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Posted at 11:52 AM ET, 08/30/2006

Perfect Pitch: Celebrity Duets

By Liz Kelly

As a child of the 70s, I was privileged to live in the era of the variety show. Sonny and Cher, the Mandrell sisters, Donnie and Marie Osmond, "Hee-Haw," Sha-Na-Na, the Muppets -- even the Brady Bunch -- all jostled one another for the primetime viewers by unleashing a cavalcade of fading stars and corny skits to us on an almost nightly basis. And guess what kids, there was no cable so it was Donnie and Marie hamming it up with Ruth Buzzi or -- bummer -- back to the Spirograph or, heavens forbid, a book.

Singer Cheech Marin. (Photo Courtesy Fox Broadcasting)

So it was no surprise last night when former variety show queen (and current disturbing doll designer) Marie Osmond herself declared that television variety is back. And so it is, as a somewhat predictable off-shoot from the celeb-reality tree. It was only a matter of time before C-lister's surreal lives proved a little too tedious and TV execs pulled a more digestible format out of the mothballs. Why bore us with a season of contrived homelife when we can comfortably enjoy contrived performances for much less production time and money?

And so it happened that Fox last night delivered perhaps the cheesiest in the recent spate of celeb-variety shows, "Celebrity Duets." For me, "cheesiest" is synonymous with "most anticipated." My mouth literally watered contemplating the pairing up of the names of yesteryear with, well, the names of yesteryear. (I will say here that I'm surprised by the heft of some of the musicians scored for the show -- although they may not have had a hit in decades, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight and Peter Frampton are still legends.)

The two-hour live show was a smashing success. When performances were good, they were good. When they were bad, they were better. Wayne Brady ably hosted with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek jabs at the contestants, while judges Osmond, Little Richard and David Foster (playing the Simon Cowell-esque heavy) also entertained with their impromptu remarks. My favorite lines of the night were delivered by Little Richard, who no doubt pulled from a deep well of such quips ("You got to get out the mustard and catch up.").

Still, the sometimes painful pairings were the highlight of the night. Cheech Marin choking his way through Frampton's "Baby I Love Your Ways," wrestler Chris Jericho's (clad in some kind of pleather get-up) off-key singing and overbearing stage presence, Lea Thompson's Elaine-esque hip shaking. Priceless. Alfonso Ribeiro, Hal Sparks and Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson all turned in respectable performances that will probably carry them through to the finals.

Frankly, though, it doesn't matter who wins because the competition was the real prize for us viewers.

A blow-by-blow (and it all mostly blowed) follows after the jump.

Kathy Griffin in audience. Does this mean she's so D-list she couldn't make it into the competition?

Wayne Brady just praised these celebs for "risking your entire reputation by singing on live TV." Something tells me this is a risk Alfonso Ribiero is willing to take.

The first round of performances:
Lucy Lawless and Michael Bolton ("Time Love and Tenderness")
Lucy sounds pretty good and since I'm not a regular watcher of "Battlestar Galactica," can I just note that she looks decades younger than she did on "Xena?"

Alfonso Ribeiro and Michelle Williams ("I Knew You Were Waiting")
Alfonso stole the show here. He's got a great voice and seemed in control, whereas ex-Destiny's Child Williams came off as a bit lost.

Carly Patterson and James Ingram ("Somewhere Out There")
Carly Patterson is so cute and sincere I just can't bring myself to crack wise about her. Some small bit of goodness still left inside me now wants her to win.

Cheech Marin and Peter Frampton ("Baby I Love Your Ways")
Shockingly, Cheech Marin can't sing at all. This is painful. I wish he was high. I wish I was high. Tommy Chong went to jail for nine months, but I think this fate is the worse.

Lea Thompson and Randy Travis (some country ditty)
Okay, is it just me who had no idea that Thompson has a current show called "Jane Doe?" Still, remember her in "Some Kind of Wonderful" and how it was so unbelievable Eric Stoltz's sensitive artist character would be crushing on some 30-year-old looking chick regrettably rocking cowboy boots with a mini-skirt to high school? Yes, well, that impression was only confirmed by her off-beat hip shaking and super-thick country twang. My god, duet partner Randy Travis won't even look at her.

