Thursday, December 04, 2008

what exit?

A highlight of NBC's holiday schedule is their annual broadcast of "Christmas in Rockefeller Center." I thought that this year's telecast was considerably better than last year and the year before. There were still some things to nitpick though. Al Roker said the tree lighting was the "official start of the holiday season." I'm almost positive he said the exact same thing about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last week. C'mon Al, pick one.

The "miracle tree" came from 74-year-old twins Bill and Bob Varanyak of Hamilton, New Jersey. They explained that their late mother fertilized the tree with a mixture of manure and water for many years after planting it in 1931.

"America's Got Talent" winner Neal E. Boyd got to sing during the 7pm hour, which is shown only on WNBC in New York. His performance of "O Holy Night" had too much vibrato for my taste. For the nationwide broadcast, all they let him do was introduce "American Idol" winner David Cook, who did a good job on John Lennon's "Happy Xmas." I like David Cook's voice but his version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"on the pre-show wasn't that great, mostly because of his guitar playing and the way he "made it his own" by leaving out parts of the song. His guitar sounded like it was playing a different song than the one he was singing.

Faith Hill and Rascal Flatts made appearances on the telecast. I generally find country artists to be tolerable when they are singing Christmas standards. Faith did justice to "Little Drummer Boy" and "Joy to the World." Rascal Flatts was okay with "White Christmas." In fact, I preferred it over Harry Connick, Jr's jazz arrangement of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." My wife says I'm biased because it was too different from the way good old Andy Williams sings it.

I may be in the minority but I thought Miley Cyrus sounded good on "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." It was the right song for her voice and was way better than the non-holiday song she did on the pre-show. It was fairly obvious that Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Beyonce pre-recorded their segments. Otherwise why would NBC stick them on a rooftop, away from the fans? Plus, the Jonas Brothers were on CBS minutes later in a live telecast from Los Angeles. I did like seeing St. Patrick's Cathedral in the background as Beyonce sang a song with a hint of "Ave Maria" in it. Co-host Jane Krakowski called it "her own personal version" of the hymn. As of last night, there were some comments on Beyonce's website complaining about her low-cut dress and the differences between her rendition and the actual "Ave Maria." After Jane Krakowski said that Beyonce's stage persona is "Sasha Fierce," Al Roker said that his was "Sir Gay Mild." Oh wait, maybe he meant "Sergei Mild."

The network did a good job of concealing Rosie O'Donnell's participation in the show. Britney Spears did less yet was promoted more. It was a surprise when Rosie showed up playing a bongo drum while her "Broadway Kids" lip-synced a song about Santa doing the mambo. Britney got a few seconds of screen time as she opened the show and teased the actual tree lighting prior to a commercial break.

Tony Bennett continues to make it sound easy when he sings. I can't believe he's 82 years old. I was also amazed to hear that "A Swingin' Christmas" is his first holiday album in 40 years.

I mentioned that the Jonas Brothers were in Los Angeles, not New York last night. They were present for "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live" on CBS. Mariah Carey opened that show with "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." That song is one of my all-time favorites, especially the cover version by U2 and the original by Darlene Love. I wonder if Mariah has got a cold or if the song was not quite in her range. She didn't sound as good as usual. I think I'll click over to YouTube to see Darlene Love do the song on David Letterman's show.

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