Perfect Pitch: Celebrity Duets
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.
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?
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