Jai Rodriguez and Gladys Knight ("Since I Fell For You")
Jai's singing is fine, but for a supposed fashionisto, he looks like he raided Lucy Lawless's closet and borrowed a leather bustier to wear over his shirt. Carson Kressley must be rolling over in his hyperbolic chamber.

Chris Jericho and Lee Ann Womack (some country ditty)
Most painful performance of the night. Clearly steroids do not help with singing. If I had to judge this performance without knowing its provenance, I would say this is a stalker singing to his prey right before stuffing her in the van.

Hal Sparks and Smokey Robinson ("Tracks of My Tears")
The former "Talk Soup" host is turning in a respectable performance but someone please stop Smokey Robinson. He's having trouble and it's painful to watch.

Random Notes on the Judges:
Little Richard's bon mots --
"I was born at night, but not last night."
"You got to get out the mustard and catch up."
"He's got what it takes and it takes what he got."

Marie Osmond is an attention hog and needs to stop saying "relatability." She's also hit on both Chris Jericho and Hal Sparks. Is that LDS-approved behavior?

David Foster was clearly brought in to be the heavy. He's got to do better than this, though, to out-Simon Simon. Perhaps a British accent would help?

By Liz Kelly  | August 30, 2006; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  TV  
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Liz, thank you, thank you!!! I'm in the middle of moving, without TV until Saturday. I was CRUSHED that I was going to miss the debut of this fine show! Can you blog an update every week? Your synopsis ROCKED!!

Posted by: OrganicGal | August 30, 2006 12:11 PM | Report abuse

it's prolly better than the actual show....

Posted by: b | August 30, 2006 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Isn't Alfonso a little bit of a ringer on this show, since he started his career on Broadway in "The Tap Dance Kid"?

Posted by: Joe | August 30, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I only caught the last 45 minutes or so, but is it just me, or is Little Richard playing the Paula Abdul role on this show? And, is it possible that he is even more incoherent that she?

Posted by: Aoife | August 30, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Wayne Brady's Little Richard screams were more Little Richard than Little Richard.

Posted by: yes, I watched it | August 30, 2006 12:43 PM | Report abuse

geez, poor smokey robinson, bummer dude.

Posted by: otis | August 30, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

David Foster? THE David Foster!?!

David Foster telling me what constitutes good or bad music is like Dick Cheney telling me about patriotism or, I dunno, Gene Weingarten telling me whether Wildfire is a better song than I'm On Fire.

Posted by: byoolin | August 30, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I just LOVE Wayne Brady, and he was pretty good as a host. The only thing that would have made the show better was if he sang. BTW, are they using the same stage as AI?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 30, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I started to watch it, but then changed to CSPAN3 for something more enthralling...

Posted by: Joe D. | August 30, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I just clicked on the Marie Osmond Web site. Not only are the dolls totally frightening, but one of them has a blog! Her name is Adore Belle. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Posted by: ahhhhhhhhhhhh | August 30, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I could have sworn it was Hal Sparks and Gladys Knight. If it was actually Smokey Robinson, the guy's really let himself go.

Posted by: David Bruggeman | August 30, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

All in all, it was pretty good late summer entertainment. I'll continue to watch.

Posted by: mart | August 30, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I just wanna say that I love love love Little Richard in that Geico commercial. (Burt "Lizard licks his eyeballs" Bachararch is also fab.)

Posted by: Mashed potatoes, gravy, and craaaanberries | August 30, 2006 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, did you happen to check out the Adora Belle Little Devil?

Posted by: Liz | August 30, 2006 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I went to sleep before the end. Who got kicked off?

Posted by: lmthib | August 30, 2006 5:23 PM | Report abuse

What show were you watching? Carly Patterson was completely awful and is only alive because Jericho was worse. Ribeiro was only slightly not as good as Jai Rodriguez, which is to say he was awesome. Hal Sparks needs to stay away from the Motown -- his voice has no soul. And Marie Osmond is more Paula than Little Richard. She spent the first 2 minutes of each critique saying how much she loved the singer's outfit, look, style, etc. and cut into the other judge's times.

Posted by: Lee | August 30, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I taped it to watch later, and found myself desperately wishing that my remote had a 'skip Little Richard' button ...

Posted by: JC | August 30, 2006 7:27 PM | Report abuse

fwiw, spirographs rocked.

Posted by: m | August 30, 2006 10:44 PM | Report abuse

i'm just sayin.

