MTV's I'm From Rolling Stone.
I'm From Rolling Stone (MTV, Sundays at 10 p.m. ET) is an occasionally realistic reality show about six bushy-tailed, camera-ready temps vying for a regular writing gig at the totemic music magazine. Like the film version of The Devil Wears Prada, it has a light romance with the best avenue in the Americas, cinematic Sixth. Like Tabloid Wars—last year's Bravo series documenting the New York Daily News—it's got hustle. And, as on both ABC's charming Ugly Betty and FX's execrable Dirt, the world of glossy magazines comes in for a mocking and a glamour makeover at once. That the satire of the Rolling Stone show is seemingly inadvertent in no way detracts from its entertainment value.
These kids today. The most readily despicable—MTV is always honing its skill at casting dependable irritants—are Krishtine and Krystal. Krishtine is a 24-year-old from San Francisco, an aspiring hip-hop scenester with a set of gold teeth in her jewelry box. When Jann Wenner, the founder and editor of RS, phones her to say that she's earned a spot on the show, she cordially replies, "For reals?" A bit later, braying a summer's-long farewell to her hometown from a concert stage, she pledges sincerely to represent up in New York City. "We gotta make money, dawg. We gotta make money. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout." What is she talking about? Has the dear thing confused print journalism with one of those lucrative professions—bagging groceries, say?
Krystal is a poetess with some modeling experience. She tells Wenner that receiving his call is like having the Oval Office on the horn. On Sunday's episode, reading over an early assignment with her hometown boyfriend, Krystal pauses to admire her prosody: "I think it came together really beautifully." The BF agrees meekly, like a pet that wants to be in his master's good graces next mealtime, and the viewer feels a special combination of bewilderment and mild illness as she keeps stroking herself. Elsewhere, Tika—identified as both a "former model" and, perhaps redundantly, an "unemployed freelance journalist"— matches each of the other women for attitude, while Peter, the token dipsomaniac, brings a deep passion to his role as a boorish Australian. And it's either shaggy Colin or overbearing Russell who, on the first day in the office, remarks, "Dude, this looks like Enron" because there's, like, cubicles. Is this what's going down as Gen-Y enters the workplace?
The action unfolds in a parallel universe where a magazine might fly one of its newest interns from New York City to Toronto in order to report a two-paragraph blog post. That's Colin, who proves spectacularly inept at interviewing dance-rock band We Are Scientists. "I don't really know my questions, exactly," the lad confesses in a voice-over, "but I think I'll be alright winging it." Every reporter says this to himself on occasion, and some are even able to avoid the organ-churning seizure of self-hate that follows when the lie is put to the test. The media people who turn on I'm From Rolling Stone—and what other adults would?—are submitting themselves to an orgy of embarrassment, watching tender wannabes enact the flubs that haunt them every time they double check the tape recorder. Krishtine again earns special distinction here, pointing her notepad at indie hip-hop star El-P and putting together an inquiry that is convoluted, purposeless, and ass-kissy in just one question, where most of us usually need two or three.
Meanwhile, the authentic experience of interning at a glossy magazine goes unexplored by the popular arts—by necessity, perhaps, as it would alienate a popular audience, only shaping up as a nightmarish hybrid of Beckett, Sade, and The Office. (It would be an epic documentary about cassette-tape transcription.) Instead, we get Tika, who told yesterday's Daily News that she tried asking one of the real RS interns to type up one of her interviews: "He looked at me like he was going to puke. I asked nicely, 'Could you help me with this please?' He was like, b----, are you crazy? And then he told on me." You would, too.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Still from I'm From Rolling Stone copyright and TM 2006 MTV Networks. All rights reserved.