The Electric Barbarellas: TV Review
May 4 (MTV)
Gary and Julie Auerbach
The reality show, about an all-female singing group, was put into production at Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone's behest over the objection of network executives.
When it comes to guilty pleasures, there's ordinary reality television, and then there's The Electric Barbarellas.
Brought to you by MTV and executive producers Gary and Julie Auerbach (Decoded, Paranormal State), this latest contrivance to deal with the quest of fame ups the ante on all that is superficial, implausible and fleeting in contemporary popular culture. In other words, it's as organic as Velcro and as addicting as Pringles.
Taking its cues from such unreal reality fare as Jersey Shore, The Real World and Making of the Band, TheElectric Barbarellas chronicles the rise of an all-female singing group as they storm Los Angeles, act badly toward one another, drink too much and show precious few signs of actual talent along their path toward what one fears is inevitable celebrity. As the producers of American Idol brilliantly realized all those seasons ago, keep a singer on television long enough and, by definition, he or she becomes a star.
Helped along by handy captions with accompanying subheadings, we meet our cast, which includes Heather, the leader; Chelsea, the princess; Raven, the model; Missy, the rocker; and Gynger, the comedian. With bona fides like that, it's hard to see how the act could fail, no? Or, as Heather so intuitively puts it, "The only way this is going to work is if we do this together." (Heather was previously linked with Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone in press reports, and the show reportedly was put into production at his behest over the objection of network executives.)
Electric Barbarellas doing things together is where we find the tension in our fledgling drama, whether the girls are clad in bikinis while soaking in the jacuzzi or thrusting corset-enhanced cleavage at photo shoots.
"It took four years, and my entire life savings, to find the right girls, the right house and the right city to hopefully get signed by a major label," said Heather, the band control freak and the focal point of the premiere episode.
Right away, however, we're led to wonder whether Heather has a problem telling right from wrong, as her bandmates seem more interested in getting blotto on booze and making fun of their leader than actually dedicating themselves to the group.
Every scene in The Electric Barbarellas has a Take 12 spontaneity to it, from the moment the girls first see the lavish apartment that Heather is said to be renting for the group (what unsigned musician has the cash for that?), to their choreography lessons, to the requisite catfights. But what really takes the cake is when Heather, Raven and the camera crew head to a record producer's home and, on the basis of assurances that the rest of the girls in the group aren't psychopaths (stay tuned!), land the elusive record deal just in time for the climax of the first episode.
Yes, watching The Electric Barbarellas requires something greater than a mere suspension of disbelief. To last an entire half-hour show, much less a whole season of them, you've got to power down whatever portions of your brain house such overrated functions as critical thinking.
This is candy, and it's well made candy at that, with snappy edits, and good lighting, and makeup and wardrobe professionals who keep the Barbarellas camera-ready even when popping out of bed first thing in the morning.
To spend too much time finding flaws with TheElectric Barbarellas is akin to pointing out plot inconsistencies in Scooby-Doo episodes. Sure, you could, but maybe it's just better to sit back and have a good laugh.