Feb 16, 2004  •  Post A Comment

I just came back from the Grammys! Well, not quite, but it feels like it after watching the live broadcast on a 65-inch high-definition TV. The picture was so vivid and detailed, I can’t imagine that it could have looked better if I had been there. In fact, sitting on my couch, I felt like a voyeur as I gazed at the flaws and foibles of the music industry’s finest.
Prince, a k a The Artist Formerly Known as a Star, opened the show with a medley of his past hits. In hi-def, the aging popster looked mummified; pancake makeup was smeared over his puffy face. Joined by Beyonce Knowles, who looked absolutely vivacious in comparison, it was easy to see why Prince has been hiding out in Minnesota.
Later, Gwen Stefani, the lead singer of No Doubt, presented an award for best musical duo or group. Unfortunately for Ms. Stefani, her forehead had become a duo; it was dotted with a large pimple. Curious, I switched over to the analog broadcast to see whether the blemish was visible. It wasn’t, but it sure was in hi-def. And despite Ms. Stefani’s winning smile and personality, it was hard to stop looking at it.
Speaking of having difficulty averting your eyes, Christina Aguilera accepted the award for best female pop vocalist wearing a dress cut so low it would make a baby cry. Before giving her speech, Ms. Aguilera adjusted herself and commented that she didn’t want to repeat Janet Jackson’s performance at the Super Bowl. But in HDTV, there was little left to the imagination.
And speaking of the Super Bowl, the HDTV picture was so clear that when Justin Timberlake apologized for his role in the uncovering of Janet Jackson, you could see right through it. Right through the apology, that is.
Unfortunately, even with hi-def, you couldn’t see Ms. Jackson anywhere. News reports suggested that CBS would not allow her to appear unless she apologized as Mr. Timberlake did. However, after watching the show, I think her makeup artists may have intervened.
changing Perceptions
I offer my observations on watching the show in hi-def not to mock our favorite musicians, although it’s certainly fun to do so, but rather to make a point about the impact that HDTV will have on TV production, particularly live events.
Despite efforts to improve makeup techniques for hi-def broadcasts, watching a program in HDTV is like seeing it from the front row in real life.
If a performer is showing his age or is having a complexion problem, you can’t help but notice it. As more Americans buy hi-def sets, this could change the perception of who’s beautiful and who’s not. And if that happens, it could start a trend in which certain performers refuse to appear in hi-def broadcasts (if that hasn’t happened already).
Once more Americans realize that they can see their favorite stars in a whole new light, it could drive sales of hi-def sets. Goodness knows that millions of people now watch syndicated programs such as “Entertainment Tonight” or read magazines such as People to get a glimpse of backstage Hollywood.
Imagine what they will do when they hear about HDTV.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.