Having launched so many showbiz careers (of admittedly variable quality), American Idol and its producers are enjoying success not beyond their wildest imaginations, but exactly as they imagined it. In addition to the usual advertising revenue generated by the show, money is sluicing in via the ongoing synergy with AT&T, album and download sales, licensing and so forth, not to mention the ongoing careers of its participants. In the wake of that kind of success, it was certain that other shows would come along and do their emulation act. Shows like Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, Nickelodeon’s Instant Star and, most notably and recently, FOX’s Glee, have integrated music product into their plot lines that’s designed to serve as an ancillary revenue generator.
Hot on Glee‘s heels comes Nickelodeon’s next big thing, Big Time Rush, created by Scott Fellow, developer of Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. In a partnership with Sony’s Columbia/Epic imprint (the announcement of which implicitly heralds the expectations both companies have for the project), Big Time Rush will be a new music/comedy series centering on the lives of four young friends as they try to make their mark in the tough-but-glamorous L.A. pop music scene.
Nickelodeon will air a special one-hour preview of the series Nov. 28, that will set up the series. In it, 16-year-old Kendall (Kendall Schmidt) will find himself “discovered” by an eccentric record executive and presented with the opportunity of going to L.A. and pursuing a singing career — from which Kendall manages to leverage a deal involving bringing three of his friends to be part of his pop group.
One of the most curious aspects of the series is its self-referential nature: A show about the manufacturing of pop stars from raw adolescent material, during which pop stars are manufactured out of (ostensibly) adolescent material. A long time ago, a sizable segment of America voted and said that this was the way they like to consume pop music — through television — and the stream has been growing ever since. The funny thing about this series, though, like other shows based on fictional acts (IFC’s decidedly more-for-adult-children Z-Rock comes to mind) is that their premises are still based on the decades-dated concept that the key to stardom in the music industry involves “discovery” by a slick A&R executive and the subsequent “record contract” — standbys that, while still desired by some in the music business, are far from the holy grail that they used to be.
It would be pedantic to suggest that the boys become overnight sensations via a viral video or some such means; as it is, the conventional music-biz approach functions just fine — it’s a simple plot device that allows the show to proceed. It might have been more honest for the series to have been about a group of youngsters who are approached to be on a show for a kids’ network, but that might just be too self-referential … or come too dangerously close to reality TV.
© 2009 Viacom International, Inc. Credit: Stewart Shining