January 12, 2013 12:22pm PT by Michael O'Connell
Grammy Bosses Talk Last-Minute Whitney Houston Tribute, Courting the Rolling Stones
CBS scored with last year's Grammy Awards, when ratings swelled to the show's best returns in nearly 30 years.
Executive producers realize that a significant portion of that nearly 40-million-strong viewership tuned in to see how the show would handle the death of Whitney Houston -- something they had to handle on less than a day's notice. And now much of that scramble will come to light in a one-hour special on the making of the show.
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"I don't want to say it unmasks everything, but it does take a look at everything you don't get to see," said EP Ken Ehrlich at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "All of the footage came in after the fact. We didn't mean to do this ahead of time."
Ehrlich, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow and CBS EVP of specials, music and live events Jack Sussman presented the footage to network entertainment topper Nina Tassler last summer, and she gave the green light for the doc. It will bow the night before this year's Feb. 10 telecast.
"These things are never on paper when we come out with the nominations," Ehrlich added of the buzzy performance roster, which this year includes Taylor Swift, Mumford and Sons and Rihanna. "The Grammys is a big tent, and that's been our mandate from the beginning. If you like rock, pop, hip-hop, country ... you're going to get something."
And this year, they're hoping The Rolling Stones might be under that tent. The rockers, who celebrated 50 years as a band in 2012, have been rumored to perform at February's show.
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"We have reached out to the Stones," said Portnow, when the subject came up. "I have no response to that question though."
Whether they get the band or not, the Grammy team admits that the biggest show moments are something they rarely predict.
"There are some really interesting stories this year," said Ehrlich. "Every year there seems to be some breakthrough."
Sussman says that one of his fondest memories of the show is still the 1999 performance from Ricky Martin, who seemed to go from niche Latin star to global phenomenon over the course of the one broadcast.
"Ken was unbelievably supportive of that," he said, "and there were some people who didn't know who that guy was and didn't think it would work."