'Rolling Stone' trots out the year's hot celebrities

December 14, 1993|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Here's a new form of TV programming for you: the docu-entertainment special.

That's what Fox is calling its "Rolling Stone '93: The Year in Review," which airs at 9 tonight on WBFF (Channel 45).

Actually, only the label is new. The format is basically the same one folks like Barbara Walters have been using forever. With apologies to the Fox executives who get paid for coming up with terms like "docu-entertainment special," what we really have here are celebrity interviews.

But while the format isn't new, the celebrities for the most part are hot, hot, hot. And they generally have interesting things to say -- even though their segments are more like expanded sound bites than full-blown interviews. There are 10 celebrity interviews crammed into the hourlong program produced by Rolling Stone for Fox: Jerry Seinfeld, Pete Townsend, Janet Jackson, Bono, k.d. lang, Steven Spielberg, Winona Ryder, Howard Stern, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre.

Not surprisingly, Seinfeld is the funniest. On women, he says: "It's simple. I got it, they want it. You'd think they'd come up and say, 'Hi, my name's Cheryl. Nice to meet you.' But, no, instead they hurl themselves. And it's hard to meet them, because a lot of times they overshoot me."

Seinfeld sidesteps accounts of his dating a 17-year-old girl with more one-liners and wisecracks. "I consider being in the tabloids part of being a full-service celebrity," the 39-year-old comedian says.

Among the most seemingly genuine moments of the hour are those with lang, especially when she talks about coming out as a lesbian this year.

"I came out, really, because I needed to personally. Worrying about sacrificing my career, it wasn't worth living with a guard or a defense any more," she says.

"And . . . I think people always knew I was a lesbian. . . . But I felt a type of responsibility to the gay community to stand up."

The most boring moments are those spent with Bono, especially when he explains what a cool guy he thinks Frank Sinatra is. I should amend that. If you are into talking back to your TV, Bono is wonderful as he hurtles through his self-important, crackpot raps.

Speaking of mockery, there's Howard Stern closing the show.

Among other things, he talks about why he does not believe he's a sexist. But mainly Stern is there to mock the special and in so doing prove to viewers how hip it is.

The name for this process is deconstruction. And as any David Letterman fan knows, hip TV deconstructs itself through self-mockery as it entertains. That's the real difference between this interview special and, say, Barbara Walters, who takes it all so seriously.

"I don't even understand this show. What is this show?" Stern asks belligerently as the final credits start to roll. "This is a special? And for an hour all these people sit around and talk about themselves? . . . It's a horrible show. It's an awful, awful show."

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