MTV has always been a high-styled celebration of
mediocrity. Take away the zappy editing, the unorthodox camera angles
and the loud thump of the music of the minute, and you will most
certainly be disappointed. However, we always pay no attention to the
man behind the curtain. MTV has always taught us that there really ain’t
no place like home – we’re staying in Oz and living at Ozzy’s house.
We’re also moving in with the gang of the moment on The Real World,
and we’re on the road again with Road Rules. Reality TV done the
MTV way has always been a bit more dazzling and far more imaginative,
long after MTV stopped being a music channel. And most importantly, MTV
doesn’t stop until they are sure that the hip young youth on the screen
are having more fun than you are.
That’s why the pointlessly hilarious Viva La Bam
hits its mark. We’re not quite sure why this guy, Bam (real name:
Brandon) has a show, and neither does he. Yet he’s representin’. Big
time. He may be TV’s most appealing and purposeless rebel without a
cause since Dennis the Menace. He’s what you would call “a real
character.” He’s big on frenzy, served up special for the kids.
Yet he really has nothing to offer us. So why do we
watch? Because he’s there.
In this Season Two and Three
DVD, there is so much we don’t know. Why is Bam so rich? Why is the
family nuthouse (a literal castle, actually) so fabulous? Why
does no one seem to have a job (even though we grudgingly realize that
MTV is footing the bill)? And why does Bam, who must be in his late 20s
and playing teen age, feel the need to torture his parents and his
ultra-pathetic uncle? Perhaps these questions were answered in Season
One. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
The plot is so thin that a housefly could watch:
Bam, who is apparently a “professional skateboarder,” lives in a huge
crib with his working-class parents and oddball, overweight uncle. Bam’s
word is law. Whatever Bam says, goes. And Bam always wins. Bam wants the
house decorated in “Goth Medieval,” and so be it. Bam wants to fly to
Rio, and the next thing we see is the trusty old plane montage. In the
cool opening credits, when the announcer asks him, “What are you going
to do now?” Bam steps off his skateboard and answers, arrogantly,
“whatever the fuck I want.” And every teenage boy in America has one
finger on each hand up.
He has, to say the least, a destructive streak: the
house, the car and everything in them get trashed to the point of
cliché. Dishes crash. Mud gets slung. Mailboxes are uprooted. It’s
Beavis and Butthead finally getting off the sofa.
The parents react badly – we helplessly watch them
do this. Bam’s interchangeable friends laugh their asses off. Rock and
roll. Roll credits.
Filmed all over the world (New Orleans, Amsterdam,
Las Vegas, The Mall of America) but based in West Chester, PA (a
Philadelphia suburb), Bam lives for us. He turns his house upside down,
but also turns his father and uncle into rock singers; he fills the
house with terror, but also with soap suds; he creeps us out, but he
also creeps out the folks at a retirement home (while planting trees
there, Bam says, “The trees and the old people have one thing in common:
they’re both going in the ground soon.”); he sticks it to us while he
sticks his mother in a hot air balloon.
The parents and the uncle are powerless. However,
they seem to be the kind of people who were wild once too. Ultimately,
mom is having a ball and strangely both repulsed and attracted to her
out-of-control son’s “anything goes” attitude. Mom seems to be subtly
drawn to the disorder and chaos. Not so much so for the uncle (Don
Vito), grossly fat and entertainingly inarticulate with his bitching and
moaning; played for a fool.
We briefly see a home movie of the father and the
uncle as children, frolicking in the snow. It’s a sad moment, because we
realize there how much weight they’ve gained and what they’ve become (or
not become). Mom, whose name is April but the family lovingly calls her
“Ape,” is good at reacting with horror. This includes screaming and
throwing out lines like, “You’re lucky that you’re my kid, because if
you were somebody else’s kid, I would kill you.” At one breaking point,
she calls Bam and his friends “assies,” and they die laughing.
Their Philadelphia accents are so thick that
subtitles are needed (Mom: “I try ta make ya a noice breffest and look
heeewl it turns eeeout.” Bam: “Slayer rocked da heeeeous!”). As well,
Bam’s celebrity is played down (thousands turn out to greet him at the
Mall of America, but MTV wants you to think of him as an Everyboy). The
fame is downplayed, but everything else is fair game. Yet you can sense
the MTV execs cooking up this joint. And no matter how entertaining the
opening disclaimer is (essentially “don’t be like Bam at home”), it
somehow poops the party.
Is there a real moment here? Not on the surface.
However, there is love and family bonding somewhere in this rock and
roll mess, and in the DVD’s bells and whistles, you see a savvy business
side of Bam that takes you by surprise just a little bit.
It is pretty much summed up in Bam’s dad’s T-shirt:
INFILTRATE. DESTROY. REBUILD.