"Saturday Night Live," "Friday Night Lights" and -- even without a day in its title -- "Grease," after the jump ...
Not sure if I'll post anything on the Grammys; Beacon Journal pop music writer Malcolm X Abram is blogging during the telecast, and you can find the link on www.ohio.com.
Has been a semi-lazy Sunday, aside from groceries and some other shopping. Felt dragged after Saturday, when I did work, including the difficult, emotional task of covering a local Navy man's funeral. Got through it, but didn't watch much TV other than Thursday's "CSI." Caught up some today.
"CSI" was a strange, grim episode wrapping up the tale of Grissom's fill-in (Liev Schreiber) in a way that made very sure we won't be seeing him again. Very much a departure for "CSI" in its low portion of geek science. At the same time, it could be seen as an argument in favor of the geek scientists. They may have their problems, but they're nothing compared to what the old street cops brought to the table -- rape, incest, murder, corruption, a severed hand.
"Grease" is now on. Opening group sing: "Summer Lovin'." Lots of hammy rivalry and shoving for the microphone. Twist announced: The two lowest vote getters among the Sandys and the Dannys will have a sing-off for their survival. Introduction of the judges, with special guest Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Video recap of last week's show, with contestant comments. Much posturing.
Break, so let's talk "Saturday Night Live," with host Forest Whitaker. The digital short wasn't much. Whitaker was obviously a good sport, happy to do some silly business -- and to sing -- but also willing to let other people run the sketches. In fact, it was Maya Rudolph's night -- as Whitney, as half of "Bronx Beat" with Amy Poehler, as Whitaker's duet partner. "Bronx Beat" was giggly just because Poehler and Rudolph went with it. Her Whitney was entertaining, though the sketch dragged on too long. (I'm also wondering how Whitaker felt about the Whitney-mocking considering he directed "Waiting to Exhale." Of course, that could have made him even more all right about it.)
Back to "Grease." We're doing an "Idol"-ish who's-safe thing. Kevin, Derek, Chad and Austin step forward -- are all safe. That leaves Matt, Max and Jason. Max is also safe. That leaves it between Matt, the guy who was brought back by the judges, and Jason for the sing-off.
Women's turn: Ashley A, Ashley S, Laura and Kathleen are called forward. Ashley Anderson, the other judge bring-back, is in the sing-off. Ashley S, Laura and Kathleen are safe. Allie, Juliana and Kate are left; Allie gets the sing-off.
The returnees sing first. Max goes with "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." Laura follows with Lloyd Webber's "Jesus Christ Superstar" theme. Very strange choice, and only a so-so performance. Judges more enthusiastic. Next: Ashley S. and Derek. He does "Footloose," with backup dancers. Gee, you think they're trying to give him a boost? Ashley S. does "Take That Look Off Your Face," another Lloyd Webber song. She's getting better; she's gotten that screechy tendency considerably under control, except for a little trouble at the end. And she looked a little orange in the lights.
Judges: High marks from Kathleen, Lloyd Webber, Jim and Snarky Brit, although SB wanted more anger from Ashley S.
Another break, so let me finish my "SNL" thoughts. Other good stuff: Darrell Hammond's Jesse Jackson (and that whole bit, especially the end), Valentine's Day with the Cheneys. Overall, it was a show where I less inclined to fast-forward than usual.
Still in a break, so let's talk "FNL," which I finally watched today. Solid episode, as I have come to expect from the drama. Especially impressed by its refusal to resolve the core issue in an hour, or even to have the main antagonist be genuinely regretful. What a show. I am running out of ways to explain how much I value it.
So now we can stay with "Grease." Kevin sings "Burning Love," Juliana does "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." When I listen to Kevin's Elvisness, I hear Simon Cowell saying "a little too cabaret." Definitely too Vegas. (I know, he's auditioning for a Broadway show, but even "Grease" has more hair on its chest than this.) And he's really having trouble with the melody. Got backup dancers, though.
"Evita" always makes me think of the TV ads I used to see for it during its Broadway heyday, with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin going "not much to ask for. Or something. It was 30 years ago, you know. As for Juliana, decent voice but I feel as if she's dragging out the performance. Lloyd Webber looks as if he's wincing at the end.
Snarky Brit not crazy about Kevin, and thinks Juliana is too polished. Lloyd Webber says neither has made the song their own, the way the previous performers did; seems to be taking the blame for Juliana's performance. Kathleen not crazy about Kevin, either, and unenthused about Juliana. Jim -- told to answer "very quickly" -- is a huge apologist for both, saying he's seen them better.
Back from a break: Lloyd Webber gives a guarded endorsement to a new "Grease," although he wishes for a more diverse range of performers. (By the way, I haven't mentioned it yet today but the enthusiastic crowd, complete with signs, is quite annoying tonight. I find it not very credible.) Then the expected ga-ga sequence of the people working with ALW, leading into a group sing of "Phantom of the Opera." Not for the first time, I think Lloyd Webber is struggling to listen politely, and to let Billy Bush make the gushy comments. I remember a show on Bravo -- back when it was a cultural channel -- where Stephen Sondheim worked with some singers. He felt no need to be polite, directly correcting their work, his criticism unvarnished. Let's get him for a "Grease" episode.
Chad, "My Eyes Adored You." From "Jersey Boys," we're told, as part of an ongoing attempt to use compilation shows as a pretext for considering these Broadways songs. Not great, particularly on the high notes. Kate, "Buenos Aires." She seems to be much blonder. More talky than singing, even in places she could sing harder. Not good on some high notes. Let's see how Lloyd Webber looks ... Down at his notes, clapping limited. And he's first up for comment. Spares Chad, who has the flu. Jokes with Kate about investing in his new show. Then calls her a terrific singer. Other judges basically kind.
Austin, "Ease On Down the Road." Big dance routine, not impressive vocal. Kathleen, "Memory." I liked her quite a bit last week. This time, not so much. She's no Betty Buckley. They have to stop showing Lloyd Webber at the end of songs; he seems really not to enjoy himself, no matter what he says after.
And coming up ... the sing-off. Videotape of reactions backstage after they were told they were at the bottom of the votes. Tears included. So how is this thing going to work? Jason and Allie were the lowest vote-getters. But the panel will decide who goes home. Song: "Tears on My Pillow," each to sing part of it -- Jason followed by Matt, Allie and Ashley A., then back and forth between the two women. After hearing these fragments, I'd keep Jason and, based solely on this performance, Ashley A. even though she's been very bad before. Results after the break.
Judges -- only the regular three -- make their call. Jason survives. Allie survives. So the two who were brought back for a second chance, Matt and Ashley A., both go bye-bye. And Jason and Allie get to do their regular performance for audience voting. Jason takes "That'll Be the Day." Very unfortunate. Allie does "I Don't Know How to Love Him." Much better.
Recap. Then the judges pick their faves of the week. Snarky Brit goes for Austin and Laura. Kathleen has Derek and Kathleen. Jim picks Max and Laura. Lloyd Webber -- who politely avoids punching Bush for once again calling him "World Wide Webber" -- calls it for Derek and Laura; Laura "staggered' him. Not sure about that, but Ashley Spencer told me some time ago that she thought Laura was the toughest competition.
And that's enough for this post.
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