Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Eve Show Recap

Normally, there’s not a lot to say about New Year’s Eve, as the last time my wife and I left the house for New Year’s was for Y2K. In fact, I doubt that my wife has made it past 10 PM in any year since then. Our routine now consists of her going to bed early, and me sitting quietly by myself with a beer until midnight, when I take a sip and fall asleep at 12:01 AM.

I also never really watched any of the New Year’s Eve shows until this year. Normally, there isn’t anything especially exciting about watching people in the Eastern Time Zone celebrate an hour ahead of us. But when I turned them on last night, I was treated to some of the most unintentionally funny, horrific entertainment I had seen in ages. In fact, it was instantly so bad, I had to run and grab my notepad to document the collage of distaste I was witnessing.

The night began at 10:00 with ESPN unveiling their new New Year’s extravaganza, with Stuart Scott hosting. Boo Ya! As his co-host, they exhumed former East Street band member Steven van Zandt, who likely has been encased in formaldehyde for 20 years. I mean, honestly – if you had a list of 50,000 “celebrities” that you thought you might see hosting a New Year’s show in 2006, would Steven van Zandt been anywhere close? Did they pay him in Lucky Strikes?

I sat with my mouth agape as ESPN began their grand opening with The Troggs playing “Wild Thing.” Let me repeat that. The Troggs. Playing “Wild Thing.” This booking made the decision to have Elton John play Harley Fest look like pure entertainment genius. Who exactly was this supposed to appeal to? Didn’t the target audience for this performance fall asleep three hours ago after some warm milk and kissing their cats goodnight? If they were really going for that age demographic, aren't there classic acts pretty much on call waiting for a chance to play? You're telling me Smokey Robinson can't be pulled away from his nightly game of Mah Jongg to do a New Year's gig?

At one point, host Stuart Scott rambled on about what a crazy year 2005 was, then rattled off about 15 events that take place every year. “CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? THE SUPER BOWL! THE WORLD SERIES! THE NBA FINALS! TIGER WOODS!” Yes, a crazy year indeed, Stuart. Actually, it would have been a crazy year if any of those events didn’t take place. If the Super Bowl didn’t happen, it would have likely been because of a terrorist attack, which I’m guessing might have made the news.

When the clock started ticking down, Scott offered us a heavy bit of advice to remember during the new year. Did he urge us to fight hunger in our communities? Did he urge us to help combat AIDS in Africa? Well, no. He told us that we shouldn’t boo at sporting events, because the athletes are working hard, doing the best they can. So when Randy Moss comes to Lambeau again, remember Packer fans – he’s just trying as hard as he can. And those guys out there spreading asphalt to feed their families when it’s 96 degrees outside in the summer? Lazy. Go ahead and heckle them.

The ABC New Year’s show began at 10:30, but I really didn’t catch much of it until the countdown began. This show is known worldwide as the show Dick Clark hosts, but due to his stroke in 2004, he made only a spot appearance. It was a little jarring to see the silver-tongued Clark struggle with his words, speaking slowly and slurring. I sincerely hope he does better.

Even more jarring, however, was the appearance of Mariah Carey, who had apparently just eaten a free-roaming bison. She was ENORMOUS! And she tried the usual heavy girl trick of styling your hair really big, hoping it would make the rest of her look small. At least Carey had the decency to do what any self-respecting fat star would do, and that is to show as much cleavage as possible. I mean, she left nothing to the imagination – it looked like she was trying to smuggle two kegs out of the after party.

Later in the evening, Carey picked host Ryan Seacrest up by the neck and climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, where she was gunned down, killing 10,000 onlookers. Seriously, can’t ABC cap off the 2007 special with Mariah Carey eating a live quail? Who wouldn’t watch that?

SIDE NOTE: What are the rules of decency on broadcast television that allow someone like Carey to show her entire breast but not the areola? How is it that every portion of the breast region is considered to be decent except the part where it starts to change color a little bit, where suddenly it becomes a magical, enchanted area not to be seen by human eyes? (Kind of like a "mammary Narnia.") I plan on protesting this, and I urge all my readers to send me detailed photographic samples of any rare female breast photos that may be available on the internet. I can't seem to find any.

