Are there second acts in American life? Check our celebreality world, and you’ll find the answer’s yes. Rejuvenation is the idea behind Mission: Man Band, where four former boy band singers connect to see if they can reclaim the spotlight. It debuted last night. And it made some of us misty-eyed. Really.
Mission: Man Band isn’t your usual Celebreality freakshow. Instead it’s the story of four guys who went from almost instantaneous mega-popularity to pop-culture footnotes, world-beaters to underdogs. The show finds them trying to restart their careers in spite of overwhelming odds. They’re not obnoxious. They’re not prone to nudity. They are struggling. You should get to know them.
The men of Man Band are Chris Kirkpatrick (formerly of N*SYNC), Jeff Timmons (formerly of 98 Degrees), Rich Cronin (formerly of LFO) and — amazingly — Bryan Abrams (formerly of Color Me Badd). In the first episode, which aired last night, the four meet at Kirkpatrick’s house in Florida. Each explains what he’s got going on mentally and emotionally. Kirkpatrick and Timmons still seem caught up in the aftermath of the late ’90s boy-band media frenzy. Cronin explains how his ongoing battle with leukemia has totally altered his way of looking at life — making every moment count is his mantra. And Abrams, who has put on some weight, discusses his recovery from alcoholism. When we meet him, he’s working at his wife’s family’s tire shop, questioning whether to continue with music or give it all up for the sake of his family. But with the support of his wife, he decides to make the attempt.
After settling into Kirkpatrick’s house (which is decorated a little oddly, true), the four meet their new manager, Katie McNeil. She’s a blonde-haired curmudgeon who’s got the attitude of a prison guard and the bonhomie to match. We’re clearly meant to hate her. It works. We do.
The narrative of the first episode doesn’t provide much in the way of action, since the show is mainly a head-trip-style exploration of psychology. That said, the men wind up at a Native American ceremonial firepit to share their hopes and fears, and celebrate new beginnings. It brings a refreshing level of sincerity to reality TV.
It’s not your usual VH1 Celebreality freakshow at all.
Watch Mission: Man Band Mondays at 10 p.m. on VH1.