"Tommy Lee Goes to College" won't make your hair fall out, give you bad breath or ruin your complexion. If it were fun, you could call it harmless fun.
The premise of this phony reality show, premiering tonight with episodes at 9 and 9:30 on Channel 4, is that the Motley Crue drummer, having conquered the music world and won tabloid immortality through sex and violence, has decided to pursue a higher education. That's also half the joke. The other half is that he pursues it at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Can those stolid, clean-cut Cornhuskers possibly be ready for Tommy?
For some reason, the university goes along with all of this, though some faculty members have voiced their dismay about it. Early in the first episode, Tommy has a private interview with Chancellor Harvey Perlman, who looks as if his lunch isn't agreeing with him.
"I think the university is taking some risks having you here," he says.
Lee acknowledges that and then turns on the charm: "It's a beautiful campus."
"Well, we think so, and don't trash it," the chancellor replies.
From here Lee is off to buy books and meet prospective roommates. There's something just a little unseemly about a 43-year-old man asking a kid less than half his age, "Are you cool with me bringing naked chicks in here?" but the kid defuses it by responding, "Well, I'm gay, so are you cool with me bringing naked guys in here?"
Eventually Lee settles in with a pleasant senior named Matthew and sends in a team of decorators to redo the place. Matthew seems happy until he realizes all of his things have disappeared.
The camera follows Lee to chemistry class, to English class, to physics class, to horticulture class, and he's bored and bewildered in each. He's only slightly more successful in his efforts to join the Nebraska marching band.
We can only guess what Lee is doing when the cameras are turned off, but a good guess would be that he's not studying. Soon he's behind in his classwork, and a comely blonde named Natalie signs on as his chemistry tutor. And where Natalie is concerned, chemistry -- of the interpersonal kind -- is exactly what he has on his mind.
However, through the first two episodes -- there are a total of six, and God only knows how they can fill them -- Natalie is all work and no play.
"He can do really well," she says, "but he just has to make up his mind if he wants to focus."
"Tommy Lee Goes to College" is billed as a reality show, but even in the depths of August that's a stretch. A disclaimer at the end of each episode informs us that "Tommy Lee attended classes but was not an enrolled student at UNL" and, just as tellingly, "Some elements have been produced and/or edited for comedy."
We also learn that some of the music heard during the show is available on Lee's current album, "Tommyland: The Ride" -- "available in stores now."
So maybe this is all the show is about: a music promotion plus a little attention for Lee, and a piece of cheap frivolity to help NBC while away the late summer.
Tommy Lee has a famously rotten temper, but here he comes across as an affable goofball, and his show is affable as well. It's just that there's nothing at stake here, nothing going on beyond one fast revelation: Affable goofballs tend to make lousy students. If you figure that out for yourself in the first 15 minutes, move to the head of the class -- and reach for the remote.
Tommy Lee Goes to College (30 minutes) airs tonight at 9 and 9:30 on Channel 4. The remaining four episodes will air at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.