Posted by: m | August 30, 2006 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Marie Osmond's dolls by the way are among the best selling collectibles in the world.. in fact she is in the top 3 doll designers! She is the only one that gave any helpful critique (ear monitors, being in the right spot, pitch,e tc) as opposed to what ever it was Richard said, and David wasn't bad but we need more than I wouldn't sign you. GO MARIE> no wonder she s all over the internet as THE hit of the show!

Posted by: Richard | August 30, 2006 11:34 PM | Report abuse

i haven't watched the show yet (have it tivo'd)....but i just have to say that i've had a non-sexual crush on marie osmond my whole life...and i'm 38!! i lived for the donny and marie show...her singing "paper roses" like she really meant it. ...skating with the ice vanities...regular appearances by paul lynde....all good times.

Posted by: wats | August 31, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

The song is, "Baby, I Love Your Way" in the singular.

Posted by: WhoTLuvr | August 31, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

My dream duet would be Susan Anton with Jamie Farr.

Posted by: Your Husband. | August 31, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I can't explain how much I love this show. It's a train wreck you just can't look away from. In terms of cheesy amazingness, it's the best of the summer. Little Richard was glorious. His incoherent rambles are still making me laugh. If someone out there has the technical capability, can you please cut all of the Little Richard comments into one YouTube quality video? And by the way,'re pretty oddly obsessed there. Marie Osmond a sex symbol? Wuh?

Posted by: emster | August 31, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I liked when Lucy Lawless with Smokey was so intense, that was really kool.

Posted by: | August 31, 2006 11:22 PM | Report abuse

The Lucy Lawless song with Smokey was totally hot! They were incredible!

Posted by: Sophie | September 1, 2006 2:46 AM | Report abuse

Dear Liz Kelly,

Please accept my great appreciation and very delighted interest of your most intriguing, informative, descriptive, and well-written article regarding Celebrity Duets and the Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Goddess Lucy Lawless. :) Scooping :) Juicy Lucy :) OH MY GOD YES LUCY! :)

If I may add quickly, I am very happy for Her, and She adores Smokey and She is very hot with African men, as Little Richard noted, and did an Incredibly Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) love scene in the first season of Xena with African actor Bobby Hosea from LA in the episode "Mortal Beloved." This was noted when She was on Wayne Brady's show in October 2003 and She sang "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" and my heart absolutely melted and I could think of nothing but Her and how much I Love Her and wept.

I very tremendously look forward to Her new series with the very utmost anticipation and excitement, as well as Her continuing career since Xena, which I was widely known to have been a huge fan of. I am immeasurably stunningly ecstatically excited of this, Oh My God Yes Lucy! :)

She is always so by far the most Incomparably Unbelievably Infinitely Beautiful Gorgeous Erotic Arousing Alluring Angelic Desirable Delicious Delightful Luscious Voluptuous Tender Cute Mouth-watering Breath-taking Stunning Precious Juicy Flawless Fragrant Sweet Sweet Lovable Adorable Loverly Talented Entertaining Orgasmic Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) creature in the history of the universe of all time, and I really really Love Her very much with all my heart so deeply and Devote myself to Her Endlessly Always. She means absolutely everything to me. She is my life. She is the stars and the heavens to me. I Forever Support, Espouse, Help, Adore, Admire, Protect, Defend, Love, and Worship Her. :) I know I can never have or be with Her and am always so completely unworthy of Her and Her Incomparable Infinite Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfectness, :) and cry and sob very much forever because of this.

Please vote for Her in Celebrity Duets, She is the best most talented wonderful lovable adorable sweetest Awesome Singer, :) and by far incomparably my favorite singer, actress, celebrity, entertainer, person, and everything. Please vote for Lucy, :) believe me She is the best most talented singer by far as She will easily show you all and the Most Lovable Adorable Cute Tender Wonderful Awesome Precious Loverly Lovely Wild Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) Angel, :) Oh God I Love Lucy!!!!!!!!!!! :) Oh God I really really Love Lucy So Much! :) I Love You Lucy! :)

Forever Devoted :) to the Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Goddess Lucy, :)

James Bond Who Loves Lucy :) Forever :)

Posted by: James Bond Loves Lucy Lawless | September 1, 2006 10:40 PM | Report abuse

Some of my comments on Her performances, with more to come :) OH MY GOD YES LUCY :) Oh God Lucy I Love You So Much My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

