"Rolling Stone:" Not Gathering Moss So Now Seeking Mass

by Hilary Crowe

On Sunday January 7th, the Zoloft-popping and zombie-eyed consumers of MTV were introduced to a novel idea on the network’s part: quality programming. At 10 p.m. the omnipresent media network officially launched the series I’m From Rolling Stone, a fascinating partnership with the well-established and highly-regarded music magazine, Rolling Stone, wherein young writers intern and compete to be hired as a contributing editor. However, can six hipsters, ranging in age from 19 to 25-years-old, bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers who came of age with Ben Fong-Torres and Generation X-ers who have been spoon-fed MTV since their mouths could open wide enough to declare “I want my MTV”?

Both giants hope so. The series seems to be a PR dream-come-true for both media outlets. MTV finally gets the “cred” from music journalism’s resident Edward R. Murrow, and Rolling Stone acquires a new avenue by which to spread its gospel to impressionable youths, i.e. future readers. As more teens express interest in classic rock acts the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and AC/DC, as shown by T-shirt sales indices, this partnership makes dollars and sense.

I may be reading too far into the deal, but judging by the frantic coverage of fresh-faced Fall Out Boy clones and the magazine’s declaration of My Chemical Romance’s latest release, Welcome to the Black Parade, as the greatest rock album of the decade (no joke – it’s in the issue with the Snoop Dogg cover story), Rolling Stone is feeling the pressure to revisit the marketing drawing board. Look at it this way: when Camel has tapped out its resources, meaning all the men are already addicted to cigarettes or dead, it’s time to redirect ads to an untapped market – young women (young, impressionable, image-conscious males would never be caught dead smoking a clove or mentholated cigarette). Rolling Stone is simply doing the same, only the product is less deadly and the audience more difficult to convince. I mean, playing the new Wii is definitely cooler than reading, but I digress.

I must say, however, that such a marketing scheme, either intentional or not, has worked. For years my friends have scoffed at my paltry hobby of reading magazines, namely Jann Wenner’s lovely gem (which, as previously alluded to, is in need of some polishing at the moment). However, it only took approximately two minutes for a 23-year-old, UC Berkeley-by-way-of-Sydney golden boy’s shared enthusiasm for them to crack open an issue. I’ll admit to occasional forays into the dubious territory of cable reality shows, and I’m not claiming to be of a more precious mettle than the gourmandizing couch potatoes, such as many of my peers, who frequent that place – but I was hooked, too.

Done in, yes, but not by the same bait. Aside from Aussie Peter, my friends also fell for the lovable stoner (the dark horse in the race), hard-knock street girl, gender-bending lesbian poet, beautiful blonde poet, and bad boy favorite. Human interest-fueled voyeurism at its finest. I, however, was enamored with this inside look at what it takes to write for Rolling Stone, the cherry on top of any self-respecting music journalist’s career. Honestly, I am enraptured that the magazine is giving me the information necessary to force David Fricke out of office – what they want in an editor.

It would seem then, that the show has the syrupy formula for sweet success and, perhaps an added bonus: it grabs the attention of yet another subgroup, aspiring journalists. Now that we’ve bitten, it’ll be interesting to see how the show plans to reel us in for the catch. Can it stay afloat and garner ratings comparable to MTV stand-bys The Real World and Next? The only conflict and scandal in the show is the inner turmoil each writer faces as they are ripped apart by their editors and realize they still have a lot to learn, a feeling with which most writers can empathize. The plot may be too slow for non-journalist viewers and almost too non-existent to be developed into a series, let alone a single 30-minute episode.

There is one thing I am sure of though: like most in the U.S., this marriage seems destined for failure before its first anniversary. But that’s just my view. See for yourself. I’m From Rolling Stone airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. (EST) on MTV.

(To see an extended trailer for the series, please check below.)

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