Love and Rock 

UPN’s Chains of Love vs. VH1’s Bands on the Run? No Contest.

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UPN is run by morons. I came to this conclusion after spending three days last week trying to get someone, anyone, at the United Paramount “Network” to stay on the telephone for an extra five seconds before passing me off to a the next clueless publicity hack, who would in turn forward me to another clueless publicity hack, and so on. Electronic purgatory.

It seems no one at UPN is doing any work beyond updating their résumés while waiting for the Viacom bosses to eventually locate the office and say, “Look, we’ve decided to go in a more profitable corporate direction—like 24-hour Mexican soap operas, or something. Can you have the desks cleaned out by five? Thanks a bunch.”

All I wanted was some additional info and a screener tape for Chains of Love (debuting Tuesday, April 17, 7 p.m.), UPN’s latest “reality” program. But that was apparently asking too much. As the kids say, it’s all good, because The Only TV Column That Matters™ doesn’t need a preview screener to tell you Chains of Love is the stupidest damned thing in the history of television. And I’ve still got the pilot tape of The Weber Show, people.

Not surprisingly, the “intensely emotional” Chains of Love is brought to you by the geniuses behind Big Brother and Blind Date, and is ripped off from a Dutch program. (“Hey, let’s swipe a hit show from a country where everyone’s stoned! It’ll be great!”) As per the clever title, one woman is shackled to four men (and one man to four women) for four days on camera, systematically cutting the complete strangers loose one at a time until the True Love Connection that can only be forged by endless hours of consensual videotaped humiliation is achieved. Any similarities to P. Diddy and J. Lo are purely coincidental.

One pair hit it off so well in the European version of the show they had late-night sex under the covers while still attached to the rest of the slumbering chain gang (!), but don’t expect any such titillation from the American Chains. For six weeks, the only people getting screwed will be the hundred or so mouthbreathers who bother to tinfoil the rabbit ears and tune in UPN for this.

Unfortunately, for all its contrived machinations, Survivor is starting to look like highbrow reality-TV entertainment. Not that it isn’t still total crap, and any of you pinheads watching—especially those of you suckered in by that “Survivor’s Greatest Hits” clip-job a couple of weeks ago—shouldn’t be allowed to operate motor vehicles, handle sharp objects or even work in the publicity department of a basement-level TV network. Besides, Jerri was the best one and now she’s gone, so what’s the point? … I mean, I know nothing of Survivor

Since KUED 7 lost the nerve to show PBS’ newly-acquired American High and pulled the plug before it even aired last week, there’s only one show in the swelling reality-TV ranks available to you that’s real and real good: Bands on the Run (VH1, Sundays, 11 p.m.). It’s a ’round-the-clock, video-chronicled competition between four indie bands driving from town to town, promoting gigs and playing club gigs between all-too-vivid bouts of getting drunk, bitchy, laid, drunk, overemotional, overtired, drunk and drunk again. Bands on the Run is edgier than anything on supposedly hipper sister channel MTV because, aside from the cool vans and nice hotel rooms ponyed up by VH1, the over-the-top situations are the genuine article. Rock bands don’t need to be dropped on an island to live like animals; that’s why they’re in rock bands.

The prize of $150,000 in cash and music gear (as well as a showcase for record-label weasels) goes to whichever band has taken in the most money in ticket and merchandise sales at the end of 16 weeks on the road. All four groups—Harlow (female goth-punks), Soulcracker (average alt-rockers), Flickerstick (Radiohead with anger issues) and the Josh Dodes Band (a duller Dave Matthews Band, if that’s possible)—play the same night in the same city, seeing who draws the bigger-paying crowd after a day of desperately talking themselves up to the locals. Do they pull sabotage stunts and rip down each others’ flyers? No, that never happens with bands.

I’m pulling for Harlow because, 1. They’re hot (in a tough vampire-chick sorta way) and, 2. They love to party and just don’t give a shit. Their tunes aren’t bad, either, but mostly it’s the hot thing. In fact, if Chains of Love somehow manages to make it to a second season, I want to be chained up to Harlow—I’d be dead in a week, but it’d be sooo worth it.

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