A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous is a scripted faux reality show about a celeb-crazed teen that's fairly mild for teens, but includes references ("date rape" and "banging cheerleaders") that's likely too edgy for tweens. The characters sometimes curse, though the strongest words are bleeped. However, the meta-joke of mocking a character desperate for fame probably won't make sense to younger viewers. All they'll see is a cute young man on TV, not that his desire to be seen and adored makes him ridiculous. This one's fine for teens to watch on their own, but if parents do watch along, they may want to discuss reality television, fame, and whether either one is worth pursuing.
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What's the story?
Bo Burnham is Zach Stone in ZACH STONE IS GONNA BE FAMOUS, MTV's new fake reality show. Stone has just graduated from high school. He has a part time job at a grocery store. He lives with his parents and younger brother. And he wants to be famous so badly that he spends all his saved-up money to hire a camera crew to follow him and make reality show drama out of his boring, ordinary life. His well-meaning folks are bewildered and hoping he'll change his mind and go off to college like his friends. His friends, including the girlfriend Stone tries to keep off camera because he thinks she's not cool enough for his image, are exasperated. And Stone himself is just clueless, hoping against hope that someone, somewhere will fasten their gaze on him and make the mundane nonsense that is his life feel worthwhile.
Is it any good?
Young people desperately seeking fame is a time-honored dramatic concept, but the ambitious upstarts are usually pictured as conniving (All About Eve, Nashville) or big-hearted strivers (Dreamgirls, Fame). Seldom is the young person at the center of the action depicted as well-meaning but clueless, and not really interesting enough to be the pivot around which the plot hinges, despite his stated wish to be famous for making people happy, like "Oprah, Bono, and Mario Lopez."
But that's the meta-joke of Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, and it's a sophisticated enough idea to intrigue viewers who've grown up on reality TV. We're used to watching manufactured stars playing "real" manufactured drama. And though Zach himself is an unremarkable young man, watching him try to juice up his average, everyday life, and friends and family enough to make him filmable is pretty hilarious. Plus? The show boasts Thomas F. Wilson as Zach's dad. You know, Biff from Back to the Future, the coach from Freaks and Geeks. He's always great, and he's great here, and he and Zach are great together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about reality shows. Are there any reality shows like the one Zach is supposedly making? How are personality-driven reality shows like Snooki & Jwoww, My Life on the D List or Keeping Up with the Kardashians alike? How are they different?
What opinion is the viewer supposed to hold about Zach? What in the way he is presented brings you to this conclusion?
Zach frequently tries to "improve" on everyday goings-on to make them more interesting for the camera to film. Do you think this is really what happens on a reality show? How real is television "reality"?
For kids who love comedy
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