Sunday, November 29, 2009

TV: What's the return policy?

If we could propose one rule for holiday specials, we realized as we watched the sad spectacle of Beyonce on ABC Thursday night, it would be simply: No crotch grabbing.


It doesn't seem like a controversial rule to us. In fact, it seems as obvious as any of the generic lyrics in any Beyonce song. But somehow it escaped the artist and the network.

A lot seemed to have escaped both -- such as what makes a special. If you think it's strong performances and maybe some guest stars, hope you weren't watching. But if Thanksgiving to you is all about a lack of preparation and never ending vanity, Beyonce: I Am Yours was the holiday spread you'd been craving.

In possibly the most telling moment, Beyone performed "Irresistable" with the repeated 'choreography' of pointing to her head while singing the line "Do you ever for a second get to thinking?" It was stiff and obvious. Worst of all, Beyonce appeared to think it was artistic. Then again, she's the woman stupid enough to sing, "Cause if you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it."

Beyonce, are you an object ("it") or are you advocating that a man pierce your vagina?

She seemed clueless during "Crazy In Love" as well while stroking the microphone as if it were an erect penis. Not only did Tina Turner do it better over forty years ago, she never came into people's homes on a holiday and pulled that crap.

But Beyonce's no Tina Turner. Tina's an artist and an extremely gifted one. Beyonce's a stocky drag queen who requires a lot of tape and a lot of body corsets to serve up 'the body' and a non-stop wind machine to give her face the length that all the fake hair in the world hasn't been able to.

As Thunder Thighs clomped around stage on her tippy toes, tossing around her mane and attempting to pout and sneer, we wondered if ABC wouldn't have been better off just offering Kentucky Derby highlights set to music.

She really has no talent as a dancer and we were shocked to grasp that she wasn't even singing for large portions of the special. But we'll get to that.

Background, she was a member of Destiny's Child -- they were the low-rent and non-artistic, K-Mart version of TLC. What they never managed to achieve musically, they almost managed to achieve as pin ups. Remixing and vocal sweetening has made Beyonce a solo pin-up but still not a singer. She's repeatedly attempted to become an actress but lacks the ability to connect on film -- a moving image can't be retouched and air brushed repeatedly the way still photographs can. One star came out of Dreamgirls: Jennifer Hudson. She won the Academy Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award, the Golden Globe and many, many more. Eddie Murphy notched up an Academy Award nomination as well. Beyonce? Nada. Zip. Playing a schemer who is onscreen more than either Hudson or Murphy's characters, Beyonce held no one's attention. An 'accomplishment' that threads through her entire film work.

Many a singer who failed at the movies has returned to singing with renewed force. That's not the case with Beyonce whose stage show is best characterized as Draq Queen Does It On The Cheap.

We're pretty sure most women -- other than Beyonce -- already know this, but for the fellas, when you're breasts do not meet when squeezed into a tight top, you're flat chested. All the tape in the world, all the push up bras, shoving them all the way up to your neck, will not conceal that fact. Beyonce seems convinced that she can trick the audience into believing that she has breasts worth sporting.

But, then again, she also seems to think shifting from one foot to another for the bulk of the special (especially in the first half hour of the non-special) qualifies as dancing.

We said we'd get back to lip synching on stage. Even during the first half, when not dancing, she was lip synching. We couldn't believe it. She's standing still on stage, on a TV special that she's starring in, and she's not singing her vocals?

She fooled one R&B star.

We were on the phone with her during the special and asking, cleaned up version, "What the f**k is this lip synching? She's not dancing and working up a sweat like Janet [Jackson] or Madonna."

The R&B singer insisted she must be singing. Later on, she called us back when Beyonce moved onto the song from the Charlie's Angles film soundtrack. Beyonce was dancing around and singing . . . but her lips weren't moving and she didn't have the mike to her mouth. There was no attempt on her part to even mouth the lyrics. And yet the exact same voice kept singing.

"She's not singing! She's not singing!" insisted the R&B star.

"We know!!!!!" we screamed back into the speaker phone.

Earlier in the special, Beyonce had bragged, in one of the many self-testimonials to her own perceived greatness, that when she's working, she doesn't stop to eat or even go to the bathroom. To that list, we think she'd add, "Or even to sing! I just keep posing."

And as she moved into "Single Ladies" our cell phones started going off as people we'd spoken with earlier (who'd agreed she was lip synching her ballads) called to point out how the 'voice' just kept on playing even though Beyonce's mouth wasn't moving and she'd put the mike away to dance around.

After our rule about no crotch grabbing during holiday specials, we'd add no lip-synching. We'll even toss in a third, if you're 'dancing,' the choreography better be something more than the butt shaking that we can see in the current Gap commercial. Otherwise, it's really not -- pay attention -- special.

There's that word.

"It's my life," she insisted while blathering on about how wonderful it is to be Beyonce.

"Now in 2003, my first solo album," she shared about how amazing it is to be Beyonce.

Beyonce and ABC thought a 'special' was her hopping around the stage and not singing -- with bits of some spoken "How Great Me Art" moments where she offered self-praise to the camera, as if there's an emerging market for narcissism. We've seen some bad holiday specials but never anything like this. And we saw Madonna's turkey of a special in 2006.

"Have you seen the AOL homepage today?" a caller asked.

No, we hadn't.

"I'm going to mail it to you. It's about singers and vanity." [See below.]


Well maybe Beyonce was 'timely' after all?

We wondered if there was any scale we could grade her on that would at least result in a passing grade? Throughout the special, there was an idiotic Victoria's Closet commercial that kept re-airing. After the fourth time, we decided that if you judge Beyonce not a musician or a dancer but as a super model, you actually feel sorry for her but even then you can't say she passed the test. As she continued roaming the stage with that manly stance and those chunky thighs, we breathed a momentary sigh of relief when a commerical for Jennifer Hudson's upcoming holiday special (December 14th on ABC) aired. "And it feels so good to be home," Jennifer said to the camera.

Wait, something like home feels good? Something other than yourself feels good? Something other than yourself might be worth praising?

Those are thoughts that never occurred to Beyonce. We have high hopes for Jennifer's special. She's one of the strongest vocalists to emerge this decade and already someone you can comfortably call an artist. We applaud ABC for putting Jennifer Hudson in a special but we'd argue they owe the audience ten specials with Jennifer, three with Emmylou Harris and a couple with Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton just to wash away the after-taste Beyonce left. Her biggest talent is not her overly praised ass, nor is it her thin voice. Her biggest talent is her ability to feed that voracious ego. In fact, if her 'special' demonstrated anything, it was that it's past time she sent that ego to a fat farm.

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