Commentary

Oh, The Pain of Fame: Morgan Spurlock Chronicles High-End Tedium

Richard-Branson

We're not entirely sure what to make of Sir Richard Branson's life from the 22-minute synopsis that is the premiere episode of Hulu's "A Day in the Life." The head of Virgin Airways spends much of the 24 hours on planes, doing press interviews, and showing us what a decent, smiley, giggly guy he is.

The barely-interesting first episode of Morgan Spurlock's six-part series for Hulu launched yesterday with Branson leading a celeb list that will include will.i.am and stand-up comedian Russell Peters as well as Girl Talk.

Spurlock, the maker of "Super Size Me" and the recent "Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is listed as Executive Producer of the series and provides the voiceover intro, but is otherwise invisible in this episode. The pitch is that the man who has made himself the hapless center of his own films for a number of years (eating fast food for a month or hunting bin Laden) now turns the camera on others for a 24-hour span. A ticker in the corner of the screen appears to give us a sense of the day's progress. In this case Branson is in America to publicize new routes for his airline Virgin America and demonstrates how silly he is willing to be in the process. He dons boxing gloves and silks to dramatize his eagerness to take on the bigger competitors. Along the way he explains much of his own antics and a public life in the service of brands.

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For fame chasers, one doesn't need much more than 20 minutes or so of stargazing, so no doubt Day in the Life will be good enough. Ultimately one is left wondering if Branson really is spending 24 hours a day flashing a wrinkly smile, chuckling nervously and following his handlers without complaint or moodiness, or if we just got a webisode of celebrity product placement.

"A Day in the Life" suggests that a format is not necessarily itself a revealing lens onto reality. A daylong slice of Branson's life doesn't really render a lot of interest, and very little insight into the man at all. This is actually a Web-sized version of a much more interesting TV series Spurlock produced for FX, "30 Days." There he spent 30 days actually experiencing a slice of extreme but very real life, from living on minimum wage to a month in prison. That was interesting. When the camera gazes skyward to the "stars," however, things feel tedious.
1 comment about "Oh, The Pain of Fame: Morgan Spurlock Chronicles High-End Tedium".
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  1. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, August 19, 2011 at 10:29 a.m.

    Big fan of Morgan Spurlock, but this is a misstep. He's best as an amiable muckracker, not a starf#cker. You nailed it on the "30 Days" observation, Steve. Good piece.

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