The rest of ABC’s festivities were hosted by Hillary Duff, who apparently was anxious to show off her new case of bulimia. Her ability to stare straight ahead and dryly read a teleprompter is unparalleled. Duff introduced some group called “The Pussycat Dolls,” by ironically boasting that they stand for “strong female independence.” Upon watching the performance by the Pussycat Dolls, I can state without reservation that they single-handedly set feminism back thirty years. It appeared that there are six Pussycat Dolls – one to sing, and five to show off what a great waxing job they got. It’s entirely possible that their “performance” gave me an STD – I started scratching afterwards. The “head pussycat” could have shown a home video of her last pap smear exam and it wouldn’t have been as vulgar. The whole performance looked like a four minute long ad for emergency contraception.

As long as I’m on this subject, let’s just stop kidding ourselves. We are no longer a society that values quality music. The FOX New Year’s show counted down the 20 top songs of 2005, and I hadn’t heard of a single one. But the one common thread between each and every video was that the star of each video appeared to be a woman’s oily abdomen. Did bellybuttons somehow unionize and demand they had to be featured in EVERY video? So we need to stop pretending that we as a nation value decent music. We determine what records we buy based on what filthy woman can do the most sit-ups.

Later in ABC’s show, we were all treated to a reunion performance by the Bangles that was highly anticipated by approximately no one. Purported to be their first live performance since 1988, the Bangles defecated on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter,” which they remade in 1987. I do have to say, though – Susanna Hoffs was stunningly beautiful – even more so than I remember when she was actually marginally popular. The bass player appeared as if she had eaten Mariah Carey. Calling the 1980’s the “salad days” for the Bangles is appropriate, as it appears that is the last time many band members had touched one.

I almost fell off my couch with laughter as ABC presented another little anticipated reunion, this one by the band 311, playing their song “All Mixed Up.” When they started playing, I started looking around for the beer bong and ramen noodle packets, as I thought it was 1993 and I was in college again. I fully expected ABC to break into the telecast with footage of Al Cowlings’ white Bronco on the L.A. highway. Even more amazingly, they’ve had 12 years to practice that song, and it still sucked.

At 11:30, FOX and NBC went on the air with their versions of New Year’s shows. This solved a problem I’ve long had with these types of shows. Usually, they go on here in Wisconsin at 10:30, show the east coast celebration at 11:00, and wind down by 11:30. This leaves the 70% of the country that doesn’t live in the eastern time zone in a kind of Twilight Zone. But this year, the local stations delayed two of the shows to coincide with the central time zone hitting midnight, which was a good move.

The FOX show began, unfortunately, with Regis Philbin singing “New York, New York,” and went downhill from there. Shortly thereafter, Philbin introduced his co-host, the gravel throated Jillian Barberie, whose talent is apparent only to Jillian Barberie. There just aren’t words to describe how bad she is – she sounded as if she had spent the entire day on the couch choking down a carton of heaters. She was relegated to interviewing people on the street, every one of which dealt with three topics:

1. How cold it is.
2. How exciting it is to be in Times Square!
3. Woo!

Later in the FOX telecast, Philbin was joined by the ubiquitous Peterman, who has been on every television show that has aired in the past three years. I mean, seriously – whoever this guy’s agent is has to be the most powerful man in Hollywood. Either that or he has naked pictures of the spouses of every studio executive in the business. Of the whole Seinfeld cast, who would be the least likely you’d ever think you’d see on a New Year’s Eve telecast? Next year can we expect Regis to spend 10 minutes of national airtime with the guy that played "Boner" on Growing Pains?

NBC’s telecast was a little odd in that its tone was very somber and reserved, which I almost appreciated. Things got immeasurably better when peanut-headed host Carson Daly introduced the fabulous Melissa Stark as his co-host. If the FCC is truly in charge of enforcing decency on television, they should mandate that Melissa Stark be required to appear four times a week, regardless of network.

After a piece remembering Johnny Carson hosting the NBC New Years’ show in 1965, Daly reminded us all that back then, the federal deficit was only $300 million, whereas now it is $8 billion. In keeping with the spirit, Daly also should have reminded us that in the upcoming year, it is more likely that our grandparents will die and leave us nothing, and that our parents probably were never married.

Joining Daly for the festivities was America’s most overrated comedian, Wanda Sykes, whose “I’m sassy and I’m black so I’m going to say whatever I want” act wore thin about six years ago. Sykes comments on the number of police officers in Times Square, then hypothesizes that there are likely stabbings and looting going on in the rest of New York. When midnight finally came, Daly said “now, there’s finally hope – 2006 will be a rebirth, a baptism, a renewal,” apparently not realizing that every year Carson Daly has a T.V. show is the best year of his life. An uplifting telecast all around.

12:06. Bedtime.

Happy New Year America! Don't get any fatter this year! BOO YA!