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'Going Hollywood': Doing the Showbiz Grunt Work


OK, what's the only thing worse than being an assistant in the entertainment industry? Having a video camera capture the experience for television, of course. So pity the three subjects of the new reality series "Going Hollywood," which starts tonight on the cable channel TLC. Here's TV critic Andrew Wallenstein with a review.


Buddy Ackerman was the fictional studio executive played by Kevin Spacey in the 1994 movie "Swimming With Sharks." Here Ackerman gives some tips to his new assistant.

(Soundbite of "Swimming With Sharks")

Mr. KEVIN SPACEY: (As Buddy Ackerman) No judgment calls are necessary. What you think means nothing. What you feel means nothing. You are here for me. You are here to protect my interests and to serve my needs. So while it may look like a little thing to you, when I ask for a packet of Sweet 'N Low, that's what I want.

WALLENSTEIN: Today Kevin Spacey runs his own production company. He is one of three Hollywood hotshots who hires an intern and then opens his office to the new reality TV show "Going Hollywood." But unfortunately, Spacey is no Buddy Ackerman. I was hoping to witness the kind of indignities "Swimming With Sharks" dramatized. Instead, "Going Hollywood" offers up the garden-variety ineptitude on display in any cubicle. In addition to Spacey, the series focuses on companies led by veteran Hollywood producer Robert Evans and the rapper-slash-actor Method Man. Big names, yes, but don't let that fool you. We don't really see much of them and when we do it's in canned snippets. Here, for instance, Spacey offers advice for underlings like in this pretaped segment.

(Soundbite of "Going Hollywood")

Mr. SPACEY: There are things you cannot control. You can't know whether they think you're going to be interesting enough or talented enough or any of those qualities that you think they want. All you can trust at the end of the day when you walk into a room is yourself, the ground you're standing on and what it is you're there for.

Unidentified Man: All right.

WALLENSTEIN: "Going Hollywood" doesn't get much mileage, either, from the callow trio of 20-somethings hired to be interns. I wanted to root for somebody, but none of them showed that classic mix of hustle and moxie necessary to make it in the business. I even felt bad for Spacey's intern, Ian, who has a wife and kid to feed in San Antonio.

(Soundbite of "Going Hollywood")

IAN (Intern): And more than anything, I want to find work in the film industry, but around here there's just not--there's not a lot going on with film. To support my family, I either have to find a job doing what I love, which in this environment's just not very likely, or I can do something that I'm not interested in really at all.

WALLENSTEIN: The inner workings of Hollywood can make for a good reality show. HBO's late, great "Project Greenlight" proved that, but this series doesn't demonstrate a feel for the subculture in which it's set. Its mellow vibe just doesn't capture the viciousness of the business. Ultimately, "Going Hollywood" just isn't Hollywood enough.

BRAND: And that's TV critic Andrew Wallenstein.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.