At first glance, Rocked With Gina Gershon, the six-part reality series currently airing on Friday nights on IFC, looks like a veiled promotion for Gershon's 2003 film about the Los Angeles punk scene, Prey for Rock and Roll. At second glance, the veil falls away entirely—had the show premiered on MTV, Plugged might have been a better name for it. Still, the show has chutzpah: Like any good salesman, Gershon shills so fervently that you end up forgetting about her product and are taken in by the pitch itself.
In a neat, synergistic alignment, the series's premise is really a pitch-within-a-pitch: When Gershon (pronounced Gersh-ON)wraps Prey for Rock and Roll (in which she plays an over-the-hill singer who can't quite bring herself to throw in the towel), the film's distributors tell her that unless she tours in support of the movie, they'll limit its release to just a few theaters. Gershon, who recorded her own vocals in the film and cares deeply about the project, recruits a band called Girls Against Boys, rehearses them for two weeks, and embarks on an impromptu tour of America's mid-sized clubs. "Here I was," she says in the series's first episode: "An actress trying to be a rocker trying to save my film, while living out my fantasy and avoiding humiliation."
Of course, humiliation is the reality genre's bread and butter, and if there happens to be a movie star involved, it's almost de rigueur. But Gershon—who travels with her personal assistant, her cat, a musical director, a makeup artist, and eight pairs of black boots—isn't here to expose her faults or abase herself for our amusement. Always selling herself, she reveals just enough to keep the buyer interested: "I guess you'd call me an alleged-bian," Gershon says when a morning radio host asks about her lesbian fan base. And when a show goes badly she shifts into true rock-star mode, putting the blame on her "guitar tech," on the "pressure," or "the flu"—everything but her own, often off-key, performances.
The music gives even less away: Rehearsing with the band, Gershon can sound more than a bit like Chrissie Hynde (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), but, not used to hearing herself over the onstage monitors, she tends to sing flat, and her movements are surprisingly stiff. (Nor will the show be winning any ASCAP awards: "Bring on the ugly/ Bring on the shit" is a typical lyric.) Girls Against Boys, a New York group that formed in 1990 and sold out years ago, are strictly along for the ride: "We're used to playing very large venues and having a lot of famous people around us," drummer Alexis Fleisig explains. "This is a different experience, playing with Gina, because she is famous, and she has a lot of famous friends." Thanks for the insight, fellas.
If the show never does rock us with revelations about Gina Gershon or her famous friends (who include Sopranos star Drea de Matteo, high-school chum Lenny Kravitz, and an overly affectionate Craig Kilborn), it's because the only people we see step out of the PR bubble are Gershon's self-admittedly obsessive fans. The things they have to say sound stupid: "In Bound she plays a lesbian, and being a lesbian myself that really turned me on"; or, "I want her to sign my breasts!" But at least they are honest. Gershon, on the other hand, is pouty-lipped and potty-mouthed—she talks like a rocker, and more than a few aspiring rock stars would kill to look like her—but too much the professional to let her composure slip. She never convinces us that a true rock-and-roll heart beats underneath.
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