Four television
networks, who saw fit to flood the airwaves with a dozen silly, bandwagoneering
"X-Files" rip-offs, MTV has bought into the right now cult-of-personality of
folks like Rodman and the shamelessly self-promoting Jenny McCarthy without any
regard to what it does to their already marginalized music programming.
an age where talentless phenoms like McCarthy can (literally) get network heads
down on their knees on her red carpet, Rodman doesn't even qualify as filler.
Even McCarthy's vanilla haircut side-kick, uh, whatever his name is, has more
charisma than Rodman, who's only funny in a
"man-this-guy-is-so-bad-it's-surreal" kind of way. Sure, we've been promised
shows like "Indie 500" and a techno show from the MTV brass, both years too
late, and sure, McCarthy is hot right now and anybody'd be a fool not to cash
in on her bright star, but I have one word for the folks at MTV: