'Bands on the Run' Is Fun

For every garage band that breaks out of obscurity, there are scores that never even get close.

In the new "reality-based" series Bands on the Run, four unknown and unsigned bands-with a little help from VH1-compete for a shot at the big time. The catch? Live the dream in a media fishbowl, with a camera crew in tow to record every success and failure.

For an egomaniac seeking fame and fortune in the spotlight, that might not be a very high price after all.

The rules are pretty simple: Four bands are relieved of their cash, credit cards and cell phones while simultaneously embarking on an eight-week, 13-city tour. The show supplies them with $20 per day per member, a gas card, a phone card, a hotel room at each locale and a personalized van. They must then accumulate the most moolah from ticket and merchandise sales, plus-in a new category added since the pilot-win certain "bonus" challenges for additional cash.

Despite the initial repulsion that might come from the whining, complaining and pranks engaged in by the various members of the bands (with such unlikely monikers as Soulcracker, Harlow A.D., Flickerstick and Josh Dodes Band), this is entertaining TV. A mix of Real World, Big Brother, Road Rules
and The Gong Show, Bands
is covert in its charm and likely to suck one into the lives of these wannabe musicians. It's clear they all crave attention, are willing to do just about anything to realize their dream of a recording contract, and don't mind if we watch.

Besides, as musicians, a couple of the groups are actually quite talented.

Every four weeks, in a twist added since the pilot, the band that has earned the smallest amount of money gets tossed from the tour. This leaves the two finalists to compete for the grand prize: $100,000 in new equipment, a big-budget video that will go into heavy rotation on VH1, $50,000 cash and, perhaps most importantly, a private showcase for record company execs and the real opportunity to sign that all-important record deal.

is an interesting behind-the-scenes peek at what it takes to be a rock star. Sure it's staged-and could hardly be called cinema verité-but it gives an idea of just how hard (and fun) it is to live a life out the road.

One might not want to do this for a living, but it sure seems like a fun way to spend the summer.

Bands on the Run
bows Sunday, April 1 on VH1.