Sunday, December 16, 2012

TV: The Greed-athon

Ravi Shankar passed away last week and, yet again, his timing was impeccable.  The artist impacted the world of music and much more.  With UNICEF, Shankar and George Harrison started "the rock-and-roll benefit concert" in 1971 with the Concert for Bangladesh.  A legendary concert for victims in need that changed the landscape was in stark contrast to what 12.12.12 offered.


12.12.12 was a concert for . . . something.  Wednesday night's performers often seemed confused about what exactly -- which might explain the lackluster performances.   Anytime a concert gets more coverage for what a performer wore (Kanye West performed in a leather skirt and leggings) than for any song performed, that's your first clue that the music didn't make it.

Your second clue that the music was less than inspiring was that the second most talked about topic after the concert was Adam Sandler's rewriting Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."  Sandler's been around forever and hasn't shown anything fresh since 1992, three years before he was fired from Saturday Night Live.  His most recent live-action film (That's My Boy) cost $70 million to make (plus prints and advertising) and didn't even bring in $40 million in tickets in the US.  If you hadn't caught that he was a moldy oldy before, maybe seeing him do song parodies like he used to decades ago on SNL should have tipped you off?

Instead, it resulted in glee from New York magazine, Rolling Stone and many others who attacked Mitt Romney.   That was puzzling because what was Adam Sandler doing but espousing Romney?  Begging for others to pay the bill while insisting "we" (his NYC clan) built it.  Did they miss that?  Did a few dirty words have them so amused that the entire point of the song was lost?

The further away from NYC you got, the more of a bomb Sandler's song was.  Though few connected it to Romney, we did hear people in the DC area and Colorado express sentiments about how irritating and insulting they found Sandler whose routine translated as, "We're the best in NYC, no one is better.  Now all you scum outside of NYC send us money!"  Probably not a good idea to beg for money by bragging about yourself, let alone implying others aren't worthy.

As you listened to the insufferable Sandler or the overly made up Jon Bon Jovi (who may have topped Sandler if you include the pre-taped spot aired during the concert where JBJ implied hurricanes prior to Sandy were minor -- apparently former pop stars never heard of Hurricane Katrina), you realized something else: The ego on NYC celebrities is appalling.


The 'victims' were on stage. Or answering the phones.  Poor Ben Stiller!  He shared with Brian Williams that he had been without electricity for nearly nine days!  Oh, the horror.  Ben Stiller, trapped -- due to poverty -- in a tiny hovel with no electricity . . . Oh, that's right.  A mansion.  And he could have left at any time and jetted off somewhere (like Hawaii where he'll be golfing with Barack Obama during the Christmas break).  Whoopi Goldberg was among the confused as she Price-Is-Righted a Samsung Galaxy for the cameras when she should have been focusing on the victims of Sandy and not hawking a product to Brian Williams.

Maybe the 'victims' on screen and their bad behavior explains the money raised?  Kara Williams (MTV) reports that "more than $30 million was raised from ticket revenue, sponsorships and corporate donations."  For perspective, Live Aid raised over $280 million in 1985.  Maybe smug stars full of themselves don't garner as much sympathy as people who are starving?

Kimberly Nordyke (Billboard) reported that "5.2 million" were watching the concert on TV at any given moment with a total of 19 million having checked out the five hour concert.  In other words, at any given moment more people were watching Tim Allen on any episode of Last Man Standing than bothered to watch 12.12.12.  Nordyke points out that in addition to multiple channels in the US, it was also streamed online which only makes the donations appear all the more paltry.

Daltrey?  Yes, the Who was there and 'singer' Roger Daltrey spent big on pec implants so the 68-year-old man felt the need to strip and show.  It's a shame he didn't take time for sit ups or lipo on the stomach.  But maybe the implants detracted from the fact that he just couldn't hit the notes anymore?  Despite being decades younger, Jon Bon Jovi couldn't hit the notes either.

It was embarrassing.  Almost as embarrassing as the performance of "Cut Me Some Slack."  If you were to ask people to make a dream team of a Beatles and Nirvana combo, we believe most playing this fantasy band contest would assemble Kurt Cobain and John Lennon with George Harrison and Ringo Starr rounding things out.  12.12.12 offered Paul McCartney (the most vanilla of the Beatles) and the failures who backed Kurt.  So it was the bland leading the bland.

Piano Man Billy Joel and Piano Woman Alicia Keys were the only real reason to watch.  Both offered perspective and range that was missing in the obviously rushed performances (the Stones didn't even use all their allotted time).

Two acts were worth watching in five hours?  That's not an endorsement.  Also missing were the actual victims.  For every Kristen Stewart patting themselves onstage for hopping a plane to be there, there were actual victims who were in the area but not at the concert because this benefit concert apparently wanted to use the victims, not embrace them.  In New York especially, this became an issue.  Though you were more likely to hear of it when the scalping scandal was raised, the bigger outrage for NYC residents still suffering was that no efforts were made to provide tickets for them.

They might want to consider themselves lucky.  The sight of Jon Bon Jovi humping the aged Bruce Springsteen on stage may have been meant to recall the open mouthed, french kisses Bruce used to exchange with the late Clarence Clemons but it just left us worried Patti Scialfa would spend days trying to get Jon's make up off Bruce's shirt.  We pictured her scrubbing away as furiously as the Cult of St. Barack.  After all, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are part of the United States.

Willie Nelson and John Menllencamp championed Farm Aid in the 80s because the US government (under Ronald Reagan) was foreclosing family farms to help out corporations.  NYC needs a benefit concert?  That's really an indictment of the White House.  In fact, if this were the 70s, we might see "Obama to City: Drop Dead" on the front page of The New York Daily News.

Instead, everyone on stage and on camera wanted to pretend that an awful hurricane hit NYC (and sometimes New Jersey) and no one had a right to expect the White House to be leading the relief effort.  Heck of a job, Barry.

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