What do you get when you take a hip-hop mogul and place him at the center of a jumble of overused reality TV plotlines? The answer — and yes, unfortunately there is an answer — can be found in Oxygen’s newest reality series “Running Russell Simmons.”

“Running Russell Simmons”

Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
Oxygen

For those who don’t know, Russell Simmons, often referred to as the “Godfather of Hip Hop,” is the co-founder of the music label Def Jam and head of the media organization Rush Communications. The show chronicles his life as he rubs shoulders with some of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities and deals with his business, both personal and commercial. But the show’s namesake doesn’t derive from Simmons alone, but from his entourage of assistants who together “run Russell Simmons.”

The pilot episode’s description may sound as confused as the show itself, but here goes: Simmons’s two assistants, Christina and Simone, are in charge of his day-to-day life. From planning a charity benefit to organizing a fashion shoot, responsibility lies with them. Christina and Simone have just hired two interns. After a trial run, one of them will get a position as a new full time assistant for Simmons.

From here the storylines continue to pile up. There’s the drama with the photo shoot, the over-the-top penthouse party complete with models and a charitable cause, the drunken debauchery and the squabbles between Simmons and just about everyone who works for him. None of these plot points are tied together in any linear manner. We haphazardly jump from one frenzied storyline to the next — at times the two interns engage in catty dialogue as they vie for the assistant position, while at other times we’re whisked around Simmons’s luxurious New York City penthouse apartment, going from room to room examining in detail the extent of his wealth.

All of this is confusing and annoying. While a reality series devoted solely to the life of Simmons has entertainment potential (in the way that any pop icon holds potential to entertain just by virtue of having an unbelievable lifestyle), “Running Russell Simmons” fails to pick any one direction to go in. The result is a tangled web of storylines and personalities that are underdeveloped and don’t fit together in any coherent manner.

It seems that in its attempt to one-up the competition, Oxygen is trying to do too much. The scenes of Simmons’s playful banter with famous acquaintances are light and engaging. He holds court in his New York office where various celebrities dote on him and ask for favors. These scenes, in their reality TV way, mirror those of Marlon Brando as Don Corleone. Alone, this aspect might make for a worthwhile series. But the show runs for an hour – far too long for such frivolous subject matter. Streamlining the themes or shortening the length could improve the show’s chances for success. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.

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