Lisa de Moraes

Rock icon Robert Plant and bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss were the big winners at Sunday's 51st annual Grammy Awards, taking home five awards, including album of the year for their Americana project, "Raising Sand." Brit rockers Coldplay and rapper Lil Wayne also won big.
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Because, sadly, there are not yet enough professional music critics and culture bloggers to sustain a broadcast TV show, CBS suits are going to ignore all their helpful comments about Sunday's Grammy Awards telecast -- bring back the host, more banter between presenters, kill the performances by old-timers, kill the "blind-date" performance hookups that pair, say Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder, Radiohead and the USC marching band, etc. Instead, they will listen to viewers, nearly 20 million of whom clearly liked this year's blind-date-duet-jammed Grammycast.

Expect more of same next year.

This year's Grammypalooza clocked nearly 3 million more viewers than last year's lame show, which posted the franchise's second smallest audience ever, about 17 million viewers. This year's show also copped about 23 percent more 18-34-year-olds. Which cannot have been because lead-in "60 Minutes" did a bigger number than usual, with Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and the crew of US Airways Flight 1549. Even with Sullyvision, "60 Minutes" skews old.

Nope -- more likely it's because, for the first time, the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus were among this year's Grammy show performers.

The Jonases joined with Wonder to perform their song "Burnin'Up," after which they told Wonder to show them what he's got as they all sang his "Superstition." Oh yes, they did.

Miley, meanwhile, sang a duet with her BFF Taylor Swift about the trials and tribulations of being 15 and being dumped by a Jonas Brother. Okay, I made that last part up. (Yes, they were dumped by Jonas Brothers; but no, it was not in the song, except maybe metaphysically.)

Anyway, some music critics, culture bloggers and editors of music magazines and Web sites were not amused by the intrusion of the Holy Teen Trinity upon the music industry's official trophy-dispensing ceremony.

We asked Jack Sussman, CBS's honcho for specials, about that:

"Any time you make a show for critics you are destined to fail. . . . I make it for the viewers. This is about making event television.

"If my kids want to watch it, and my wife will watch, and my parents don't leave the room, then I've done a good job. That's the kind of litmus test for a show this size. . . . You have to build a big tent. . . . If that's not your endgame, you're in the wrong business."

And though some critics complained that Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" did not win album of the year -- which went instead to Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin fame) and Alison Krauss for "Raising Sand" because, critics said, the Recording Academy is made up of old-timers -- viewers appear not to have cared much.

Critics also complained about current stars singing with old-timers instead of their own material.

Wrong again, says Sussman.

"Nobody will remember Kenny Chesney singing 'Better as a Memory,' but they are going to remember . . . the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder."

In another striking difference with other trophy shows, a mere 10 trophies were actually handed out Sunday -- as opposed to the Emmys' mind-numbing 25 categories and the Oscars' 24.

In one of those incredible coincidences that make covering TV so intellectually stimulating, the number of boring acceptance speeches delivered by winners at this past fall's Primetime Emmy Awards was exactly the number of musical performances at this year's Grammy broadcast.

We should probably mention here that the most recent Emmy broadcast attracted just 12.3 million viewers. And last year's Academy Awards logged 32 million viewers, which is a record low for that franchise.

With any luck, the big cheeses at the motion picture academy, whose Academy Awards are coming up any day now, were watching Sunday's Grammycast -- and taking notes.

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