In many of its so-called reality shows that clog a schedule once dominated by merry little music videos, MTV is redefining the American dream for its army of lazy-hazy viewers. Basically, there is this lofty goal: Make a living without working for a living.
Ah, to be awash in the lush and the plush, to be idolized and pampered and emulated and adored -- even if you don't have a hint of talent or intelligence.
"Twenty Four Seven," which espouses that ethos, might merit study by future sociologists, but the series (premiering tonight) does not deserve to be watched by viewers of the present. It's an unscripted version of HBO's luxuriant wish-fulfillment fantasy "Entourage." In the supposedly true and self-telling story of "Twenty Four Seven," seven guys pursue superficial goals and cheap dreams in Los Angeles, where egos blossom like wildflowers but are rarely, if ever, as pretty.
"Welcome to Hollywood," says narrator Greg Carney in the ridiculously trite introduction. "Beyond the neon and glitz, this is one tough town. It can eat you alive if you're not surrounded by good people. But me and my crew always make sure we have each other's back."
Greg Carney? How about Greg Corny? But hey, that's some fresh take he's got on wacky, tacky Hollywood, isn't it? "It can eat you alive" -- oh, we'd better write that one down.
Carney's "crew" includes his brother Chris, lead singer of a band called the Prom Kings; Matt Baker, an actor described as a "Val Kilmer look-alike"; a "hippie-surfer dude" named Greg Cipes; and an aspiring filmmaker named Ty Hodges, who is "getting some serious buzz in the industry." Carney boasts of Matt that "in the future, you can bet he'll be headlining movies." Yes, you can bet, and you can flush money down the toity, too.
We're expected to be fascinated and enthralled by this Loser's Brigade and the capers and scrapes they experience. Unfortunately, one of the major happenings of the first two episodes occurs entirely off-camera and is literally phoned in. Poor hapless Chris misses a big club date with the Prom Kings because he suddenly got it into his head to fly off to Hot Springs, Ark., for an impromptu old-home week of hunting and drunken driving. Naturally he was arrested soon after his arrival not only for DWI but for "aggravated assault" as well.
If they had a law against "aggravated being a jerk," he surely would have been charged with that, too.
"I partied a little too hard," Chris tells Greg. "You're retarded," Greg tells Chris. " You're retarded," Chris tells Greg. "You are really retarded," Greg tells Chris. They could go on like this for hours -- and maybe did, but their witty badinage is mercifully cut short by a videotape editor.
Just what L.A. needs: Another club
The pitiful excuse for a big group project -- a centerpiece reminiscent of a new restaurant's opening that dominated one season of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" -- is the grand debut of just what L.A. needs: a new hangout for slackers, phonies, druggies and slugabeds -- in this case, a club with the unimaginative name Casablanca.
Opening-night calamities include Chris's failure to appear, but that turns out to be not so catastrophic. Greg simply digs up some other crummy excuse for a band and puts them in the spotlight that had been meant for the poor uprooted Prom Kings. The stuff of high drama indeed.
But you know how Hollywood is. Beneath the tinsel and the taffeta, it's a mean little village that can tear out your heart and poke out your eyes and feast on your liposucted fat if you don't have your crew of homeys making with the mollycoddle -- and asking the rhetorical question, "Whassup witchoo, man?"
Previews of next week's episode promise a hint of visual interest at last: young women in bikinis splashing in a pool. Although the bikinis are brief, the bikini footage is briefer, shot during a party at "a mansion in the hills" and, in an apparent attempt at irony, intercut by the director with solemn goings-on at a church service. The point? Who knows, and who cares?
Chris returns from Arkansas and is greeted like a conquering hero -- after all, there was "no jail time" in his sentence, yahoo -- and he breathes the sweet air of freedom. Now maybe he'll settle down to the hard, harsh, demanding business of rehearsing with his cockamamie band. What's potentially scary about "Twenty Four Seven" is that the empty, vacuous lives onscreen are apparently supposed to come across as glamorous and enviable.
It's hard to believe that what happens on the show is really the whole truth, or that the producers haven't done considerable nudging and manipulating in an attempt -- futile, as it turns out -- to make the lifestyles look intriguingly authentic.
Let's just hope there'll be no more talk about what a tough town Hollywood is. If it were even the teeniest, tiniest bit tough, it would send goofballs like the Carney brothers and their raggedy rogues' gallery right back to Arkansas -- or to any other place that would put up with them.