He has traveled the world many times over with a hugely popular rock band, been romantically linked to both Pamela Anderson (now his ex-wife) and Heather Locklear and had his first book climb the charts of the venerable New York Times best-seller list. There is one thing, however, that Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee has longed to do yet has never done: go to college. To satisfy his urge to attend an institute of higher learning, Lee spent one semester at the University of Nebraska, and NBC captured all the mayhem for Tommy Lee Goes To College, premiering Aug. 16 at 9pm/ET.
Viewers follow Lee's journey back to the classroom, complete with seemingly typical extracurricular activities, like blending in on campus and trying to make the grade with the help of a peer tutor. Of course, cinema verité is not anything new to Lee, the unwitting star of one of the Internet's most famous downloads. It's just surprising that it took this long for him to go "legit" with a network reality series. "Those [offers] come through all the time," he tells TVGuide.com, "but this one in particular sounded fun because it was such a fish-out-of-water experience. It just seemed that this one could be fun and silly."
Arriving at UNL, where he lived just off-campus with roommate Matt Ellis, Lee wasn't most surprised by the cramped quarters or by the cafeteria food, but by something else. "Nothing really shocks me," he claims, "but I was a little blown away when, in one of my classes, these guys were full-blown cheating on their tests. I was like, 'Man, that ain't cool. I'm busting my b---s to get through this, and this guy's cheating!'"
And while his fellow students seemed to mirror, to some degree, the Hollywood lifestyle of partying all night, sleeping all day, Lee knew he was on campus to get a job done. "I was surprised when these kids would get done with their exams and race straight to the bar and go party. I was like, 'Whoa, it's 1 o'clock in the afternoon!'" he remembers. "I was there making a TV show, so it wasn't time to go out and party with these guys, but I was a little surprised that as soon as the pen hit the desktop, they were out to the bar!'
Lee wasn't a complete fuddy-duddy. His on-screen exploits include starting a fraternity (dubbed the "House of Lee") and putting his drumming skills to good use rocking out with the UNL marching band, which performs at football games. Alas, a good, old-fashioned panty raid didn't make the cut.
"My roommate Matt's girlfriend escorted us into a sorority house — I've never experienced that before, where they have to announce, 'There's a man on the floor!' — and I look around and there must have been a hundred bunk beds in this giant house! I thought, 'It would be so cool to come in here dressed in drag, delivering pizza,' but we ran out of time. I was bummed because I thought it would make a funny skit."
With College behind him, Lee has returned to the glitz and glamour of a worldwide concert tour with Mötley Crüe that winds up in December, but he could resurface on TV another day. When we pitch the idea of "Tommy Lee Goes to West Point," he laughs, then says, "You never know. We had some meetings a few weeks ago [with NBC] discussing what might be next. I think we're going to do something else, we're just trying to figure out what the perfect next move would be."