Review: ‘Grammy’s Greatest Moments’

This two-hour special recapping 35 years of recorded music may have been more interesting had the folks from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences included some blunders instead of this serious, best-foot-forward trip down memory lane. Show lacks galvanizing moments, and the dry commentary from hosts Harry Connick Jr. and Vanessa Williams is about as interesting as an overlong awards show.

This two-hour special recapping 35 years of recorded music may have been more interesting had the folks from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences included some blunders instead of this serious, best-foot-forward trip down memory lane. Show lacks galvanizing moments, and the dry commentary from hosts Harry Connick Jr. and Vanessa Williams is about as interesting as an overlong awards show.

The lengthy list of contributors makes the artists’ offerings too brief to be enjoyable, and the volume of talking and singing heads slows the show’s pace.

Clips of performances occasionally changing directorial style do as much to signal the era of the music as the acts themselves. Techniques such as split screen — big during ’70s nighttime variety shows — and the present-day MTV-influenced flash cuts detail the evolution of the production as well as recorded music.

Visuals such as these, and the physical and hairstyle changes in performers, unfortunately are among the show’s most interesting aspects.

Show could have benefited by including more lighter moments, or playfully recalling the serious ones that NARAS would probably like everyone to forget, but nobody will, such as Milli Vanilli’s win (and subsequent return of the trophy) and Jethro Tull scoring a hard-rock trophy. Also conspicuous by its absence is the five-for-five Grammy sweep of Christopher Cross in 1982.

A segment saluting Grammy’s recognition of “worthy social causes” with the “We Are the World” recap comes off as self-congratulatory.

The “Golden Grammy Moments”– a segment offering memorable high points from telecasts — often turned to lead when the one-liners from hosts of the original telecasts, such as Billy Crystal, Garry Shandling and Eddie Murphy, fell flat sans the original framework.

The finale featuring the 1978 duet between Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” deserves points for its timing, coming days after the latter’s return to the Las Vegas stage, but also serves to underscore how little the Grammy’s have changed over the decades, and how static the presentation of tribute shows has become.

Grammy's Greatest Moments

(Wed. (5), 8-10 p.m., CBS)

Production

Executive producers, Pierre Cossette, John Cossette; producer, Andrew Solt, director, Solt; co-producer, Greg Vines; writers, Peter Elbling, Solt.

Crew

Editors, Tim Tobin, Michael Gladych, Dean P. Kekoolani; lighting design, Bill Klages; production design, Bob Keene; audio, Ed Greene; musical director, Michael Melvoin.

Cast

Hosts: Vanessa Williams, Harry Connick Jr.
With: Aerosmith, Louis Armstrong, Arrested Development, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, the Carpenters, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Jr. , Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Billy Joel, the Judds, Evgeny Kissin, k.d. lang, Metallica, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Red Hot Chili Peppers , Linda Ronstadt, Aaron Neville, Stevie Wonder, Huey Lewis, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, Ringo Starr, Harry Chapin, Natalie Cole, Billy Crystal, Neil Diamond, Vince Gill, Doobie Brothers, Eurythmics, Ella Fitzgerald, Kenny G., Gloria Estefan, Whoopi Goldberg, Phil Collins, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LuPone, Henry Mancini, Bobby McFerrin, Bette Midler, Eddie Murphy, Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman, Lionel Richie, Garry Shandling, Isaac Stern, Sting, Barbra Streisand, Mel Torme, Tina Turner, Andy Williams, Hank Williams Jr.
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