Think of “Z Rock” as another “Curb Your Enthusiasm” knockoff, while adding a “This Is Spinal Tap” riff to the medley. Built around a New York band that rocks by night and performs at children’s parties by day — hence the theme song’s line, “To pay the rent, we gotta play for kids” — it’s a raunchy, fitfully amusing half-hour. Admittedly, the group’s members aren’t even close to being actors, but the situations loosely inspired by their real lives do yield some laughs, as well as broad “Extras”-style cameos by actual celebs as tweaked versions of themselves.
Brothers Paulie and David Z and pal Joey Cassata just want to rock as ZO2, but they keep playing kid gigs while waiting for rock stardom’s fickle finger to anoint them. In the interim, it’s a constant struggle for their manager, Dina (Lynne Koplitz), who isn’t Jewish but attends temple “for the connections.”
Joey has a girlfriend, but the two brothers revel in the groupie-groping that even pseudo rock-godhood bestows — so much so that they nearly screw their way out of a big break in the premiere. That half-hour finds them hoping to open for Joan Rivers, while entertaining at a party thrown by a foul-mouthed record mogul (comic Greg Giraldo) after a romp with two women who turn up as guests at the event.
Of the episodes previewed, the main highlight comes in the sixth, when rocker Dave Navarro agrees to direct a ZO2 video — his commitment to artistic integrity mixing uncomfortably with his tendency to say incongruous things like, “Who here has banged Carmen Electra?”
Even culled from reality, the show is wildly derivative, from the rock excesses on (fairly graphic) display to the art-imitates-life-aspiring-to-do-art conceit. One suspects the show would be tighter and more focused if the producers junked the semi-improvised approach, though given how marginally convincing the guys are playing themselves, following a detailed script could be a bridge too far.
Despite such shortcomings, the absurdity of watching the band engage in an escalating feud with a rival trio of kid performers is genuinely chuckleworthy, and the series’ rough edges seem well suited to its latenight IFC berth.
“Z Rock” isn’t a master opus by any means, but given its modest scope and ambitions, credit the show with striking a few of the right chords.