Gone Country: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Gone Country Review EclipseMagazine.com Television 

There are two things you need to know about me that are relevant to this review: I hate reality TV with the purplest of passions, and although I was raised with country music, from 1963 on, I’ve been a rocker at heart. That said, the one-hour premiere of Gone Country [Friday, CMT, 8/7C] – which takes seven very non-country entertainers and tries to turn them into country stars – is pure fun!

Bobby Brown. Carnie Wilson. Dee Snider. Diana DeGarmo. Julio Iglesias Jr. Maureen McCormick. Sisqo. These are the non-country entertainers who chose to take part in a two-week competition hosted by John Rich of multiple-platinum record selling country duo Big & Rich. To win, the performers will write and perform – live – a country song. The prize for the winner is that Rich will go into the studio with them and produce their country single.

The premiere opens with Riches tour bus picking the cast up from various Nashville locations and driving them to Rich’s place – a vast tract of land where they are left to ride ATV’s up to what Dee snider describes as “the biggest log cabin in the world.” You’ll understand when you see it. Rich’s home has to be seen to be believed.

The one-hour premiere serves as an introduction to this eclectic cast of performers [as the PR sheet describes them]. Bobby Brown, best known for a string of woes, comes across as a good guy – and forms a bond with Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!, Maureen McCormick – who is attempting to realize a dream she’s had since her days as the most recognizable member of The Brady Bunch.

McCormick is the most totally amped member of the cast. She is so enthused about the competition that she practically bounces her way through the premiere. Dee Snider [who really can’t function without caffeine] and Brown are definitely two alpha males – and they wind up as roommates! Sisqo [who writes all his music’s string parts] is paired up with the laid back Julio Iglesias Jr.

Gone Country Review EclipseMagazine.com Television

In the third bedroom, the three women bunk – and, yes, the phrase “slumber party” is uttered. While McCormick has the least experience as a singer, Diana DeGarmo, of course, finished second on American Idol behind Fantasia Barrino, and definitely has a good set of pipes. Carnie Wilson was best-known as being the daughter of one of the original Beach boys before her band, Wilson Phillips had three hit singles in 1990.

While the camaraderie of the premiere may not last through the show’s seven-week run – which ends with a one-hour finale on March 7th – the novelty of their situation brings the group together with Rich at a humongous table for a big country dinner and discussion of why they’re there [Dee Snider almost alienates Rich with his response] and then meet some of the top songwriters in Nashville, who will team up with them to teach them the ins and outs of writing a country song.

Maybe it’s because of the personalities of the cast; maybe it’s because they’re so into the competition, or maybe it’s just because Gone Country seems to be more positive than the usual reality programming – whatever. I like this show. Words I never thought I’d utter in connection with a reality show. I even felt for them when Rich played video of interviews with people in the streets of Nashville – and they all opined that none of the seven would ever make it as a country singer [that Rich guy plays for keeps!].

I hope it continues to be as much fun, because it really is a refreshing break from the cruelty of shows like American Idol, or The Apprentice. And for the record, my money’s on Carnie Wilson. I’m doomed!

Final Grade: B+