Grammy Awards to dip into Whitney Houston ratings pool one more time


Whitney Houston performance from 2004. (ETHAN MILLER/REUTERS)

CBS will dip into the Dead Whitney Houston ratings pool one more time, for this year’s Grammy Awards broadcast, airing a special on “what happened this year” music-wise, a Grammy panel announced at Winter TV Press Tour 2013.

And, of course, the biggest thing to happen “this year” (by which trophy show exec producer Ken Erlich seems to mean 2012 and early 2013) was Houston, who was found dead in the bathtub of a Beverly Hills hotel while getting ready to attend music mogul Clive Davis’s annual Grammy -eve party downstairs. That left CBS scrambling to re-do the next night’s trophy show.

Host LL Cool J opened that year’s show with a prayer for the faded pop star, Hollywood wept in the aisles with neon lights around its heart, and about 40 million people watched — the Grammy’s biggest crowd in nearly three decades — beating the Academy Awards for the first time in forever.

“The footage came in after the fact — we didn’t plan to do it ahead of time,” Erlich explained over the weekend during a Grammy Q&A at Winter TV Press Tour 2013.

“This past year, we had even more to deal with, obviously, as you saw and as you experienced with what happened with Whitney and these other stories that we had to tell,” He said.

And by “other stories,” he explained, he meant, “Adele, and Katy Perry coming back after the breakup of her marriage.”

“So we tell the Whitney story, but we also look at these things that I just mentioned in as much depth as we can,” he said.

And, don’t expect the Grammys to be live in all time zones next month, or any time soon. This ceremony still airs on a tape-delayed basis to the West Coast.

During the Grammy Q&A, one TV critic complained people out west can go online and find out who won each Grammy derby before the show is broadcast, unlike, say Sunday’s Globes, the Emmys, and the Oscars which have all converted to a live-across-country play pattern.

“When are you going to actually have it the same, so it’s 5 p.m. here?,” the critic complained.

This is to misunderstand the unique role played in the trophy show world by the Grammy Awards.

At Sunday’s Golden Globes, for instance, Adele gave another charmingly blubbering acceptance speech — like she had when she picked up a Grammy statuette at last February — but she did not sing.

At the Grammys, she sang.

It was her first performance since throat surgery. It was a show stopper.

All the other trophy shows have going for them is a host, and lousy acceptance speeches. At the Grammys, the host, the acceptance speeches — all incidental. Spoiling the competition winners? Not so important.

And so, explained CBS’s specials guru Jack Sussman to the TV critics at the press tour Q&A, “when my 17-year-old daughter is saying ‘Can you believe what Pink just did on the Grammys?!” from the East Coast, and blasts it to her West Coast friends, they now have another reason to want to watch. I actually think it helps viewership on the West Coast.”

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