The Wanted live - on reality TV

LONDON - You do not get any better for a sign of things to come for a reality series than an opening line where one of its characters gushes: "Oh my God, a f***ing pool table!"

Enter The Wanted Life: an eight-week series on the E! network conjured by American host and producer Ryan Seacrest, made in the name of putting the Kardashian gloss on British boyband The Wanted's encounters with Hollywood high life.

The rationale?

Successful United Kingdom boybands do not just dream of conquering America on concert tours.

They make a record in the hallowed Los Angeles, bring two girlfriends along, trash a deluxe mansion, dish out smart-ass quotes about their bad behaviour and stream everything onto reality TV.

The irony of the cliche? It just might actually work.

"You're gonna see them stripped back and in the raw, quite literally, on some occasions," says E!

Entertainment's London boss James Newton at a press launch for the event recently.

The show debuted in the United States on E! channel to 1.7 million viewers on June 2. It was probably less successful than the producers had hoped for.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians' new season this year premiered on the same network to 3 million viewers and the show averages 2 million viewers for each episode, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Wanted Life premieres in Singapore on Sunday.

While death tolls are chiming everywhere on behalf of an ailing global record industry, savvy managers are busy dreaming up their next business model for the musical act - reality TV.

With labels constantly dropping older hits for new ones in an unstable market, bands look for re-invention and longer shelf life by turning to parallel and new media for options.

A recent report by the Economist highlights non-music content, from television spin-offs to variety show formats, as one of the key growth areas in the music industry.

To be sure, The Wanted have a healthy enough track record for a group of five lads talent-scouted four years ago through auditions - Max George, 25, Jay McGuiness, 23, Siva Kaneswaran, 24, Tom Parker, 25, and Nathan Sykes, 20.

With three albums, multiple UK chart hits (All Time Low, Heart Vacancy, Glad You Came) and more than a million copies of Glad You Came alone sold, they are enjoying success on both sides of the Atlantic.

But who would not want more, not least "parties, parties… and beautiful girls everywhere", as George keenly describes in the show?

As fellow member McGuiness puts it at the press launch: "I wanna go for another holiday for three months." That the boys do not take themselves - and often, their work - seriously is patently obvious in the footage itself.

Barely off the plane, they are shown planning for their maiden Los Angeles bash in their unspeakably luxurious abode, furnished with eternally stocked bar, barbecue pit, swimming pool, jacuzzi, table- tennis facilities and the famed pool table.

In one scene, curly-haired McGuiness smirks directly into the camera: "I feel, like, we're pregnant… with a party! But I have a feeling this party is gonna be waaay too big for our birth canal."

The day after, with at least one sexual conquest nearly caught on camera but fully recalled and reinterpreted by eavesdroppers for TV, the house is appropriately redecorated with food and unidentified organic matter; the jacuzzi on its way to becoming - as one bandmember puts it - a giant petri-dish for bacteria.

Their manager Scooter Braun, who also represents Justin Bieber, is not amused - if not for the reported £10,000 (S$19,300) in damage the lads were eventually asked to pay, then for ruining their voices at the subsequent recording session for their new album, Walks Like Rihanna.

Amazingly enough, the boys are recalcitrant and remain so for television.

"But we're all like in our 20s and we're gonna have a party," McGuiness says with a pout in the first episode. "We're not gonna, like, set fire to a baby and burn it."

So the story goes on.

No parties at home? Get to the bar instead, to pick up beautiful girls "who have come all the way to LA to make it and make it as waitresses", as McGuiness declares with aplomb.

Kaneswaran's and Parker's tag-along girlfriends are bored with teenage fans? Take them shopping. Buy them enough bling to make Kaneswaran's paramour Nareesha swoon: "Michael Jackson, dance your heart away."

Too hoarse to sing? Turn it into a concert situation, let the adrenaline kick in.

"I'm just pumped, man, pumped and ready to go," Sykes, baby of the group, is shown saying in an episode, minutes before an LA gig swarmed over with tweenies.

It is all almost as superficial as The Kardashians, and potentially risks a high annoyance factor. But you have to give it to the lads for being as outrageously honest and funny as they are first-class twits.

At the London launch, George, for example, admits to having once been "so intoxicated that I almost drowned in the hot tub - our cameraman saved my life. Kevin dragged my wrinkled, naked body out".

A trip to the White House to sing for Mrs Michelle Obama gets everyone a-flutter, not quite only for the honour of meeting the first lady.

A band member says at the press launch: "We were very excited we got to sit on the toilet in the White House!"

Another adds: "And flush!"

And while cameras shadowing everyone got pretty much close to every single piece of action, there were apparently some deleted scenes - or not.

The band say, in chorus together for the press, in what must be a rehearsed joke: "You've got to see the manginas, the manginas are awesome." (According to Internet reports, Mangina has a few meanings, all of them rude and sexual.)

It is not all fun and games, of course.

At some point in the show, Kaneswaran's sensible girlfriend Nareesha finally starts making noises about his "living situation" and getting people to clean up.

And poor Sykes, first shown telling everyone "it's tough to be 19" because he cannot drink alongside the lads, is landed with emergency surgery for nodules in his throat.

Will he recover? Will everyone stay friends? What will happen to the girls? And temporary girlfriends?

That the band were together at the press launch still making moronic small talk hinted that nothing more than temporarily bruised egos and a £10,000 debt for trashing a mansion were incurred.

Parker tells reporters he is "looking forward to Season 2, a world tour".

Things, however, may take a sufficiently different turn with time.

George, famed for his way with LA's women, is asked about his one-night-stand with the "hot brunette" early in episode 1. "She hasn't rung me with any news," he says cheekily, almost triumphant. "Give it another seven months and I'll tell you later… I have a feeling I am so going to regret saying that."

stlife@sph.com.sg


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