Monday, September 26, 2005

TV Review: Three Wishes

To some, 44 year-old Amy Grant is a joke known for her "rhythmic" bounding across the stage. To some, she's the popularizer of "Christian music" at the expense of gospel. To some, she's the road into Bully Boy country. Strange considering that we're speaking of a Vanderbilt University drop out which is hardly Texas A&M. "Get 'em Commodores" isn't exactly "Hook 'em horns!"

NBC thinks she's their Friday night manna. As reported in The New York Times, they've distributed copies of the show Three Wishes to clergy and passed around dollar bills at low-end chain stores. They see her as the entry point into the evagicals. A little strange if you think of the fact that not only do some evangicals see CCM (contemporary Christian music) as 'backsliding' but also that she's angered CCM loyalists over the year with her weak attempts to imitate Olivia Newton-John. A little strange as well if you grasp that 1999 is a year she still can't live down.

But there she was, with the widow's peak that makes her look like the evil queen in Snow White, on Friday night with Three Wishes. It's a really low-scale version of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition without Ty for beefcake lovers to ooh & aah over. Instead they offer an Andrew Shue look alike and a blond who likes to yell "Woo-hoo" and name check the Dukes of Hazard.

Which makes Amy Grant Daisy without the dukes?

NBC has Amy Grant and Three Wishes. Heavily made up and gushing like a woman half her age, speaking as though she just fell off the turnup truck. (She did choose to leave Vanderbilt, right? She wasn't asked to leave?)

There's a feeling on the part of some that she's as phoney as her sayings. (Dan Rather may be gone, but Rather-isms live on!) When not shucking the husks, Grant tries a little bit of sociology offering that word travels fast in a small town and that it reaches adults who couldn't believe that "uh, you know, I get to dream a little bit?"

Oh Amy, you're trying to pull in an audience, not chase them away. If she really represented the demographic NBC was going for, she'd probably be familiar with Glen Campbell's "The Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife" and she'd surely be aware that people continuing dreaming regardless of age, regardless of location. But she's got to con you into thinking that not only is she granting wishes, she's also dressing up the otherwise drab lives.

Here's what Grant's Three Wishes grants:

1) A man gets a new truck and to adopt his step-son.
2) A little girl gets her own rehab center and the medical bills are paid.
3) A school gets a new football field.

Three Wishes traffics in the three stereotypes. The most needy, gotta have a truck and what's Friday night without local football.

They must be so proud.

Grant gets another shot at redeeming herself, NBC gets a cheaply made "hit" (it could be top sixty and it will make money due to product placement and corporate sponsorhip) and AmericaQuest gets to push aside those pesky allegations of predatory lending. (Just in time as the head of the company attempts to become our ambassador to the Netherlands!)

Everyone's part of the con.

Sound harsh? A family is facing financial ruin as a result of the bills from a little girl's accident. There's no firey Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets, HMO speech. It's treated as though it just happened. That's the con. These are "isolated" incidents, these are "personal problems."

Things just happen. And aren't we all lucky "music superstar" Amy Grant is on the way?

The show wants to be Queen For A Day, then it wants to be Sing Along With Mitch. (To his credit, Miller didn't go door to door.) Having performed "It Takes A Little Time" twice in the first episode, we're sure the producers are hoping a labor is in the near future because Grant's catalogue is rather . . . limited and they probably need to get "Baby, Baby" into an episode as quickly as possible.

The background music is a con. It's this nonstop tinkly, piano runs, that are supposed to up the drama. Near the end they switch to synthesizers (that may be mistaken for strings). This switch takes place in a father-in-son moment so naturally the song they steal from should be "Unchained Melody"?

No? No.

But they do it. If you listen in passing, you may think, "That's familiar. It's kind of pretty." If you listen closely, go ahead and sing, "Oh my love, my dar" and then be prepared for a few bars of new music before it's time to go back to "Oh my love, my dar." Repeat as necessary.

It's necessary because there's no talent in the show. In front of the camera or behind it. It's a con and it's a cheap con.

It's one that will make Grant look "sweet" and "innocent" and probably "Christian." Though the mainstream audiences probably didn't follow it closely, her CSM base, or former base, remembers. They remember that Grant took part in the breaking up of two marriages -- her own and Vince Gill's.

For the most part, we could care less. To each their own. But that's not the image Grant sold and it's not selling to the audience she once appealed to. (The show may change that but even attempting a straight gospel album didn't revive the musical career.)

So she gets to look better, AmeriQuest gets to look better and, most of all, problems just happen.
Take the truck. The man gave up his old truck due to "financial difficulties." The show never goes deeper than that. Look, the school wants a football field and can't afford it. Why do you think that is?

It goes to the economy and it goes to the way things are structured -- health care and education.
But instead of addressing those topics, they're presented as a "STUFF HAPPENS" bumper sticker. That's a con. That's a con as much as AmeriQuest's claim to be "proud sponsor of the American dream."

Viewers who want to be lulled into a belief that things just happen will probably enjoy the show (or parts of it -- you really have to be a drama queen to enjoy all the lighting and music effects piled on). Viewers who are aware that they're being screwed by an out of control medical system in this country or that financial problems don't just happen will look at this piece of crap
and think Grant's con job goes far beyond trying to airbrush her version of Liz Taylor (the Fisher years) out of her bio.
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