This is the first of four pieces in a series of entertaining MTV shows of the recent past that were cancelled. First up is Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous.
Hearing that a show is on MTV may lead one to believe that it is targeted towards high school and college-aged viewers. But one thing it does not explain is what personality-type is being targeted.
Bo Burnham is a different type of comedian in the way that his act is more of a one-man show than a traditional standup set. He incorporates songs, (vulgar) poems, and one-man sketches into his act that has matured as time has gone on. The act itself has matured, as opposed to the material that is immature as ever but in a creative way that only Bo Burnham could pull off. This refined style is evident in his most recent special, what., that can be found on Youtube and Netflix.
The show put on by Burnham on stage is one that features an exaggerated version of Burnham himself. This exaggerated version finds its way into Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous that aired its only twelve episodes last summer.
The quest to be famous and avoid attending college is what drove Burnham’s character, “Zach Stone” throughout the summer after high school. Every episode, minus the finale, feature Zach in a different quest to achieve fame. From being a chef, to making a sex tape, to being an actor, Burnham captures the dire quest to be famous in a television season spanning only four hours.
The way in which Zach Stone captures his quest to get famous is in the way of an in progress reality show, hence the title of the show. The camera crew that follows him around act as characters in the series, which is something that only happened late into the run of The Office, and they exist in order to catch things that seem secretive based on the style.
These four hours of programming reveal the kind of crowd that would enjoy this show. It is not at all the crowd that would ever watch Jersey Shore or basically anything else on MTV, save maybe Catfish because how can you not like Nev and Max’s adventures?
The crowd is that of the introverted late-teen to early twenty-something. While Zach Stone is a very outgoing character when trying to become famous, he is rather shy and uncomfortable in social situations when he is just being himself.
This type of viewer (who, I think, is rightfully called a “smart viewer”) prefers a more witty and clever sense of humor that is certainly found in the comedic stylings of Bo Burnham. The type of viewer who finds themselves watching Tim and Eric clips for hours on end without even noticing the passing time. Also known as the kind of person I would like to hang out with.
There is something else about the kind of person that watches a show like this. Bo Burnham often sticks up for the “not cool” crowd in high school as seen in his song “Nerds”. The song itself is not even funny but it is a serious song about a topic not often talked about in popular music. An excerpt:
Nerds, the faggots, the spastic fat chicks
who sit in the back with no one to do their lab with,
the kid with acne and tons of Proactive packed inside his backpack.
I got your back, kid.
The plight of the title character on Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous of wanting to be famous and avoid the often terrifying thought of going to college after a brutal four years in high school is not all that uncommon. While the show is not one that offers realistic hope to those wanting to become famous, it does serve as an embellished example of one trying to do all they can to make a name for themselves without having to go through college. It can even be expanded further to describe what certain college students try and do to avoid working in jobs that they may have no desire to be in. One could say that all you have to do is pick a major you like, but not everyone has the same choices as the ideal college student with money becoming the ultimate determinant of a major. And the influence of parents.
The issue with a show focusing on this type of crowd is that networks may not see the ratings they would like to see, due to the cult-like following that goes along with shows like Zach Stone. Alas, the show was cancelled after a single season.
It seemed inevitable that the show would not last on a network like MTV due to its style of humor which was far too clever for the average MTV viewer. It seemed that the show would have been better suited on IFC, where it would certainly fit in more, or on Comedy Central with Workaholics serving as its lead-in. HBO could even be a possibility where normal censorship worries are no issue.
Maybe those options would not work but the show’s open ending allows for a return if Bo Burnham should want to bring it back. The fact that he is only 23 years old allows for a great deal of possibility for someone who has had so much success at such a young age. He could start working on other shows or even a movie. Until then, enjoy each of the twelve different theme songs for the first and sadly only season of Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous.