The time of your life
For a 16-year-old “recovering band geek” who has just had, by her own description, the best night of her entire life, Alexa Fay is slightly hysterical. In fact, she’s crying – bawling – in front of a primary-colored hallway mural in her high school, where she’s just come offstage from a battle-of-the-bands. And Josh Haygood, a producer for MTV’s reality show Made, is getting the whole thing on tape. “I can’t believe it happened, and now it’s gone,” Alexa sobs. Down the hall, her Made coach, Frank Pino, is emotional as well. Red eyed and close to tears, the ordinarily ultra-suave and prototypically tough-guy front man for the Waltham band Waltham sits in a chair next to a drumset, holding a Spongebob Squarepants doll.
Alexa is from Bow, New Hampshire. She wanted MTV to make her a rock star. Frank is the man they hired to coach her. He did, and now here they are, at the end. “I want to see them play again,” Frank tells another MTV camera. “It was overwhelming, it’s a little emotional. I’m tired but psyched and exhausted.” The “them” is Alexa’s teenage band Fair Fight, who have been together for all of three weeks. The camera is still rolling. “I think I might become a teacher,” Frank says.
Those who can’t do?
Made has been turning dysfunctional high schoolers into surfers, prom queens, and rappers for years, and the formula hasn’t changed a whit: it’s all very John-Hughes-film-come-to-life, with a mix of new-agey personal transformation babble and practical, DIY boot-camp hard work. Not only is the premise evergreen, it’s also cheap to produce: Haygood follows Alexa around with a camera outfitted with a small light. Compared with other reality shows, Made keeps its tinkering to a minimum: the show’s story arc, Haygood claims, is organic. He says subjects aren’t fed lines, though people are ordered to repeat things that they’ve said off-camera. There are liberties taken with the back story, but they’re small ones: for the purposes of the show, Alexa is introduced as a “band geek,” when in fact she’s a classically-trained alto singer and a talented percussionist. Compared to the deceptions on the best-seller lists these days, that barely qualifies as news.
And Frank Pino is an odd choice for a rock coach. His band Waltham are signed to a large indie label, they have a rabid regional following, they have a huge blinking “Waltham” sign behind them when they play, but Frank is not yet a rock star himself, at least by the MTV definition. He’s a townie with gelled hair and duct-taped Dickies. The son of a contractor, he owns a tattoo shop, Pino Bros. Ink, in Inman Square. In loftier times, before the rise of the Darkness and Andrew WK and emo, Waltham’s throwback-to-arena-rock vibe was a fun, welcome respite from late-‘90s indie-rock and new-metal. They were sensationalized in these pages and featured on MTV’s “You Hear It First” segment. That was then. The band repeatedly squandered opportunities to make the big time, changed lineups, released CDs that couldn’t be sold, lost in the finals of a high-profile battle of the bands. They became the poster kids for how to squander a buzz.