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And truly, the home of Rolling Stone on the show, which premieres tomorrow at 10 p.m., is far from the early-1970s boho digs portrayed in Cameron Crowe's movie "Almost Famous." The 40-year-old rock institution now occupies sleek glass hallways above Rockefeller Center, and its editor and publisher, Jann Wenner, presides over his multimillion-dollar empire in a palatial office that probably has a massage table in one of its closets. You know, for après Aspen.
The six interns may have thought rock journalism would be all rock 'n' roll, but they will learn otherwise in the course of the 10-episode series. "I'm From Rolling Stone" is a promising reality show because it reveals to young writers schooled on MTV the difference between doing work and having attitude. Capturing pop-music news and ideas in words requires more than just wearing fake gold teeth and partying with the likes of Nelly Furtado and Lupe Fiasco, who appear in the series. Surprise: It's a craft! As in Rolling Stone's famous 1980s ad campaign about its readers, the interns' perceptions are different from the reality.
In perhaps the most excruciating scene in the first two episodes, for example, a Beck-ish 19-year-old intern named Colin prances into an interview with the band We Are Scientists, and he is completely unprepared. Dazzled, he chitchats nervously and asks feeble questions. The band mocks him; he doesn't know they're mocking him. They are Scientists, he is their lab mouse. We are the cringing viewers.
Wisely, MTV doesn't go over the top in a "Real World" or "Laguna Beach" social-drama kind of way. Hot tubs don't appear to be on the agenda. Also, Wenner is not set up as the Donald Trump-like figure that all the wannabes want to be. The interns work with executive editor Joe Levy and Rollingstone.com editor Alex Mar, and Wenner is a peripheral figure. Not that they all even know of Wenner and his importance in the history of rock journalism. "Ian -- is that Ian?" says Krishtine to Wenner when he calls her to award her the internship.
Likewise, the challenges aren't as hokey as they are on "The Apprentice." The interns are asked to interview musicians in different cities, write stories on deadline, rewrite stories on deadline -- the kinds of tasks essential to writing for publications and websites. The most prepared intern appears to be Russell, a scrappy alumnus of a juvenile hall who has a bit of contempt for Rolling Stone. He already knows how to be both professional and yet personal with artists such as Ghostface Killah, a balance that some of the others struggle with. If you need an artist to like you too much, you're probably going to blow your story.
Only one of the interns seems to have been stunt-cast to add color. When we meet Peter, an Australian crew jock from UC - Berkeley, he is partying with his buddies and ignoring phone calls from Wenner, despite the fact that the MTV film crew is there waiting to film his reaction to the call. Really, he belongs on a season of "The Real World," tapping kegs, getting drunk, and using Rolling Stone magazine as a coaster.