There's something to be said for a 3 1/2 -hour awards show that seems like only three. So maybe the 47th annual Grammy Awards didn't exactly whiz past, but the music kept coming, and a lot of it was pretty good, and because actors weren't being honored the speeches stopped short of people feigning total amazement that they'd won, followed by several beats of heavy breathing and a brief but comprehensive explanation of which managers, studio executives, agents and publicists deserved their -- and, by extension, our -- deepest gratitude.
In fact, compared with the Oscar telecast, coming soon to four hours of your life that you'll never get back, the Grammys, I would argue, were generally worth watching. I say this partly in the spirit of charity, for apparently the record business is going down the tubes thanks to online downloading and music piracy.
"Actually I think this is the best Grammys ... I've ever seen," U2's Bono said, accepting the award for best rock duo or group. I took this to mean that Bono was in the bathroom when Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony performed a Spanish-language duet in what looked like an old bedroom set from a romantic parody sketch between Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman on "The Carol Burnett Show." Those fluent in Spanish, and even those who aren't, understood Lopez and Anthony were working through something very important in their new marriage.
Other than that, these Grammys were a step up from a year ago, when the likes of Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera set the tone. This year there was a classier feel, an intergenerational spirit celebrating the music above all. This is something from which the Oscars, which pay homage to the elders in a canned, heavy-handed way, could learn a lesson.
For another thing, on the Grammys you see people of various shapes, ages and modes of dress (every Grammys includes a moment when you think, "That can be worn as clothing?"). There is a genuine blend of ethnicities and social backgrounds, from aging white Southern rockers to black hip-hop artists. (Oscar contenders and presenters, by contrast, all seem to have descended upon us from the same planet, a strange place where women don't have hips.)
Host Queen Latifah told mercifully few jokes at the outset before removing herself to emcee mode. All along, the Grammys not only made room for this year's pop hits but continually paid tribute to rock 'n' roll's forefathers -- Usher performing "Get On Up" with that song's legend, James Brown, for instance. It's a cliche, but one of those cliches that sometimes works on you. The whole tone of the show was kind of wistful, more wistful than in recent years. Maybe it had to do with the there-in-spirit Ray Charles, whose "Genius Loves Company" won album of the year, capping a show in which Charles' "Georgia on My Mind" was performed by Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys. Of the live performances, Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" was the most spectacular, both visually and musically, and seeing a bald Melissa Etheridge, post-chemotherapy, belt out Janis Joplin's "Piece of My Heart" with young Joss Stone stirred one's rock 'n' roll soul.
Through it all, host network CBS ran promos of every series in the "CSI" franchise, so much so that you began to dread the breaks -- oh, no, here comes another voyeuristic shot of another grisly murder of a hot young woman to be solved by William Petersen/Marg Helgenberger or David Caruso or Gary Sinise.
In addition to embedding stars of its prime-time shows in the broadcast, CBS parent Viacom, which owns the movie studio Paramount, more shamelessly embedded the movie stars John Travolta, Penelope Cruz and Adam Sandler, to plug, respectively, the upcoming feature releases "Be Cool," "Sahara" and "The Longest Yard."