Tonight, the Grammy Awards opened with an extended retrospective. As a collection of contemporary female vocalists paid tribute to the music of Aretha Franklin, it established that this was a night to reflect on Grammy history. It was a narrative picked up by Miranda Lambert’s performance of “The House That Built Me” later in the show, which she dedicated to those performers who came before (and who appeared on the screens behind her in a nostalgia-tinged multimedia component), and cemented with a “rare performance” from Barbra Streisand and Mick Jagger’s first ever Grammy performance.
However, earlier in the show, Lady Gaga took to the stage to perform her brand new single, “Born this Way.” Although one could claim that this too is a bit of history, given that the song borrows liberally from Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” the song premiered only last week. In another performance, a trio of young performers (Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and B.O.B.) were introduced by Ryan Seacrest as being the next generation of Grammy legends, albeit in a performance which had a definite tinge of nostalgia given Bruno Mars’ black-and-white, Jackson Five throwback performance of “Grenade.”
It’s no secret that the Grammys have long ago stopped being an “awards show,” having transitioned into a concert event so blatantly that everyone noticed (if you’ll forgive me the inversion of a classic Simpsons line). However, during tonight’s show (and especially given the few hours I spent half watching the non-televised portion of the awards online), I realized the degree to which this shift has seemingly been designed to disguise the fact that the Grammys, more than any other awards show, utterly fails at capturing the last year in its respective medium.
And how, despite some unquestionable success at making the show “memorable,” it sort of confounds the notion of memory altogether.
I didn’t watch your Tonight Show. At 11:35, I’m more likely to be writing about television than watching it, and for that I truly have to apologize. I was part of the problem, part of the group of people who celebrated Conan O’Brien’s rise to the Tonight Show but who never bothered to keep tuning in. I watched a few episodes early on, and enjoyed the feeling of pride that “my” host pushing out Jay Leno, but then when push came to shove I was content with knowing Conan was there.
I know it’s not my fault: even if Conan’s ratings had been incrementally better, chances are that NBC still would have made the decision to push his show back, and this whole mess would still be happening. And considering that Conan is walking away with an enormous severance package and will likely be back on our televisions within a year, it’s not as if the man himself is truly losing his job and left without a chance of success.
But there is something tragic about seeing someone robbed of doing what he loved, and robbed of doing it on the stage he always dreamed of. He left this job because he felt as if NBC was disrespecting its legacy, and like the consummate professional he is Conan showed an enormous amount of respect for both the Tonight Show’s legacy and his time at NBC in the midst of his final goodbye to the network and the show he feels he is leaving a decade too early. While no one is crying for Coco, considering the severance he received, I don’t think any of us can deny him the right to cry: his tears felt genuine, a love letter to the people who brought him to where he is and a final curtain to a run at NBC that took him from comedy writer to national sensation.
His final episode (and mine) of The Tonight Show was one hundred percent Conan, one hundred percent heartfelt, and hopefully just a small percentage of what’s to come.
In this week’s first “normal” edition of The McNuttCast, we can’t entirely get away from talking Battlestar Galactica – while I had the privilege of collaborating with Devindra Hardawar and Meredith Woerner on the epic /Filmcast Series Finale discussion [LINK], the Elder McNutt didn’t get the same chance, so there’s a few minutes of BSG spoilers in here that are clearly marked.
The rest of the show, meanwhile, diversifies beyond television to the world of film, music and video games, as my readers get to see whether I actually know anything about these subjects. We discuss the genius of the Where the Wild Things Are trailer, delve into the latest release from local Canadian artist Joel Plaskett, and discuss the dominance and continued evolution of Nintendo’s current position in the video game market. And, of course, I still find time to discuss the state of NBC bubble shows, the Parks and Recreation testing “controversy” and the ratings for Dollhouse’s “Man on the Street.”
In our feature discussion, coincidentally only a day after 30 Rock made a joke about the Canadian Grammys, we discuss the biggest music-based awards show in Canada, the Juno Awards. Don’t worry, our international listeners: we contextualize our anger, and try to make sure that you don’t view the winners and nominees as representative of the best Canada has to offer.
We’re still working on getting onto iTunes (it’s our weekend project), but in the meantime you can listen and download below – full show notes are after the fold! If you have any comments or questions or suggestions of what you might want us to cover, send us an email: you can reach us through either of our sites, or by emailing us (for me, cultural.learnings @ gmail.com).