×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous’

Although it looks like an MTV show, “Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous” doesn’t feel like one — in good ways, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for its future. A savvy takedown of the reality-TV culture, this single-camera satire zeroes in on a burning, warped desire to be famous that MTV, as much as anyone, has stoked and exemplified. Will the audience weaned on “Jersey Shore” be receptive to a comedy about a clueless youth determined to gain his 15 minutes of fame? It would be pretty to think so, but unlike the title character, don’t bet your life savings on it.

Indeed, even MTV appears oddly oblivious to the ironies of this dichotomy. The show, a lampoon of tag-along TV, premieres behind the network’s latest spinoff involving a member of the “Jersey” gang, Vinny Guadagnino, and his sort-of talkshow “The Show With Vinny.”

Much to the chagrin of his family, high-school grad Zach (comic Bo Burnham, who also co-wrote with Dan Lagana) has decided to “spend my entire life savings on a reality show about myself,” hiring a crew to follow him everywhere he goes documenting his life. Even during a breakfast argument with his parents (Kari Coleman, Tom Wilson), he whisperingly urges mom to “cheat to the camera.”

Zach is so committed to building his image (“Classic Zach,” he says after doing something, as if we all know what that means) it’s hard to determine where the real guy ends and his imagined version begins; still, he’s not wrong when he refers to the camera as his “wing man,” inasmuch as having the crew tail him (and they keep inadvertently finding their way into shots) actually attracts attention from a beautiful former classmate (Shelley Hennig) who wouldn’t give him the time of day in school.

In subsequent installments, Zach contemplates losing his virginity oncamera (he studies porn on his brother’s iPad in preparation for the moment) and tries passing himself off as an accomplished chef to impress Amy (Caitlin Gerard), the platonic female pal he obviously harbors feelings for, which is just one of the show’s youthful cliches.

Still, the program is funny in an uncomfortable way, since Zach is so tone-deaf and self-obsessed he sees everything — including a funeral — as simply a backdrop for staging his personal drama. It’s to Burnham’s credit, actually, that the character is still mildly sympathetic given how relentlessly obnoxious he is.

While the concept is hardly original (and probably hews closest to the movie “EdTV”), the series still feels fresh and timely. The main problem is that the brand of reality TV in question has become so farcical as to virtually thwart attempts at parody, leaving a narrow sweet-spot between those who buy into the carefully massaged melodrama and others who aren’t engaged enough to bother laughing at it.

As MTV has discovered, moreover, some of its more laudable scripted offerings (“I Just Want My Pants Back” comes to mind) haven’t connected with sizable audiences. “Zach Stone” isn’t an unqualified triumph, but it’s satisfying enough that one hopes MTV can justify keeping the cameras rolling, if only to see where our would-be hero’s quest leads him.

 Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous

(Series; MTV, Thurs. May 2, 10:30 p.m.)

Cast: Bo Burnham, Kari Coleman, Tom Wilson, Cameron Palatas, Caitlin Gerard, Armen Weitzman, Shelley Hennig.

 Filmed in Los Angeles by MTV. Executive producers, Dan Lagana, Bo Burnham, Dave Becky; producer, Robert West; director, Jeffrey Blitz; writers, Lagana, Burnham; camera, Matt Sohn; production designer, T. Stefan Gesek; editor, Grady Cooper; music, Bo Burnham; music Supervisor, Elizabeth Miller; casting, Wendy O’Brien, Jeffrey Gafner. 30 MIN.

More News

  • Akira

    Taika Waititi's 'Akira' to Face Off Against 'John Wick 4' in 2021

    Warner Bros. has dated its live-action “Akira” movie, directed by Taika Waititi and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, for May 21, 2021, when it will face off against “John Wick 4.” The studio announced the date on Friday, two days after pushing the release of “DC Super Pets” back a year, avoiding opening against “John Wick [...]

  • Sylvester Stallone

    Cannes: Sylvester Stallone Says 'Rambo' Wasn't 'Meant to Be a Political Statement'

    The final day of Cannes was devoted to honoring Sylvester Stallone, who conducted a masterclass on the Croisette, where he looked back at his 43-year career and discussed how he never intended “Rambo” to get so political. Thousands queued outside the Salle Debussy to sit down with the star and gave him a raucous standing [...]

  • Nancy Pelosi

    Facebook on Defensive Over Fake Pelosi Video

    Facebook faced growing criticism this week over its decision not to remove a video that was doctored to suggest that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was intoxicated during a recent public event. The video, which has been viewed more than 2.5 million times, had been slowed down notably, giving the impression that Pelosi was slurring her [...]

  • Little-Black-Mirror-Maia-Mitchell

    Netflix Launching 'Little Black Mirror' Spinoff Starring Maia Mitchell, Lele Pons, Rudy Mancuso, Juanpa Zurita and More

    To promote next month’s premiere of “Black Mirror” season 5, Netflix is launching a spinoff of three shorts — “Little Black Mirror,” with a cast that includes an ensemble of Latinx social-media stars. The three “mini-stories,” aimed at Spanish-speaking audiences, is inspired by the tech-dystopian universe of Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones’ anthology series. “Little [...]

  • What | If

    Renee Zellweger and Mike Kelley on Deconstructing Fate and Consequences in 'What/If'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “What/If,” streaming now on Netflix. Writer and executive producer Mike Kelley’s latest piece of dramatic storytelling is a limited series morality tale that starts with a high-powered, wealthy woman named Anne Montgomery (Renee Zellweger) offering Lisa, a young woman with a startup (Jane Levy), [...]

  • Microsoft's Project xCloud Rollout Hits 13

    Microsoft's Project xCloud Rollout Hits 13 Regions, Capcom, Paradox Testing

    Microsoft’s take on cloud-gaming — an approach to game development and deployment that theoretically makes games playable on any system without the need for porting — continues its rollout, with the company on Friday detailing work they’re doing with developers Capcom and Paradox Interactive. Project xCloud now has custom server blades at Azue datacenters in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content