Tonight: Don't Stop Believin' on PBS

Ferdie Arquero and Nomota LLC
Ferdie Arquero and Nomota LLC / Ferdie Arquero and Nomota LLC

Tonight (Monday, September 30) on PBS stations in the US: Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey, the story of the rock band Journey and its latest frontman, Arnel Pineda. The documentary airs in most markets at 10pm/9c, but check your local listings to be sure.

Here's a treat -- the PBS documentary series Independent Lens starts its new season with Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey a film about Arnel Pineda, the Filipino singer who joined Journey in 2007. The documentary, directed by Ramona Diaz, explores the band's process in finding Pineda on YouTube (!), integrating him into the band, and proceeding on a massive arena tour. The film is primarily about Pineda, showing an intimate view of his childhood in poverty, a glimpse of his struggles with addiction, and his transformation into the lead singer of a hugely popular rock band. Throughout it, Pineda is a joy to watch, and he carries the film. You just want the guy to win.

Although Don't Stop Believin' is basically a feel-good documentary (it artfully avoids discussion of the complex web of former band members, for one thing), it's a ton of fun to watch. For Journey fans, this is a must-see. As even a minor Journey fan myself (I only know the hits), it was a joy to watch, including a well-paced mix of live performance, behind-the-scenes shots of the tour, and interviews with Pineda and many others (including the entire current Journey lineup, Pineda's family and friends, and so on). If you've never been backstage at an arena, you'll see how unglamorous it really is, and get just a taste of how exhausting it is to put on a massive show day after day.

My main complaint is that the film mentions some of Pineda's dark history with drugs and alcohol, but fails to meaningfully discuss it. Instead, it spends a lot of energy on concert footage and showing the stress of a major tour. On the bright side, the entire film is one long exploration of an issue Pineda raises late in the film: that he never wanted to be a "cover band singer," but that's what most people seemed to want from him, and it's where he has found the most success -- though he has recorded original material, it wasn't particularly successful. Every time we see Pineda onstage in Journey, we see a strange combination of "cover band singer" (the man sounds a lot like Steve Perry to me), and "lead singer of Journey" (who has performed and recorded new material with the band -- and who is a full member of the band, both artistically and financially).

This is a concert film for rock fans, featuring an uplifting story. It's not a breakthrough documentary in technical or artistic terms, but boy, you'll have fun watching it. Here are some clips:

Here's the performance Neal Schon refers to at the end of that clip (song begins around 0:45, and the "holy crap, this guy can sing!" shivers begin seconds later):

And some more clips from the documentary:

If that catches your eye, set your DVR to record Independent Lens. The documentary airs in most markets at 10pm/9c, but check your local listings. Alternately, the documentary is streaming on Netflix now -- and the Netflix version is slightly longer. (I'm not sure what the difference is, having only seen the POV cut.)