Stay Tuned
Reviews, previews and much more on "The Real Housewives," "How I Met Your Mother," "NCIS" and many more of your favorite shows. This is the place to talk about all of the things that make us "Stay Tuned"…

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Celebrity Duets": Hooked On Another One

Sometime around 9 o’clock last night, it happened. I was just innocently watching TV, when the thing I feared the most occurred.

I got hooked into another TV show.

And not just any TV show—“Celebrity Duets.”

I figured I’d tune in just out of curiosity, but before I knew it I was critiquing performances and speculating on who would be eliminated.

Simon Cowell, what have you done to me?

In my defense, it’s hard not to get sucked in by this show, which wisely follows the “Idol” formula almost to the letter. If you missed it, here’s how it works. Each of the contestants performs a song with a recording star. Some of the songs are actually duets, but most of them are songs made famous by the recording artist turned into duets.

Which is what makes this show interesting. Not only do you have celebrities that have never performed in front of an audience before, but you also have singers who are not used to singing duets of their songs. So, some of the singers (Yes, I mean you Michael Bolton.) were struggling as well. Because this was a two-hour premiere, each contestant got to sing two songs with two different artists and the judges decided who to eliminate. Beginning next week, the show will be down to an hour and viewers will decide who goes home.

Which brings up an interesting question. Will viewers vote based on voice, or will they vote based on which celebrity they like best?

If they vote on voice, the early frontrunner is without a doubt Jai Rodriguez (“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”). I would buy his CD in a heartbeat. Plus, he uses his drama skills (He appeared in “Rent.”) to make some electrifying performances. His duet with Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child was so sizzling, I almost forgot he’s gay.

My favorite, though, is Hal Sparks (“Queer as Folk,” VH1 “I Love” specials). He’s got a good voice (kind of like Chad Kroeger meets Ozzy Osbourne) but I love that he puts his heavy metal touch into every song he does—even Motown. If Sparks would have been eliminated (which I was afraid of), I would’ve thrown this show back.

And last night’s best recording artist? Gladys Knight was fierce, but James Ingram has still got the pipes. I wanted to immediately download every song he’s ever done.

Here’s a recap of who did what, in case you’re curious…

Lucy Lawless
“Time, Love and Tenderness” with Michael Bolton
“Ooh Baby, Baby” with Smokey Robinson
Michael didn’t do Lucy any favors by not even trying to sing with her, but she and Smokey were smokin’.

Alfonso Ribeiro
“I Knew You Were Waiting” with Michelle Williams
“Yah Mo B There” with James Ingram
Alfonso may be the only one that can give Jai a run for his money.

Carly Patterson
“Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram
“I Hope You Dance” with Lee Ann Womack
Both James and Lee Ann helped an extremely nervous Carly out tremendously. Lee Ann even took the harmony on the chorus.

Cheech Marin
“Love Your Way” with Peter Frampton
“Diggin’ Up Bones” with Randy Travis
I’m afraid that Cheech is going to be the contestant that the recording artists are going to dread getting stuck with. He’s got a decent country voice, though; he just has trouble with everything else.

Lea Thompson
“Forever and Ever Amen” with Randy Travis
“That’s Life” with Michael Bolton
Lea took a chance by doing harmony with Randy (She was good.) but she has a real tendency to oversing.

Jai Rodriguez
“Since I Fell For You” with Gladys Knight
“Say My Name” with Michelle Williams
Jai was absolutely the best. And turning “Say My Name” into a duet was pretty inspired, but Ricky Minor and the Band went a little overboard (as usual).

Chris Jericho
“Mendicino County Line” with Lee Ann Womack
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” with Peter Frampton
I have no idea who’s picking these songs, but they didn’t do Chris any favors. And Frampton doing Motown? It didn’t work.

Hal Sparks
“Tracks of My Tears” with Smokey Robinson
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” with Gladys Knight
If Paula were a judge, she would say he made both these songs his own—and I loved it. He showed more vocal chops on “Tears,” though.

In the end, the judges did the right thing and eliminated Chris Jericho, who—despite Cheech’s attempts—was definitely the worst of the celebrities. However, I didn’t think they’d actually eliminate Chris since he’s so popular. I guess Cheech will have to be the sentimental favorite now.

But no matter what the celebrities or singers do, the star of this show is Little Richard. He makes Paula Abdul seem like the most coherent person on Earth—even on her worst day. Nothing this guy says makes sense, so you can’t wait to hear what he’ll say next. I could see the wheels in Hal Sparks’ head turning as he tried to figure out how to make fun of him.

I presumed that Marie Osmond would be the Paula of the group, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. When David lets her talk, she makes some very astute observations (surprising even some of the celebrities) and she doesn’t take any crap from anyone. When she was booed trying to offer Hal Sparks some criticism, she responded “Hello, I’ve sung before.” She does, however, need to condense her comments a little for time.

David is clearly supposed to be the Simon of the judges, but last night he took it pretty easy on everyone. We’ll see if that changes.

And, I couldn’t write this without giving some kudos to Wayne Brady. He started out a little stiff, but by the end he was becoming the Wayne we all know and love. I wish that instead of letting the eliminated contestant sing (a la “Idol”), they would let Wayne sing.

The good thing about “Duets” is that it’s only an eight week show, so I don’t have to stay hooked long. But if this show does well—and I think that it will—this won’t be the last of it.

“Duets” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m., with the results show Fridays at 9 p.m., on FOX.