This is the column when I stop to recognize the things for which I am thankful. I did it last year and the year before that and on and on so that by now I’m pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel. But here’s one: UPN TV 21’s So You Want to be a Star. I caught the second installment Sunday night and it was pretty good. The show is like a low-rent American Idol (if there can be such a thing) in which contestants karaoke their way to a grand prize of $25,000. My favorite performer was Jeffrey, a guy just out of the Air Force, sporting a military buzzcut. He sang Journey’s classic hit “Lights” and sounded just like Steve Perry (or was it Luke Perry?) hitting all the high notes. The host of the show, I can’t recall her name, winks at the camera when she talks; she is either flirting or telling us we are in on some kind of secret. She also noted that Jeffrey hit all the high notes. “There were a lot of them,” she told him.
The show was taped, I assume, in the FOX 30 studios there on Main and Third streets. There was a studio audience, I think, although I never actually saw any audience members. There were cardboard cutout hands sticking up in front of the stage either as decorative props or to try to fool the TV audience into thinking there really was a studio audience. Whichever the case, with the introduction of each contestant the winking host told the audience to “put your hands together for…” There was a celebrity commentator named Tad on hand as well. I think he was the radio guy who was chosen best media personality by our readers in this year’s Best Of issue. Tad had nothing but praise for each singer, and got so carried away with Jeffery’s rendition of “Lights,” that he proclaimed Journey as one of the greatest bands ever. What a love fest! I don’t know who won. I was told I could go on the UPN 21 Web site to learn, but when I tried I ended up in Dallas, Texas. I hope Jeffrey won, though the best performance was probably the one by Amber who turned in a fine effort on an Etta James song.
For my money there is nothing better on TV than the locally produced stuff and I certainly hope we have more in the future. I still stop my channel surfing when I stumble across reruns of the Moriss Taylor show on Sunday afternoons. (I was once neighbors with the guy who controlled the laugh and applause machine for that show, giving it the feel of having a real audience. I asked him if he ever got the dials mixed up and mistakenly turned on the laugh track after a sad country song. He assured me he had not, but I still watch waiting for it to happen.)
I want to thank Jeff, manager of Bella’s Sports Pub, for saving me by pulling me off the streets and into the civilized comfort of his pub last Saturday. The morning started OK, with me in eager anticipation of the Ohio State-Michigan college football game, a sporting event I haven’t missed in nearly 40 years. But at 10 a.m. I found myself in a panic unable to tune the game in on either ABC, the most likely place to find it with Keith Jackson calling the plays, or CBS. I rely on rabbit ears for my TV signal and thus don’t get the many other sports channels out there. But this was the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, the biggest game in college ball. No network TV? My god, how this country has allowed its values to deteriorate. Anyway, I was soon wandering/ stumbling along the streets of the downtown. Every place that might have a satellite dish and TV was closed. (There is no cable downtown.) I walked past Bella’s twice—dark both times. Finally, as I was headed to join the residents on Monkey Island and share with them my sad story, I tried Bella’s once again and saw Jeff inside prepping for the day. One of the big screens displayed the game I was longing to see. I pushed open the door and Jeff steered me to a seat in front of that huge screen. He brought me some coffee, for which I was never charged, and gave me comfort and shelter—and a damn good game that the Bucks won. Thanks, Jeff.