From Nashville, Tennessee via New York’s Broadway to the bright lights of Los Angeles, this week’s column concentrates on the far-reaching impact that music in general – and American Idol in particular – has on our TV viewing lives and what the users of Twitter think of it all – in 140 characters or fewer, of course – during the week ending 10th February 2013.
Save the country singer, save the world
Music-based shows are very much in vogue right now. Where the leg warmer-clad kids from Fame had previously danced and sung their way across our TV screens in the 1980s, first came the radio-friendly pop of Glee (2009), rapidly followed by Treme‘s jazz (2010) and Smash‘s musical numbers (2012). Now Nashville, starring Hayden Panettiere and Friday Night Lights‘ Connie Britton as the rising and waning stars of two musical generations, addresses the enormous country music constituency. UK audiences watched the pilot episode last Thursday.
Of course, mention of Panettiere immediately makes me think of her in a cheerleader outfit. No, that’s not some kind of perverted fantasy – I’m talking about her previous starring role in Heroes. It seems I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines:
Whenever I see Hayden Panettiere on the Nashville trailer, I keep saying in my head: “Save the cheerleader. Save the world.” #Heroes
— Lee Savery (@Leegend90) February 7, 2013
Panettiere has compared her character – a young, ambitious star who will stop at nothing to
sleep her way climb to the top – with country superstar Carrie Underwood, who won season four of American Idol. I’m not entirely sure that’s a comparison I’d want to have!
Even though I hate country music with a vengeance – that all too familiar guitar twang has me breaking out in a rash – this was as polished and confident a first episode as I’ve watched in a while, and I can see the show becoming a guilty pleasure. Again, it’s not just me. Here’s Radio 1’s Scott Mills:
Nashville on More 4 is great
— Scott Mills (@scott_mills) February 7, 2013
I don’t think this will necessarily be a mainstream hit with UK viewers, but it could definitely carve out a niche. And More4’s scheduling of it using the The Good Wife as a lead-in – and with Idol on 5* immediately preceding it – is also a smart move.
You can read my review of the opening episode here.
Smash and burn?
Speaking of Smash, season two premiered in the US last week. I had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the show last year. At its best it sparkled with fun and a combination of smart, original songs and contemporary covers. Unfortunately, it also suffered from too many unlikeable characters, with uneven and seemingly random plotting and characterisation.
Net result? Original showrunner Theresa Rebeck was unceremoniously fired and it seems there has been a major shake-up in the cast, with several supporting characters disappearing and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson adding heavyweight vocal talent alongside fellow American Idol alumnus Katharine McPhee and the terrific Megan Hilty.
Did it work? There was much love from the show’s devoted fans on Twitter, but among critics and key influencers the double-length season opener was considered to be anything but a smash. Comedy writer and podcaster Julie Klausner’s reaction was fairly typical:
On tomorrow’s podcast: expect a lot of angry grief! And a call to cancel SMASH.
— Julie Klausner (@julieklausner) February 8, 2013
Uh oh. I like Smash. But I fear it will do well to make it beyond mid-season, and the overnight ratings in the US were abysmal. Enjoy it while you can, folks.
That’s what makes you, um, er, what were the words again?
Having already mentioned the grand-daddy of modern TV talent shows twice, I should do a quick update on how the current series of Idol is progressing. The initial city auditions are done and we’re now into my favourite part of the entire process: Hollywood Week. Here the contestants – this week the boys, next week the girls – are put through the emotional wringer, being forced to jump through a series of hoops designed to (a) test their vocal abilities and (b) put them under enough pressure that some will inevitably crack, providing us with our quota of reality TV melodrama. From singing a cappella to sleep-deprived group numbers to performing with a band, every season provides a heady mix of self-delusion, diva strops and fluffed lines. And that’s just the judges.
Every year there are some contestants who forget the lines to even the most simple and well-known of songs under pressure. This season’s classic? One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful, a song so simple and ubiquitous that even I know the lyrics to it, and that’s with me covering my ears while reaching for the mute button every time it comes on. It’s not a difficult song to memorise, right? Wrong.
These guys forgot the lyrics to “What Makes You Beautiful.” Is that even humanly possible? #idol
— Zack Peterson (@zacksdiary) February 7, 2013
Of course, this season’s narrative also includes the ongoing tension between new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. While I’m sure they’re not BFFs away from the camera, this simmering feud has felt slightly staged to me. Anyhow, it has certainly raised much debate among Idol fans as to who their favourite new judge is. The majority seem to be leaning towards the outspoken Minaj right now:
— Jenny (@JenJenC16) February 8, 2013
Although she isn’t everyone’s cup of tea:
— Maddie Moore (@madalynjanay) February 8, 2013
For me, talent-wise Nicki can’t hold a candle to Mariah, but her willingness to speak her mind is a refreshing change from J-Lo and Steven Tyler’s default approach of praising absolutely everyone. Mind you, my favourite new judge is neither Minaj nor Carey. Give me the dry wit and low-profile constructive criticism of Keith Urban every day.
Clarkson’s the (photo)bomb at the Grammys
Sunday night brought us the 55th Grammy Awards – all 81 of them – and a whole load of tribal bitching on Twitter. For starters, Ed Sheeran fans flocked online in their thousands to protest the fact that (a) their boy didn’t win an award and (b) he’s too cool for the Grammys anyway.
But that was nothing compared to the vitriol directed at Taylor Swift, who received her seventh Grammy and performed live on the show, briefly dissing ex-boyfriend, One Direction’s Harry Styles, as she did so. One Direction fans, who were looking for any excuse on the basis that (a) she had the temerity to date Harry and (b) she had the temerity to break up with him, wasted no time in flooding Twitter with some fairly unpleasant abuse, including the usual idiotic death threats. This was one of the more printable responses:
It’s a bummer my phone battery only lasts about as long as Taylor Swift’s relationships
— Emily(@xoxo_emilyann) February 11, 2013
While there’s always a place on Twitter for a spot of well-placed snarkiness, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I’m very much in agreement with the following observation:
Hey, if there was a grammy for doing nothing but watching tv and bein snarky YOUD ALL WIN!!!!
— Harris Wittels (@twittels) February 11, 2013
On a brighter note, Ellen DeGeneres (who was briefly an American Idol judge) and her wife Portia De Rossi (anyone remember her from Ally McBeal?) featured in the two best photos of the evening, which both swept around Twitter like wildfire. First up is a shot of Ellen checking out the ample contents of Katy Perry‘s dress, which bared a significant amount of her, er, frontal area:
— HuffPost Media (@HuffPostMedia) February 11, 2013
And then the pair were photobombed by Kelly Clarkson, the very first American Idol, who picked up her third Grammy and won the hearts of America with both her acceptance speech and this endearing shot:
— HuffPostEnt (@HuffPostEnt) February 11, 2013
I’m off now to see if I can photobomb an X Factor reject, but I shall return with more Twitter gems next Tuesday.