A Hershey Wrapper, for Example

The fine fellows at Unshelved (you know, that comic about librarians) included a link to this essay in the New York Times: You Never Know What You’ll Find in a Book.

Just the other day, my mom showed me a candy bar wrapper that she found in one of her library books. It was definitely of the Hershey family, but whether it was for a plain milk chocolate bar or the tastier chocolate with almonds bar, I'll never know.

The essayist's name also struck a chord: I recognized him as the host of a short-lived but hilarious show on VH1: Rock of Ages. I also enjoyed its companion show, Vinyl Justice, featuring Wayne Brady.

What's that? You're not as familiar with late '90s basic cable programming as I am? Here's a snippet from a review that appeared in the New York Daily News on August 25, 1998, to bring you up to speed.

. . . [T]onight, with reruns dominating everybody's schedules, VH1 takes the wraps off two new half-hour series, one of which has enough snap and style to justify a look, while the other qualifies, alas, as a clean miss.

"Rock of Ages" (at 9) is the far better of the two, although this first installment is neither as consistently smart nor as entertaining as the series pilot was in June. The show takes a familiar concept everybody's a critic applies it to music and music videos, and tests it in a variety of lighthearted, contrasting contexts.

The best of the segments features the multi-generational members of the Anderson family, who watch videos by Madonna, 2Pac, Lenny Kravitz, Vanilla Ice and Michael and Janet Jackson, and then respond to questions from co-host Henry Alford, an absolute master of deadpan, schoolmarmish questioning: "What about portraying Michael Jackson as a space alien? Isn't that sort of redundant?"

Alford is not quite as successful in other segments, including one with two separate groups of dancers seniors at Manhattan's Supper Club and pre-teens from a ballroom-dancing class watching videos by Madonna, Janet Jackson and Will Smith. And co-host Emmy Laybourne has even more difficulty with her segment with some Mets players and coaches, as well as with the young players for the Bayside Paragons.

At least the weak moments in "Rock of Ages" can be attributed to flawed execution. "Vinyl Justice," on the other hand, is hamstrung by a ragged concept that leaves its two quick-witted and appealing leads, Barry Sobel and Wayne Brady, twisting in the wind.

Sobel and Brady play, for lack of a better term, music cops who cruise the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles looking for supposed violations of some ill-defined musical rules.

The results can be amusing motorists asked to explain why they're listening to Celine Dion, Estelle Getty chided her about her workout video but the show desperately needs an identifiable comedic point of view that could anchor the segments' blandly ironic attitude.

— Eric Mink, Daily News TV Critic

Now playing on iTunes: Joe Walsh - Rocky Mountain Way
via FoxyTunes

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