Lifetime and CBS will both air Whitney Houston TV specials


Whitney Houston will be the subject of two TV specials this fall. (Fred Prouser/Reuters)
September 27, 2012

It’s raining Whitney Houston memorials!

Two days after Lifetime announced that it bought a one-hour Houston special “Remembering Whitney” — and about seven months after Houston’s death — CBS announced that it will air a one-hour Houston special, “We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston,” during the November sweeps.

Lifetime’s special boasts never-before-seen family photos and “candid insights” from Houston family members; those same relatives are starring in Lifetime’s new family reality series “The Houstons: On Our Own,” debuting days later. Meanwhile, CBS’s Houston special will feature performances by Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson and Usher, with more names to come.

Put your money on those names belonging to music stars who have albums to sell during the holiday season.

CBS’s special is being done with the Recording Academy, which owns not only the Grammy Awards, but also, arguably, the Houston “death story” — what with her having died on the eve of the Grammy Awards, while getting ready to attend the Grammys’ biggest pre-ceremony bash, put on every year by record-industry mogul Clive Davis.

Houston’s death, hours before the live Grammycast, turned that trophy show into a weep-fest for the pop star. Nearly 40 million people tuned in to watch the music industry lay its heart at the feet of its fallen heroine — the Grammy’s biggest audience in nearly three decades.

CBS’s newly announced Houston special will include highlights from her career and never-before-seen footage and interviews, as well as artists sharing their memories of her.

CBS’s special may look like a throwback to the days when musical specials during sweeps were standard — who can forget CBS’s Jackson Five reunion special that aired during the November ’01 sweeps period and that copped nearly 30 million viewers? But it’s actually part of a trend in which networks — as they try to hang on to hot trophy shows — wind up agreeing also to buy a couple of Shoulder Shows from the academy that owns the trophy show. The academy winds up collecting even more cash for owning a hot trophy show, and the network gets to file the expense under TV Special, instead of Trophy Show Stupid Money.

ABC, for instance, is on the hook to air “CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night to Rock” — and did so again earlier this month — as a sort of early reminder to viewers that the CMA Awards will take place during the November sweeps period. And that you can catch it on ABC.

That network is also on the hook for a CMA Christmas special. It’s all part of ABC’s 10-year deal to air the Country Music Association’s CMA Awards, signed last year.

CBS, for its part, has aired a Grammy nomination announcement special since 2008 as part of its arrangement to hang on to the Grammy Awards.

Shoulder Shows tend to be cooperative efforts between the network and the academy in question, and they’re scheduled at a time that meets both parties’ needs.

CBS’s new Houston special helps the Recording Academy get into the Christmas album-plugging TV-special business.

CBS, in return, gets a November sweeps special — although it has scheduled the Houston tribute on a Friday night, suggesting that CBS does not necessarily think this one’s going to be a ratings barnburner.

Cashing in on ‘DWTS’

Slowly but surely, we’re learning why various celebs really agreed to another grueling 10 weeks of competition on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

Last time Kirstie Alley competed on “Dancing,” in 2011, she was launching her line of diet food and wanted to be seen slimming down during the dance competition.

On Thursday, after the first round of “Dancing With the Stars: All-Stars” aired on ABC, TV Land announced that it ordered a presentation for a new comedy called “Giant Baby” — starring Alley. FYI: A presentation is like a pilot episode — only a lot cheaper.

In the sitcom, Alley will play a high-maintenance Broadway star who’s in for a shock when her 26-year-old son — the one she gave up for adoption — shows up at her door after his adoptive mother dies.

A series pickup on the project is “cast contingent,” TV Land said Thursday. The casting that’s still in question is that of her “son,” described in the news release as “nerdy and schlubby.” Surely this role won’t be hard to fill — Hollywood’s loaded with schlubby guys, who are all the rage these days. You can’t throw a brick in Hollywood without hitting some schlubby guy on his way to an audition or a meeting with his agent. The hard thing these days is to find a non-schlub to cast in a show.

Anyway, so long as Alley lasts on “DWTS: AS,” she’s a cha-cha-cha’ing advertisement for her TV Land series. This week, Alley got the second-lowest score from the show’s three judges, ahead of only Pamela Anderson, who wound up getting the hook after viewer votes were added into the mix. So Alley’s got to step up her game.

Before getting the heave-ho Tuesday, Anderson said, fighting tears, that she had hoped to survive at least to Week 2 of the “Dancing” competition because she was set to dance a routine that would be a national TV tease for her next project — starring in a Broadway production.

For previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, visit washingtonpost.com/
tvcolumn
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