On learning the special is called "Cher: The Farewell Tour," a doubting Thomas might ask, "Can we get that in writing? Please?" Just because somebody calls it a "farewell" doesn't guarantee that they'll really shut up and go away.
Then again, the screaming, shrieking, stomping, squealing mob that gathered last year in Miami to see the Cher show in question ("the Cher-iest show on earth," Cher says) obviously would prefer that she never left. They applaud every gyration, every wig, every outfit, every lame quip and every loud, wan song.
Whether a national TV audience will feel the same way remains to be seen -- tonight, actually, when the concert airs as a grueling two-hour NBC special (at 9 on Channel 4). It's surely a show that's sheer Cher, which means it's all about outlandish outfits and having no shame.
It can't really be recommended as respite from war because the extravaganza is a nonstop bombardment itself, the bunker-buster of music specials. The pyrotechnics are pulverizing, the lighting effects are blinding, Cher's songs all sound the same and, yes, the bleat goes on.
Not for nothing does "Cher" rhyme with "hair." She goes through at least a dozen colors and styles within the first few minutes. Lowered from the ceiling inside a giant chandelier, Cher is a peacock in a gilded cage. That's only the beginning. One moment she's wearing what could be one of Liberace's old bathrobes and the next she sports an Arabian nightie. But whatever she wears, it has to glitter and sparkle and dribble with gems.
In comments to the crowd, Cher explains that she goes through dozens of costume changes in a single night so as to placate all the "drag queens" who worship at her high-heeled feet. So that's how it works. The clothing also serves to take a viewer's one's mind off the monotony of her songs and the emotionless way she sings them.
Director David Mallet shoots the show from every conceivable angle and with a vast armada of cameras. There are two-way split-screens and three-way split-screens and four-way split screens, and with Cher and her dancers in such tight togs, you'd think there would also be several split seams.
The stage becomes so crowded with glitz and kitsch that you might think Frederick's of Hollywood just blew up. When Cher's sultry troupe of dancers first takes the stage, it's hard to tell which, and how many, sexes are represented. Then you see a biceps and a beard on the same person and you think, "Ah, that one's a dude."
Cher gets to make several entrances, one of them on the back of a giant elephant puppet. Now her outfit suggests Indira Gandhi as dressed by Donatella Versace, and the dancers for some reason are a Mongol horde -- though one more interested in plundering Rodeo Drive than the steppes of central Asia.
One segment of the concert includes videotaped footage from the old "Sonny and Cher Show," co-starring, of course, the late Sonny Bono. With Sonny, Cher sings "Baby, Don't Go" and, in a brief moment from the team's famous reunion on David Letterman's NBC show, "I Got You, Babe."
Then Cher sashays on through the years, with glimpses of her various movies (of which only one, "Moonstruck," was truly great), snippets from duets with famous guest stars (Lucille Ball, Elton John, the Jackson Five) and a cute sequence of Cher playing all the parts, albeit poorly, in an abbreviated production of "West Side Story."
The show is exhausting and dizzying, and in one strobe-light segment literally nauseating, but in no way is it truly entertaining. When, near the finale, Cher sings her hit "If I Could Turn Back Time," some viewers may wish they could turn it back too -- at least back to 9 o'clock so they can escape to another channel before it's too late.
'Lucky' "Lucky," a new dramatic comedy on the FX cable network, may fail as a TV show, but it does have potential as an energy-draining device. Anyone feeling excessively cheery or zippy -- hard to imagine in these tiring times -- might want to tune in to be taken down a peg. Or eight.
Baldly derivative of "Leaving Las Vegas," "Atlantic City" and almost anything by Quentin Tarantino, "Lucky" stars John Corbett, once a citizen of "Northern Exposure" (more recently the groom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"), as Michael "Lucky" Linkletter, the world's champion poker player and also a compulsive gambler trying to quit. You'd think his first step would be to move away from Las Vegas, but no, that's where the series is set, so he stays.
In the off-putting half-hour premiere at 10 tonight, we discover that Lucky's most annoying habit is not gambling but talking to himself in bathroom mirrors. Corbett, looking startlingly portly, can't make these chats work, but then few actors could. They're embarrassing.
Lucky wins a million bucks for his poker prowess in the opening scene and announces he intends to marry the "beautiful lady" he loves. We leap forward a year; Lucky is broke, the beautiful lady is dead, and Lucky has become a Vegas wallflower. He's a sodden, existential lump with no particular plan except to pay back a loan he got to cover his wife's funeral expenses.
What energy the show emits, rather than sucks up, comes from Lucky's Laurel-and-Hardy buddies Mutha (Craig Robinson) and Vinny (Billy Gardell), a couple of ne'er-do-wells who stumble from one cockeyed scheme to another, ne'er doing well, of course. Unfortunately they are introduced tonight doing the old rock-paper-scissors bit that "Seinfeld" wore out back in the '90s. But next week they have more fun when they crash a convention of orthopedic surgeons in search of free food and saps to scam.
Rather predictably, the grifters become griftees, but there are still some off-the-wall laughs along the way. This subplot is far more involving than the main story of the episode, Lucky's being taken for a ride by a seductive con artist named Amy (Andrea Roth). It's not a good sign when you want the star to get lost so you can hang with the second bananas.
The show, created by executive producers Robb and Mark Cullen, tries too hard to be quirky and cool and seems pseudo-seedy at best. A supposedly colorful lowlife named Joey Legs (yes, there are "Sopranos" influences, too), played by the grating Dan Hedaya, tosses off such goofy observations as, of a newspaper comic strip, "That Marmaduke, what a clever dog he is!"
Then there's Seymour Cassel as something called the Trake, named after the tracheotomy that left him with a hole in his throat -- through which he smokes cigarettes. Oy. There are too many times in "Lucky" when you want to say, "Oh, come on" and go surfing for something a lot less precious.
As usual on FX, the language is cruder than that on most broadcast-network shows. It's all shot with a nervous hand-held camera that makes the image bobble pointlessly.
"Lucky" lives up to its title in one sense: It's already received not one but two rave reviews from the New York Post, and both prior to the day of the premiere. Why, how very very fortunate. Fortunate but perhaps not surprising: The Post, like FX, is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. domain. How convenient for Murdoch to own networks and a cheering section of "critics" to adore their output.
All critics, however, are bound to appreciate FX's highly superior press materials and the fact that preview copies of its major programs arrive on DVDs, not VHS tapes -- though in the case of a loser like "Lucky," this is akin to opening a box from Tiffany's and finding somebody's old gallstone inside.