Why You Need to Watch MTV's 'Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous'
Why You Need to Watch MTV's 'Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous'
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Summer is a time when TV typically slows down, which makes it the perfect time to discover something new. And that show needs to be MTV's Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous.

A scripted comedy airing Thursdays at 10:30pm, Zach Stone is already midway through its first season, but all of the episodes are available at MTV.com and On Demand, so it's not too late to catch up.

The show's premise is clever and simple. Zach (played by the show's co-creator Bo Burnham) is a recent high school graduate whose goal is to become famous, so he uses his life's savings to hire a camera crew to film himself in order to make a reality show about his life, which will then lead to fame a la the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo, etc. He considers himself a "pre-celebrity."

Filmed in documentary-style like The Office, each episode of Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous features the eager kid doing something different to become a star, whether it's becoming a singer, getting a makeover or making a sex tape.

But why do you need to be watching this hidden gem of a series? Here are five good reasons.

The Voice of a Generation

To be honest, I had never heard of stand-up comedian Bo Burnham, the show's 22-year-old star and co-creator, before I watched it. But that's my bad. He's a popular YouTube sensation with over 100 million views, half a million subscribers and over 700,000 Twitter followers. Yet somehow his show is getting less than all of that.

This kid is funny. Really funny. He has the kind of boundless energy and exuberance that seems to define his ADHD-addled generation. He's spastic, quick with a comeback and has a clear sense of what his voice is, things I certainly didn't possess when I was 22.

Lena Dunham got a lot of attention for her HBO show Girls, praising her as the voice of her generation (or as her character put it, "A voice of A generation"). Burnham, however, is the next iteration. In today's rapidly-changing world, a generation doesn't last 10-20 years, it lasts five, max. So while Dunham, at 27, might speak for the alienation of post-college, overeducated hipsters, Burnham represents a younger and more fascinating demographic.
He's from a generation that thinks iPads are a civil right, Twitter followers are more important than Facebook friends (which are both more important than REAL FRIENDS) and fame is not something you earn, but something you take. He's a part of the generation for whom Snooki is more well-known than the Secretary of State. It's a generation that sees Farrah Abraham as someone to aspire to be.

I don't mean this to sound depressing, but to explain where this show fits into the larger realm of pop culture. Kids used to want to grow up to be doctors and astronauts. Zach Stone and the kids of his generation want to grow up to be celebrities, as if that's an actual profession.

This is a fascinating time to observe sociology and the differences between generations on a microscopic level. I'm less than 10 years older than Burnham, but we may as well have been born 100 years apart given how different things are. Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous is a show that speaks to those differences and offers a glimpse into how this new generation thinks.

It's thoughtful, insightful and a brilliant commentary on fame-seeking exhibitionism. Plus, it's funny as hell.


You remember Biff Tannen, the token bad guy in the Back to the Future movies who always found himself covered in manure. Well, good news, because Tom Wilson, who played Biff (as well as the gym teacher on Freaks and Geeks) plays Zach's constantly annoyed father. Surely that ups the show's cool factor by about 10 points.

MTV Needs More Scripted Hits

I love that MTV is getting heavily invested in scripted programming. It has two successful hits, Teen Wolf and Awkward. The Teen Wolf season 3 premiere had the show's highest ratings ever and Awkward gets solid numbers and receives quite a bit of critical praise. But they need more.

In the past two years the network has had far more failures, like zombie cop comedy Death Valley, British adaptations The Inbetweeners and Skins, and the Girls-esque Underemployed and I Just Want My Pants Back. All died after a single season. MTV needs to get a few more hits under its belt to justify continuing to pursue scripted programming, which is necessary unless you want them to go back to reality trash like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom.

Robbie Amell

Do you know who Robbie Amell is? Well, you probably should, because he's the Next Big Thing. The hot 25-year-old started on kids shows (Disney's Life with Derek and Nickelodeon's True Jackson, VP), then graduated to recurring roles on shows like How I Met Your Mother (as Robin's dog-like boy toy Scooby), Revenge (as Charlotte's boyfriend) and Alcatraz (as the younger version of Robert Forster's prison guard Ray Archer in flashbacks).

Now he's on fire. This year he starred on NBC's 1600 Penn (as the First Daughter's presumed baby daddy), he has a recurring role as Zach's romantic rival on this MTV comedy and he will star in the CW's new fall drama The Tomorrow People, which is sure to be a big hit (and which will air after Arrow, starring Robbie's cousin Stephen). He also has a role on the insanely popular ABC Family drama Pretty Little Liars as Noel's older brother.

The opportunity to see Robbie Amell in anything should be jumped at since he's the next guy you're destined to have a huge crush on, if you don't already.

It's the New Comeback

If you're a diehard TV fanatic, you may remember a one-season HBO comedy called The Comeback starring Lisa Kudrow. It centered on actress Valerie Cherish who used to be a huge sitcom star but, years later, she desperately tried to return to fame. The docu-style comedy was brutally funny, and sometimes just brutal, as the character's best laid plans always fell apart and resulted in painful, sometimes unwatchable disaster. It was amazing.

Zach Stoner Is Gonna Be Famous is that show's kid brother. The format and underlying premise are very similar, as are the hilariously awkward tragedies. In one episode Zach goes to a pool party but, ashamed of his body, he gets an absurd fake tan and abs that are painted on. He's cocky and proud of himself, but when he jumps into the pool the paint washes away. People flee as the pool turns a muddy orange color. The scene is almost too hard to watch because it's so hilarious and tragic at the same time.

It might not be easy, but it's worth it because it hits a very real, painful emotional center. Zach Stone isn't just a fluffy MTV comedy, it's an often scary look at the lengths people will degrade themselves to achieve even the slightest bit of fame without working for it.

Those are just five reasons to watch Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, but there are many more (each episode features Zach singing a different version of his own theme song describing that episode's mission). It's a brilliant, funny, heartfelt gem of a comedy that deserves a lot more viewers than its getting. The season is only half over and all of the episodes are available on MTV.com or On Demand, so get caught up, watch the show Thursdays at 10:30pm on MTV and enjoy. To get you started, here's the "Pilot."

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(Image courtesy of MTV)