Saturday, July 7
NBC, Bravo, CNBC, Telemundo, Sundance Channel, Universal HD
No question about it. "Live Earth," on NBC and its sister cable channels, was a more-pleasing, less-crazed and better-organized telecast than the bungled broadcast of "Live 8" on MTV only a couple of years ago. The commercial load was lighter, the hosts were less frenzied and the performances were treated with infinitely greater respect.
Even so, it was bloated with silly celebrity interviews and oft-repeated public service announcements. At the same time, it failed repeatedly to deal with climate issues -- and the controversy about whether a concert of this nature adds to them -- in anything but a perfunctory way.
Although promos boasted that this colossal concert would emanate from nine cities, the only two that mattered were London and East Rutherford, N.J., home of Giants Stadium. Even if you stayed with all 18 hours on Bravo, you wouldn't see more than a few performers in Sydney; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; or, for that matter, Washington, D.C. Only the sexy gyrations of Shakira put Hamburg, Germany, on TV screens. Shanghai, China, and Kyoto, Japan, were relegated to highlights.
While Sundance, CNBC and Universal HD mostly simulcast performances without hosts, Bravo gave what amounted to an 18-hour endurance challenge to MTV alumni Karen Duffy and Dave Holmes, hosts for the entire event, and VH1 presenter Aamer Haleem, who did celebrity interviews. The three-hour primetime NBC telecast had Ann Curry as host and Carson Daly as backstage interviewer.
The leisurely cable broadcast let viewers watch the full sets of several performers, but the NBC telecast held artists to just one number, sometimes less. On NBC, Melissa Etheridge introduced concert hero Al Gore. He then thanked Etheridge for her music, none of which made the three-hour telecast.
True to its promise, NBC kept the commercial load light during network primetime and even lighter during the cable telecasts. Surprisingly, except for automakers, few advertisers ran spots with environmental themes. Unless you count the cable spots for matchmaker eHarmony, which does quite a bit of recycling.
Broadcasters feel compelled at such events to conduct lots of brief interviews, though most do nothing except provide celebrities TV face time.
To NBC Uni's everlasting credit, there were none of those inane, mind-numbing chats with sun-drenched fans, the broadcast equivalent of speed bumps. But there were plenty of celebrity interviews that registered strong on the vapidity meter, even during the NBC primetime show. Examples? Daly with performer Keith Urban: "What a great performance. Tell me about that." Or Daly with singer Kelly Clarkson: "How important is it that you're here?" It wasn't all fluff, though. We learned that Cameron Diaz turns off the water when she shaves her legs.
On the other hand, Daly had a key interview with concert organizer and promoter Kevin Wall. It made it onto cable but, surprisingly, not onto the network.
Curry did a reasonably sharp job when Gore, environmental activist and the inspiration for Live Earth, came by the broadcast booth. Although she didn't get much of a response when she asked whether such events do "more harm than good," she pressed mightily on his presidential aspirations. Bottom line: He didn't rule it out.
Curry also talked to Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler. Asked about her environmental work, Styler accused Chevron of pollution that brought death and disease to Ecuador. Curry quickly noted that Chevron blames this on an Ecuadorian company, then deftly steered the interview to something fluffier. "Why do you care so much?" she asked Styler. You could almost hear the sigh of relief at 30 Rock.
Duffy, Holmes and Haleem spent their first five hours gazing out on an empty Giants Stadium, seemingly disconnected to the Live Earth concerts that began hours earlier on the other side of the globe. When, for example, a tape from Sydney showed the lights went out on the performance of Crowded House, they appeared not to notice.
On the other hand, Duffy, in particular, availed herself of nearly every chance to tell us who is hot. Not all quips were memorable. After the performance of Fall Out Boy, she observed, "It was so good I think they're going to be Fall Out Men from now on." But then, after another performance, Duffy cracked, "Have you ever seen more beautiful Pussy ... Cat Dolls?" Let's see if the FCC takes the bait.