The first crack at doing a music-from-home TV special was mostly terrific.
Sure, there were flaws. Every variety special – well, every one except “Color Me Barbra” and “Liza With a Z” – has had some.
But mostly, Fox’s “iHeart Living Room Concert For America” on Sunday proved that sheer talent can thrive, even under stark conditions. That’s good news, because there are three similar specials this week (10 p.m. Monday, 9 p.m. Wednesday, 8-10 p.m. Sunday) on CBS.
The “iHeart” show was stuffed with gifted singers, including Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Tim McGraw and Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes (they’re shown here in the crowded old days). Remarkably, however, the greatest moment came from a singing doctor.
At the Mayo Clinic (where he’s finishing a five-year residency in orthopedic surgery), Dr. Elvis Francois sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” with Dr. William Robinson on keyboard. It was that perfect blend of great song, great singer and perfect time.
Posted on Facebook last Monday (March 23), this “Imagine” was promptly featured on “Ellen” and “Today.” It soon had two million views, leaving people wondering who this doc is.
(Francois is a New York taxi-driver’s son who sang in church and choir, but hasn’t had formal music training. And yes, his mother is a big Elvis Presley fan.)
Unlike the docs, most musicians were alone – or with someone they’re around anyway: Cabello and Shawn Mendes have a romantic relationship; Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell are siblings.
The most primitive piece was from Sam Smith,staring into a stationary camera and singing a cappella.
The most ambitious was from the Backstreet Boys. Each of the five was taped separately; then they were woven together skillfully, in music-video style.
Close to that were McGraw – blended with separate tapes of his three musicians – and Carey, who had separate tapes of her keyboardist and three back-up singers.
Mostly, people were on-camera alone – with an occasional toddler or pet wandering in – and seemed to have two people working cameras. Many – especially Alicia Keys and Carey – were terrific.
Elton John was an amiable host and even had a comforting word for parents worried about their kids’ separation from school: “Sometimes, home-schooled kids grow up to be Grammy-winners.”
He was talking about Eilish and Finneas, who then did a song on their sofa. She may have been a tad too casual, but it was still worthy. We’ll see her again in Monday’s concert – with James Corden introducing songs from homes in four nations; McGraw will be in Sunday’s concert, with almost every big country star …
… Except Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood. They’ll have a husband-wife special from their home studio Wednesday. It’s a busy and interesting week.