PBS pledge time…roll out the crap

It’s that time again. Time for PBS to beg its viewers for money. And you know what that means don’t you? It means that PBS will start playing some of the lousiest programs they have to offer. The crap you only seem to see during pledge time. PBS will roll out all the motivational speakers again and play the same lame music specials. Most of their prime pledge time material just doesn’t do anything for me.

Specifically, I want to talk about The Osmonds’ 50th Anniversary Special, the Celtic Thunder shows and the Celtic Women shows. All are music programs. All are performed before an audience. All of them are (in my opinion) lame. The Celtic Thunder men with their bold, manly walking and standing; the Celtic Women and their gentle arm waving and swirling movements; the Osmonds being… the Osmonds, I mean, it’s all enough to make me turn the channel and not pledge my support.

And what is it with the Celtic thing anyway? ‘Braveheart’ came out in 1995. It’s been fifteen years can we drop the Celtic worship already?!

Celtic Thunder and their dramatic standing.

Those pretty Celtic Women, so angelic.

But the thing that bothers me most about these programs is that all of the performers are lip-synching! That’s right. Lip-synching.

Remember American Bandstand and Solid Gold? Those were shows that booked musical artists to perform their hit songs. They never played the songs live. They were always performed to the actual record. For those shows, I’m sure the producers wanted the hit song that was on the radio, not the live version. And it was probably easier to set up for a lip-synch performance. There were many shows that handled their musical guests this way. 

There were also shows like Ed Sullivan, the Midnight Special and Saturday Night Live that wanted live performances, which is cool, the SNL Ashley Simpson incident notwithstanding. But if you think Ashley Simpson was the only lip-syncher before or since on SNL, you’ve got another thing coming. Can you say Beyoncé?

How can I tell? I just can. There’s something about the lip-synched voice. The sound is too clean, as though they were recorded in a studio. You can’t hear the performer breathing as you would if they were actually singing. Their microphones are good but not that good. And no matter how good a lip-syncher they are, they can still be just a little off. Besides, their throats don’t move. When singing some amount of vibrato, I would expect to see their throats vibrate a little.

Of course, then there’s The Osmonds. It’s easy to spot they’re not singing. Just watch the older brothers, Jermaine and Tito or whatever. They are pretty bad at it, so there is no doubt.

The Osmonds being The Osmonds.

So why should this bother me? Well, I think of the audience that shelled out their $50, $100, or whatever extravagant amount those poor saps paid for a ticket to watch lip-synching. These performers are singers. That’s what they do! So sing! These are concerts, not a three minute performance on a hit record show. So sing! The stages are set up for a concert. The audience expects a concert, not a dance show such as the shows one gets from Britney Spears, Janet Jackson or Madonna. So sing!

It makes me wonder if they can actually sing. Are they pulling a Milli Vanilli on their audiences? Or are they just too concerned with being perfect? Well, at least, I didn’t hear any evidence of auto tune. I hate the auto tune.

Still, the audiences do seem happy, so maybe it doesn’t matter to them. Maybe they don’t even realize what’s going on. I would feel ripped off. I can handle the occasional bum note if it means I’m going to get the energy and passion of a live performance. A lip-synched show also precludes any spontaneity, excitement. But, then again, there’s no way I’d ever go to one of these shows.

Hey, Osmonds, you Celtic people! You’re supposed to be singers! So sing!

UPDATE 3-17-15: As much as this pains me to admit that I am wrong, it is very possible I'm wrong and the Celtic singers are actually singing. I'm still not absolutely certain they are actually singing, but I have recently watched a video clip of the Celtic Women singing Danny Boy and there is a bit of throat vibrating and other signs of actual singing. A Facebook friend more familiar with singing techniques and such has pointed out those aspects which lead her to conclude they are not faking it.

So, at least for that one song and for the Celtic Women it appears I may be wrr...wah...wuh...wrrruh...wrrrrrong. Damn.

Well, I'm still right about the Osmonds!


  1. Celtic Women- horrible; Celtic Thunder- atrocious. Both cashing in on "Celtic"-there is not really any such thing. It's like saying I like American music.
    The producer of "Celtic Thunder (Phil Coulter) should hang his head in shame. (If he can get his chin past the piles of money he must have been paid to foist this fake crap on the public.) Puppy Love? Knights in white satin? Celtic?

  2. Pledge time on PBS is painful. Ed Slott? Celtic Thunder singing mainly bland pop, and I do believe that I detect the use of autotune on some of their songs.

  3. Pledge time on PBS is painful. Ed Slott? Celtic Thunder singing mainly bland pop, and I do believe that I detect the use of autotune on some of their songs.