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A Rocky Start for Rockstar
Gordon Pepper

We have seen the first week of the latest Burnett vehicle - 'Rockstar' - grace our presence. I have very mixed thoughts on the show. On the one hand, the talent that they have blows any other talent away (save for Nashville Star). Burnett has the right idea on a universal talent search. He also has the right idea on seeing the reactions of INXS and Dave Navarro chatting it up.

But that, alas, leads me to my biggest problem with the show - the editing. Seeing reactions of INXS and Navarro is a cool touch because it's nice to see what they are thinking the moment that something in the performance happens that touches them, one way or the other. Seeing shots of the audience is something that I am not nuts with (see Hit Me Baby, 1 More Time for my feelings on that sort of overexposure), but I can deal with that. Seeing more clips of the audience and INXS combined than the actual performance is downright irritating. I used a timer on this - on both Monday's and Tuesday's shows, there was no time that the camera was showing a singer for more than 10 seconds straight without a pan to either the audience, a competing singer, or a member from the INXS/Navarro troupe, which makes it incredibly frustrating to capture a performance and annoying to attempt to feel the essence of a singer. You can't judge a singer if you are spending less time watching the contestant and more time seeing the audience jiggle.

American Idol works because we see a full performance without any interruption from the cameras. The Ultimate Fighter works because we see the actual match without an interruption or a meaningless close-up of something not affecting the action. When Burnett used his 'make this feel less like an event and more like a movie' technique on a similar project - The Contender - it felt more like an edited made for TV B-Movie than an actual boxing match. Consequently, when Burnett uses the same technique here, it felt less like an audience participation contest and more like a hammed up live-action version of a Jem and the Holograms performance, while peering in from behind the curtain on the edge of the stage are the Misfits.

The audience should feel rooked by the 'voting'. According to the rules of the competition, although the audience votes on who the bottom three should be, they actually have no power to determine who gets eliminated in the contest. INXS has the final say on who will be leaving the competition, and their result on Wednesday will be based on who they think should leave - not necessarily who the audience voted as the worst. This is a good rule to prevent a favorite from getting caught in a 'Chaos Theory' like swing (as they can be bailed out by INXS), but the fact of the matter is that unless the rules change for the final three or two, INXS will have full control of who they want as their lead singer. So although it's a nice thought of the world choosing who will be the next INXS singer, it's not going to really happen that way.

All of these items add up to a show that has the potential to be incredibly entertaining, but severely lets the audience down on it's first week of shows. The good news is that these sort of shows, such as American Idol, have the flexibility to change things in mid-stream, and because Rockstar is on a live or close to live pre-production, they would be able to make said changes. Quite frankly, they better make some changes, or Rockstar is going to wind up being rock bottom.

Gordon Pepper just wants to rock and roll all night and write commentaries all day. E-mail him at


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