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The 37th Annual Grammy Awards : TV Review : Ceremony Goes as Smoothly as I, II, III

March 02, 1995|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Ah, the Grammys.

I don't know about you, but I spent Wednesday night humming the Rollins Band's Grammy-nominated metal tune: the melodic, the romantic, the lyrical "Liar."

" 'CAUSE I'M A LIAR!!!!!!"

One blast and there went your sinuses for the rest of 1995.

All in all, though, the CBS telecast was a mellow three hours, a crisp, orderly, efficient, tweedledee, taking-care-of-mainstream-business evening from executive producer Pierre Cossette. Very nice, and so tidy--except when host Paul Reiser was forced to ad-lib 3 1/2 minutes to cover a production logistics snafu--that you'd hardly know it was telecast from Los Angeles live (yet aired here on a three-hour delay).

Yes, nothing really to complain about, or to get terribly excited about. When it comes to awards shows, the Grammys certainly doesn't have the electricity of the Emmys (just kidding).

There was nothing as untoward as last year's Grammy telecast when Legend Award winner Frank Sinatra was cut off in mid-sentence during his rambling acceptance speech, and when rock star Bono had to be bleeped in the taped version of the show aired on the West Coast. There wasn't even a reference to the O.J. Simpson trial. Imagine it--perhaps a television first: three hours without a single O.J. wisecrack.

Instead, Wednesday night's dominoes fell one by one: some jokes from clever Reiser, some intros from VIP presenters, some acceptances, some performances.

What you liked depended on your musical tastes or your age. Hey, wasn't it great seeing Andy Williams? So . . . Perry Como's too big to show up?

If there were no ripples here, there was at least one good rip. In that regard, my own favorite moment had nothing to do with the music or the awards. It was Michael Greene's ode to America's most outspoken arts patron, House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The kind of ode that Marcia Clark would deliver to Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.

Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, tore into Gingrich for leading a strident, relentless and potentially lethal conservative assault on that favorite target of the right, the National Endowment for the Arts. "And folks," Greene predicted in front of a global audience that he estimated at 1 billion, "National Public Radio and PBS will most certainly be next."

He added: "We're here tonight on the brink of becoming the only industrialized nation in the world with absolutely no federal support of the arts." For an instant, it appeared that the Grammys had crossed wires with a KCET pledge drive.

Greene was three tenors in one. He was Boyz II, III and IV. His speech had so many twists and gyrations that they should translate it to rap.

How ironic, though, that his impassioned plea for "a little courage" on the part of Capitol Hill lawmakers came at a time when the Grammy process itself was under attack in some quarters for a lack of cutting-edge daring; came just before the record of the year Grammy went to Sheryl Crow's catchy but unremarkable "All I Wanna Do" and came in a telecast that would have played to a standing ovation in downtown Peoria or Branson, Mo.

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