'Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous' review: Rising above the superficial, one-joke premise

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Image Credit: MTV

Zach Stone just graduated from high school. He lives with his parents. He works part-time at a grocery store. And he has no plans for college. Instead, he chose to spend his savings on a camera crew to film a reality show about his life. He’s convinced he’s going to be famous.

MTV’s latest half-hour scripted sitcom, Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, is a meta-takedown of the “anyone can be famous” mold of reality television. As the show’s co-creator and star, Bo Burnham brings manic irreverence to the character of Zach Stone while trying to make his life more interesting than it is, much to the annoyance and bewilderment of everyone around him.

Zach hasn’t quite hit the megalomaniac heights of a truly delusional “famous for nothing” personality, though, and Burnham plays him as an insecure teen convinced that the promise of fame is the simplest fix for not having a clue what he wants to do with his life. Because there’s an inherent empathy to the character, it’s a delight watching him strive and fail to make the mundane ordinariness of his suburban reality sexy. But sometimes vacuuming every room in the house is just vacuuming every room in the house — and Zach knows it.

Zach’s straight man contrasts are essential to the formula, from his best friend who won’t participate in the ruse to the girlfriend who he’s trying to hide from the cameras because she’s not cool enough. Another standout performance is from Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future‘s Biff) as Zach’s exasperated father. The supporting characters are all painted realistically and don’t fall into the trap of just being a “type.”

The pace slows when the episode veers towards sincerity near the end, but it’s hard to fault the premiere for attempting to set up an overarching thread that doesn’t merely rely on Zach being ridiculous. Overall, it’s a promising debut and we’re excited to see where MTV takes Zach Stone on his ill-fated quest to be famous. B

Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET on MTV.

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