Wayne Brady, host/singer/comedian, started this show with a reminder: All five of the remaining contestants had performed their most important duets to date. Now, the viewer telephone votes would reveal which two would leave the show and who would move onto the upcoming season finale.
Thus began this week's results show for Celebrity Duets, the latest in a new breed of reality television that pits celebrities/entertainers against one another in competition. The Non-Singing Celebrities (NSC), each famous in their own right for anything but music, are matched up with a different legendary singer for two shows a week. The first would be the Performance Night, after which the American viewing audience voted for their favorite. The next show would then give the duos another chance to perform; as they find out who would be safe, which three received the least amount of votes and who would be sent packing. The last remaining NonPro shall be proclaimed the champion.
The competitors have been whittled down to the Top Five performers. They are Lucy Lawless (Xena, Princess Warrior), Queer Eye For The Straight Guy's 'Culture Vulture' Jai Rodriguez, actor Alfonso Ribeiro (Silver Spoons/Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), comedian Hal Sparks (Dude, Where's My Car) and Cheech Marin, actor and former member of the seminal comedy duo Cheech and Chong. All of them shared a common dream, to be recognized as a singer. his contest gave them that chance. In addition to that, the ultimate winner would receive $100,000 (USD) to donate to the charity of their choice.
A video clip medley brought us up to speed on the performances from the previous night. It included highlights of some of the more memorable comments made by the celebrity judging panel. Singer/actress/author Marie Osmond is seated in the number one spot and is usually allowed to speak first. Next to her, the inimitable Rock and Roll Architect Little Richard. Rounding out the group was David Foster, who made his name behind the scenes as a songwriter, arranger and producer for many high profile clients including Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion.
My least favorite segment of any musical competition was next. It was time for the Top Five to present a group sing. One song, five performers all worked their own personalities toward their best advantage, which did not make it a good team effort. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" had me beg for them to do just that — and hard enough to daze me until the song ended please.
That out of the way, Wayne placed the judge's panel in the hot seat as he asked "Who do you think is going to the finale?" You could tell this was not easy for Marie but she eventually listed Lucy, Jai and Alfonso. Little Richard, very serious and short on words for a change, thought it would be Hal, Jai and Alfonso. I was surprised when David agreed with Marie's choices, as they were often at odds in their comments throughout the season so far.
Then came my fave part of each week's set of shows. Each NSC and current partner shared one final song together for us but now, with the voting out of the way, I think these performances are less tense and allow the artists to really get their groove on.
Finally, it was time for the duets to begin.
Alfonso Ribeiro/Chaka Khan. "I've spent my entire life loving you" Alfonso told Ms. Khan in his pre-song video clip. The most exciting part of the season for him was that he had sung with one of his biggest idols. So it was fitting that this duet was "Ain't Nobody." The two sang well together and Alsonso really worked the audience for the first time all season. But I was a bit frightened by some of his dance moves when he channeled Michael Jackson. Really Al, the crotch-grab step is not a good one for you.
Wayne did not say whether Alfonso was safe or in the Bottom Three. In a surprise announcement, he instead told us that all results would be revealed after every song had been sung. Not sure if I liked that format change, but it did keep the suspense levels high.
Cheech Marin/Al Jarreau. What Cheech liked most about skatting, we learned in his vidclip was "You don't have to know exactly the notes and so it suits me." Mr. Jarreau told us "We're gonna put a little funk-funk into the situation here." Funky, but tres chic with a light comedic touch was what they gave us as the two riffed through their song. Let me tell you, I'm no jazz fan, but they had so much fun it was infectious.
Hal Sparks/Dee Snider. In the pre-song both men discussed just how different their act was from all the others on the show. They proved that premise with a cover of Twisted Sister's anthem "I Wanna Rock." Dee showed again that he is a top notch frontman. Hal, not so much. I think he is a good actor, but not a Heavy Metal singer. Besides, this was to be a duet competition and this song was not duo material.
Lucy Lawless/Richard Marx. Richard got a little personal during this pre-sing clip when he talked about specific lyrics in regards to a certain femme fatale, "She knows who she is." Their song was "Should've Known Better" and really, someone should have, in allowing Lucy to sing this song. It was not a good choice for her, at least with that arrangement. I don't know if they should have changed the key it was in, all I can say is that I didn't feel it suited her range and ability. Too bad, because I think she's done a bang-up job all season and I'd hate for this to be the last we'd see of her.
Jai Rodriguez/Patti LaBelle. We didn't find out anything new in Jai's clip as it basically repeated what he'd said before, that he was a huge fan and what an awesome voice he thought Ms. Patti possessed. I would have rather heard more about their process or how this experience was for Diva LaBelle. I was a bit put off by the song selection as well. "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" was arranged more as a showcase for her talent instead of Jai's for the most part. Near the end, she personalized it by alluding to Jai-the-singer being the (little) bird flying and that he could make it over the rainbow. And afterward Jai said how this whole thing had been a dream come true for him, and all he did vocally was "just trying to get over the rainbow with her and she made that happen for me. It was pretty amazing." Uh oh! That sounded like a goodbye statement to me. Would this be prophetic for Jai?
All five contestants were brought back on stage and then separated into two groups; Jai with Lucy Lawless and Hal, Cheech and Alfonso together. Now the time for the results of the call-in votes was here.
Alfonso was first up and he was given the news that he was safe.
Next on the block was Cheech. He would be leaving the show. Given a moment to say goodbye, he reminded us that he had a blast "The most fun I've had in a long time." And that this had been a dream come true for him also. One final vidclip, bits and pieces of his time on the show was shown as well.
Hal was directed to now join Jai and Lucy. I was shocked when it was announced that Jai would be leaving and I found myself a bit weepy throughout his video montage.
One last time, we would hear Jai and Cheech sing as they recapped the group song ("Hit Me With Your Best Shot") as the credits rolled.
That's it. The last three contestants are Lucy Lawless, Alfonso Ribeiro, and Hal Sparks. Remember now… catch you next week, same bat time/same bat channel as these three go through it all one more time during the two-part season finale.