1. The Oscars have announced that they’re dropping all the song performances this year, instead using pre-recorded excerpts of all the nominated songs. This, as usual, is an effort to make the show shorter and faster-paced, but I think it’s a bad idea. I hate sitting through bad song numbers as much as anyone (complaining about them is part of the fun), but we expect them, we sort of need them, and they’re part of the way these things are paced. The Oscars are essentially a variety show, and I don’t think anyone ever thought that the way to make a variety show more entertaining was to cut out all the songs and dances. If they’re afraid that people won’t sit still for the boring nominated songs, the answer is to find more imaginative ways to perform them. Let Jimmy Fallon do one as his Neil Young character. Or, as I suggested in an earlier post, bring back the old-school variety number where a beautiful woman in a weird costume uses the song to establish domination over all men. Seriously, how sad are the Oscars when they can’t do what the likes of Joey Heatherton and Lola Falana (or as SCTV put it, “Lola Heatherton”) did on a regular basis — make cheesy, schlocky musical numbers that you feel guilty for enjoying?
Also, bad as the Oscar numbers can be, the good ones can actually help make people famous, or make them famous again. Ann-Margret’s rendition of “Bachelor In Paradise” in 1962 (not online, unfortunately) is credited with turning her into a star. I realize that it’s harder to create stars at the Oscars because there are few movie musicals or TV variety shows, so a show-stopping Oscar number doesn’t actually get you much of anywhere in movies or TV. But still, if the Oscars want to look for young performers who can sell a mediocre song and surprise the audience, it can happen. And a surprisingly good or fun musical number is one of the few actual surprises that the show can usually offer.
Of course, knowing the Oscars, if they did try to create entertaining musical numbers, they’d probably come up with this instead. So maybe they shouldn’t even try. (I actually remember seeing this one at the time. Even though I was predisposed to like this kind of music, I couldn’t sit through a minute of it — the song or the number — before I gave up.)
2. Kevin Eubanks, “the guy with the guitar who laughs at everything,” is leaving The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, though it looks like he won’t leave until after it comes back on March 1. It will be interesting to see if Jay can rise to the challenge of doing a heartfelt, teary showbiz farewell. The Oscars are falling down on the need to provide old-fashioned lovable showbiz phoniness; I somehow doubt Leno can do it (Fallon seems like the best bet to really provide that kind of thing, once he gets a little older and can cry on cue), but someone’s got to at least try.