I was stunned, awed, in complete fantasy, excitement, and ecstasy, and was very proud and happy for the Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Goddess Lucy. :) And what Incredibly Unbelievably Gorgeous Beautiful Erotic Arousing Delicious Juicy Flawless Mouth-watering Breath-taking Tender Awesome Wild Wonderful Cute Precious Sweet Sweet Lovable Adorable Lovely Orgasmic Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) Legs, Feet, Toes, dress, figure, cleavage, arms, shoulders, hands, back and musculature, form, hair, face, style, grace, movement, voice, singing, emotions, holding Smokey's hand so lovably and sweetly, sheer captivating magnetic confidence, charisma, and presence, and expressions OH MY GOD YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES

The clips of Her exercising intently and with determination and discipline so Incredibly Unbelievably Heavenly Sexxxy Perfectly :) in the hills of northwest LA (there it is! :) Oh My God Yes Lucy! :), jogging so Incredibly Heavenly Sexxxy Perfectly :), doing crunches or apparently full sit-ups, and Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) yoga in a very sexxxy outfit seated on the grass barefoot and showing Her Incredibly Unbelievably Beautiful Gorgeous Wild Delicious Juicy Flawless Erotic Arousing Tender Cute Awesome Precious Wonderful Sweet Lovable Adorable Lovely Orgasmic Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) Stomach :) had me literally in ecstasy, fantasy, moaning, desire, awe, excitement, wetness, and the most uncontrollable feeling of wishing to be in LA as soon as possible and see and be with Her, Oh God I Love You So Much :) My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You So Much Lucy!!!!!!!!!! :)

I shall add to this and also if my comments on this from yesterday evening on the official Duets forum remain, I shall post them here. My multitude of Loving Adoring Worshipping Supporting :) comments there for Her have been deleted always and my handles banned consistently. A conspiracy over there I suspect.

Yes, now it seems it is largely in the hands of the voters, not the judges, meaning I have better chance of controlling the outcome so that She may win, doing my utmost best. Oh God Lucy :) I Love You So Much My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy! :)

I have the utmost confidence, excitement, and conviction that She can win this competition, and is by far the best singer and everything. :) As I predicted the judges were stunned, wooed, excited, and awed by Her Most Unbelievably Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) appearance and Beauty. :) Oh God Lucy :) I Love You So Much My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You So Much Lucy! :)

Her friend Wayne Brady said that She and Lea have a really good chance of winning. I was surprised at how quickly Jericho was dismissed, I wonder if there anything else going on (I did contact him about how much really really REALLY :) Love Lucy So Much Infinitely Immeasurably Endlessly Heavenly Forever Always, Oh God I Love You So Much Lucy :) My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy! :)

Little Richard was acting humorous partly on purpose I believe. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD TUSHY :) he seemed to want to say of Her! :) OH MY GOD YES LUCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) Oh God Lucy, Oh God Lucy, Oh My God Lucy :) God I Love You So Much :) My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy!!!!!!!!!! :)

Forever Devoted :) to the Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Goddess Lucy, :)

James Who Loves Lucy :) Forever :)

Posted by: James Bond Loves Lucy Lawless | September 1, 2006 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Uh, just to add quickly I was really touched by how She comforted Chris at the end. As far as his removal I guess someone had to go. She is such a Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect :) Angel :) OH MY GOD YES LUCY :) Oh God Lucy I Love You So Much My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy! :)

Wayne Brady is a good host and likes Lucy, :) I like him.

Oh My God Yes Lucy I Love You So Much My Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Love :) Oh God I Love You Lucy! :)

Forever Devoted :) to the Sweet Sweet Heavenly Sexxxy Perfect Goddess Lucy, :)

James Who Loves Lucy :) Forever :)

Posted by: James Bond Loves Lucy Lawless | September 1, 2006 10:54 PM | Report abuse

i love Lucy's performance...especially, when she was the very first contestant to sing...that was tough!!! but like what Marie Osmond say.."she has guts!" woohoo!!! go Lucy!!!

Posted by: Czarina | September 3, 2006 12:55 AM | Report abuse

I need to know who was in the bottom three in celebrity duets and who got kicked off the show all I know is that carly patterson was in the bottome three.Who else was in the bottom three

Posted by: whitley | September 16, 2006 6:31 AM | Report abuse

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