I Am the 86%

Tomorrow night the opening ceremony for the Olympics will play out on TV. It is expected that more than a billion people will be watching – 14% of the world’s population – as 10,000 performers, 900 children, and nearly 100 farm animals (seriously) will engage in what amounts to the Orange Bowl halftime show on steroids.

Women (or at least the two women that I’ve been married to) seem to love the Big Show. Men – not so much. We’ll watch the Big Show if we have to but mostly to make fun of it. Women on the other hand seem to be genuinely entertained by these spectacles. This baffles me. Like anyone, I’m impressed by the enormity of the Big Show. I mean… it’s Big! Okay. But beyond that, it reminds me very much of the shows we used to put on in our garage when we were kids. We’d get every kid in the neighborhood, put on that Elton John/Kiki Dee classic “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart”, and we’d all gyrate around barely dancing, barely together, and mouth the words of the song.

I will grant you that the Big Shows have much better costumes and lights but…

I started watching Big Shows back in the 70s. It was there, as a young lad, when I first saw the “Up With People” version of the Big Show. This served as a specific delineating moment in my adolescence: I did not like Up With People, therefore I could be assured, I was heterosexual. (If you think I am exaggerating, put on your bell bottoms and check out this link: Up With People Halftime at the Silverdome)

Later, the halftime shows tried to get edgier. They hired Mickey Rooney, George Burns and The Grambling State Marching Band to lip sync the song “What a Feelin’” from Flashdance. This was followed by a year of n”Sync/Aerosmith/Britney Spears. Comedian Lewis Black called the sound they made, “It wasn’t music… it was the sound of chaos. The sound of pigs being slaughtered, women weeping and men gnashing their teeth! Sounds so horrible that if I were to repeat them for you now you would run screaming from this place.”

Of course soon the organizers of The Big Shows of the world got really hip. They started to invite MTV to produce their shows and book stars like Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. (I contend that not only was that infamous “wardrobe malfunction” pre-planned, it was set up by the makers of TIVO. Think about it.)

Now there have been a few worthwhile Big Shows. Well, one. The Super Bowl halftime in 2002. This was mere months after 9/11 and the world was still very much in shock. The Super Bowl was one of the first really big public spectacles since the attacks and people were uneasy. Watch what U2 did with the moment and tell me that, even ten years later, it doesn’t still bring chills. (U2 Super Bowl Halftime Show)

There was one other really great moment in the world of Big Shows. This was the opening piece done by NBC for the Beijing Olympics. Great visuals, great script, perfect voice… When it was presented live it ended dramatically, perfectly, on the word “Now!” at the 4:23 mark. However, they couldn’t just leave it be. They had to make it “Big-er” They actually added American Idol winner David Cook singing “This is the Time of My Life” to a montage at the end. (Here’s the link: NBC Beijing Olympics Opening)

Let’s hear it. Were you among the 14% of the world watching this year’s Big Show? What did you think?

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