ABC, NBC, and CBS host Cancer Foundraiser
An unprecedented television event.
A spectacular lineup of talent.
And if none of those come-ons hooked you: 1 hour of commercial-free prime time!
In case you don’t have a TV and missed the whole thing, America’s three major television networks called a truce Friday night to unite in a common cause: raising funds for cancer research. "Stand Up To Cancer," the 60-minute show conceived by the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), and aired in a time slot donated by ABC, CBS, and NBC, had all the elements necessary to be a spectacular event.
But to this viewer, it was disappointingly flat.
Sure, it was nice to see Lance Armstrong and Elizabeth Edwards speaking to us from the Chicago White Sox’s stadium. Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, LeAnn Rimes, and nine other Grammy-level stars gathered onstage in Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall to sing “Just Stand Up.” That was cool. Meryl Streep, my all-time favorite actress, gave a taped message. James Taylor and Sheryl Crow sang "Fire and Rain." Heck, Homer Simpson had a “live” colonoscopy. As did Charles Barkley—well, if you cared to go online to see it. (I think I’ll pass.)
But after more than a week’s worth of thunder from the two political conventions, Friday’s Stand Up To Cancer fundraiser was… silent. It sounded like a TV show that forgot the canned applause. The response, at least in the Kodak Theater in L.A. where most of the action took place, was tepid at best.
Perhaps the audience, probably hand-picked Hollywood-ites, was just too blasé to be impressed by its performing peers. Or maybe there was a negative undercurrent of some kind, some upper-level infighting—unseen by those of us at home—that poisoned the show’s atmosphere. Whatever the cause, the stretches of silence were eerie and uncomfortable.
But it was within that silence, surprisingly, that the show’s best, most affecting moments quietly happened. Videos of ordinary people—you and me—saying a sentence or two about how cancer touched them. How it killed their mother. Their wife. Their son. “Drew was 4 years old. All he wanted to be was 5.” How can you not choke up when you hear those words?
I applaud the show’s news-anchor hosts, including Katie Couric (ABC), Brian Williams (NBC), and Charles Gibson (CBS), the presentation’s “network anchor dream team.” They gave it their best; all three have lost close family members to cancer. And many of the personalities onstage—Patrick Swayze, Robin Roberts, et. al.—have been through cancer themselves, or been profoundly touched by it. It’s hard to escape its shadow: one American dies of cancer every minute. That’s the equivalent of another 9/11—every 2 days.
This show had everything going for it: star power, funding, a spot in prime time. Did the “celebrity phone bank” take lots of pledges, along with the on-air $25 million donation from business tycoon/philanthropist Sidney Kimmel?
Ultimately, will the steak match the sizzle? The hype fulfill the hope?