R.E.M. Go Primetime In Hollywood Media Blitz

R.E.M., the folk-rock band that rose from relative obscurity 20 years ago out of the small

college town of Athens, Ga., to worldwide stardom and multiplatinum success, are going


With U.S. sales of their latest album lagging, the group is increasing its recent media blitz

with plans to appear on the popular primetime television drama "Party of Five." The

group also is pursuing a deal to score a film as well as to contribute music to an

upcoming major motion picture based on the life of late comedian Andy Kaufman.

"Who would have thought we'd ever do stuff like this?" bassist/keyboardist Mike Mills

mused of the group's first primetime TV gig. "It's goofy stuff, but a lot of people in our

office watch ['Party of Five'], it's a good show and it's a chance for us to play a whole

song live on TV."

The superstar rock group will be making its network drama debut in April on the weekly

Fox-TV soap opera, performing its latest single, "At My Most Beautiful," during a bar


R.E.M. manager Bertis Downs said the band also is discussing with the producers of the

upcoming film, "Man On The Moon," the possibility of featuring its music in the biopic on

Kaufman, which stars Hole leader Courtney Love and Jim Carrey. Talks also include the

possibility of using the R.E.M. song from which the film takes its title,


On The Moon" (RealAudio excerpt) from 1992's Automatic For the


The band also is looking into scoring a film this summer, Mills said. Because the film deal

has not yet been finalized, Mills declined to name the project, but he did say the group is

looking forward to trying its hand at creating a cinematic score.

While R.E.M. have donated songs to the soundtracks of such films as "Bachelor Party,"

"Until The End of the World," "Coneheads" and "Batman and Robin," as well as theme

music to comedian Chris Elliott's old TV sitcom, "Get A Life," they have never before

scored an entire film together.

R.E.M.'s appearance on "Party of Five" -- which will be taped in L.A. this week -- is not as

unusual as it may seem for a group that has been notoriously careful about indulging in

such mainstream efforts, according to the show's executive producer, Ken Topolsky.

The superstar group's music has been a staple in the five-season saga of the serially

dysfunctional, photogenic Salinger family, Topolsky said. The series' pilot used a pair of

R.E.M. songs, including the hit ballad "Everybody Hurts," off Automatic for the

People. The band's music has cropped up in a number of other episodes, including

an episode last week that featured its previous single off Up,


(RealAudio excerpt).

"It's a sound we felt identified with the emotions of our story and our characters,"

Topolsky said.

"We came up with a scenario for them that we feel works," Topolsky said of the club

scene in which the band will appear. "It works well because the essence of the song we

are using ['At My Most Beautiful' (RealAudio

excerpt)] talks about where our characters are at emotionally at this point in their lives in

their psyches. It amplifies who they are and we were just through the roof with excitement

when we heard the band would do it and it would work so well with the story."

Mills equated the appearance with a spot on the PBS children's show

"Sesame Street" that the band filmed last year. "We're just a band playing in a club that

they go out and see," Mills said. "I know the writers are big fans of ours and it's a

well-done show that reaches a lot of young people."

The TV gig is just the first salvo in a renewed media blitz from R.E.M., who will hit TV

screens and outdoor amphitheaters through August, in an attempt to boost the

disappointing U.S. sales of their latest, Up. While the album has sold more than

1.5 million copies in Europe, it is still below the gold mark (500,000 copies sold) in the


Mills said if the band has learned anything since Up's October release, it's that

their audience clearly is divided over the experimental album, the trio's first since the

departure of founding member drummer Bill Berry in 1997. "There's not too many

middle-of-the-road reactions to this album," Mills said. "Either they love it or they hate it."

Members of the band's fan club will have ample opportunity to get up-close-and-

personal with R.E.M. over the next few months -- they will perform on nearly a dozen

European television shows.

About 175 fans have been invited to the "Party of Five" taping this week, during which

the band will play several songs, according to Downs. That mini-gig will be followed by a

fan gig and Q&A session on MuchMusic Canada's Musique Plus "Intimate and

Interactive" studio program next Friday and an appearance at the annual Tibet House

fund-raiser show Feb. 22 at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Those gigs will be followed in late February and early March by televised appearances

in Italy, London, Paris, Germany, Prague, the Czech Republic; Stockholm, Sweden; and

Oslo, Norway.

"I love Up. I think it's one of our best, period," Mills said of the group's 11th studio

album. "I want everybody to hear it, to like it, but I know that's not always the case with

every album."