Z Rock: Season 2
One of the most common fantasies is to be a rock star. Millions of teenagers start garage cover bands and may even get a gig or two playing proms or other local events. For the lucrative tween market this predilection was addressed with the mega hit on the Disney channel with ĎHannah Montanaí. This fantasy does not fade with age though. There are fantasy rock and roll camps where for a good size sum of money adults can live out their rock dreams for a week or two. For adults like this the Starz cable has come up with a more mature take on the ĎHannah Montanaí dual identity with a much more mature variant called ĎZ Rockí. This is a truly odd little series that surprised me when I first encountered it in my review pile. I received the season 1 DVD but at the time of its release I was in the hospital recovering from a stroke. When the season 2 screener came in I had watched the first season which impressed me enough to anticipate this set. The show is just fun to watch. The plots are mostly predictable with the occasional bizarre twist but itís the cast that sets this series above the pack. It also struck a personal chord by being filmed and featuring the place I have lived most of my life; New York City. Every episode highlights places Iíve hung out and streets Iíve walked down on a regular basis. With a series that has the tendency for the surreal this touch nicely grounds the proceedings in reality. This is the kind of a series that would best be described as a sleeper hit. It kind of creeps up on you after watching a couple of episodes but hits home because of the honesty in its goals; give the audience a good time by letting the cast and crew have fun with what they are doing.
In many of the markets where this series airs the distribution is through a Starz- Anchor Bay associate, the Independent Film Channel, IFC. This is not a surprise since there is a look and feel similar to an Indy film at work here. Helping this aspect along quite a bit is the choices made in casting. The central characters, the band members, are playing sort of alternate reality versions of themselves. The lead singer and guitarist is Paulie Zablidowsky. His brother David is on bass and vocals while their long time friend Joey Cassata is the drummer. In real life their band, Z02, is a successful group in real life opening for rock staples such as Kiss and Poison. Individually they have worked with some of the biggest acts around. For example David as been in Joan Jettís band and Joey worked percussion with the Blue Man Group. All of this definitely works in favor for the series since most episodes feature some of the luminaries of the rock world. There manager Dina is played by real life stand up comedienne Lynne Koplitz. In the context of the series she is related to Joan Rivers who also plays a twisted version of herself along with her daughter Mellissa. Dina and Mellissa usually argue mostly over having sex with each otherís boyfriends when they where teens. In the series does have scripted plot points and established direction to guide the story arcs but the actual dialogue is improvised giving a more natural cadence and flow to the show. Unlike the real version of the band this Brooklyn based rock group has trouble making ends meet. In order to earn enough money to pay the rent their day job is as ĎThe Z Brothersí, a very popular birthday party act with the upscale grade school set. This dichotomy between heavy metal rock and playful kidís music is one of the most refreshingly premises Iíve seen in a TV series for a very long time.
As the second season opens the bandís big break has fallen through after a big time producer, Harry Braunstein (Greg Giraldo) is show a video of his wife Kitty (Samantha Buck) having extremely energetic sex with David instead of the bandís demo. They decide to break up but when their friend and club owner Neil (Big Jay) has a huge opportunity for them and gets Dina to help trick them into reuniting. They think the gig is with KISS but it turns out to be with a little personĎs cover band. These guys are such lamentable albeit likeable sad sacks that you have to feel good about your day after watching them.
I realize that there has been a share of negative reviews for this show and I can understand how people might come to those opinions. Still, there is something about the characters that just rings true. Iíve grown up knowing guys exactly like this. These characters may appear cartoonish to some but if you grew up in Brooklyn they lived right down the street from you. For example you might notice some strong cultural similarities between the Italian and Jewish characters. Now if you come from Brooklyn you would realize that in both cultures the guys have strong ties to their families particularly their mothers, food is extremely important and there is a pride in their heritage. Iíve been to many dinners in homes like this so watching it played out here is a lot of fun and reassuringly familiar. New York City is very much a character in this show not only with locations but activities like grabbing a hot dog from a street vendor or rushing uptown on the subway. Perhaps Iím overly nostalgic since I recently had to move across the river to New Jersey but there is a lot about this series to like. Sure, itís silly at times but every so often itís just what is needed.