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CELEBRITY DUETS PREMIERE

Aug. 29, 2006

Fox’s Celebrity Duets, the latest creation from American Idol judge Simon Cowell, made its premiere Aug. 29. The basic concept is this: “Celebs” with some degree of singing talent are matched with two different music “legends,” chosen at random before the episode.
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The celebrities compete and one is voted off every week by the viewers at home. (For the first episode, the judges decided who was ousted.) The duet partners change from week to week. Wayne Brady (above) is the host; the judges are Marie Osmond, Little Richard and David Foster. The winning celeb gets $100,000 for charity.

Here is Mike Madden’s recap of the first episode:

Celebs: Actress Lucy Lawless, actor Alfonso Ribeiro, former Olympic gymnast Carly Patterson, actor Cheech Marin, actress Lea Thompson, WWE superstar Chris Jericho, actor/comedian Hal Sparks and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy regular Jai Rodriguez.
Legends/singers: Michael Bolton, Gladys Knight, James Ingram, Peter Frampton, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Lee Ann Womack, Randy Travis and Smokey Robinson.
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Best performer of the night: Jai Rodriguez (above), who performed the Lenny Welch hit “Since I Fell For You” with Gladys Knight and was very smooth with his parts. Knight helped him out by not out-singing him. Instead, she let him control the main part and gave him center stage. Rodriquez’s second duet was with Michelle Williams, and they took on the Destiny’s Child hit “Say My Name,” trading every other line and showing real chemistry in their body language.

Worst performer of the night: The “incomparable” Michael Bolton, who kicked off the night with Lucy Lawless on his forgettable “Time, Love and Tenderness.” His notes were all over the map and his facial expressions were pure schlock. His second effort was no prize, either. He joined Lea Thompson on Frank Sinatra‘s “That’s Life” and took all of the punch and camp out of the original. For what it’s worth, Thompson held her own with Bolton’s sluggish performance, hitting her high notes and parading around to show that she was trying hard.

Funniest performer of the night: Chris Jericho, who most likely was cast to capitalize on the success that his former WWE co-worker Stacy Keibler had on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars earlier this year. Jericho’s second duet of the night was with Peter Frampton on Stevie Wonder‘s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” Jericho started out with a verse and then merely sang the song title another six times. Then, perhaps realizing that there was more stage to work with, he sprinted to a platform behind the judges, performed a windmill-type move and then sprinted back to center stage for another jump-kick.
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Strangest performer of the night: A tie between Hal Sparks (above) and judge Little Richard. Sparks’ blue-eyed soul voice is very powerful and must have been honed from years of practice, but he doesn’t sound like the type of guy who could sing with such gusto when he speaks.

As for Little Richard, well, he’s just being Little Richard, but his rambling criticism wasn’t even in English all the time. Add to that his rather ratty-looking mullet and you have the potential for some classic moments in the weeks to come.

The proverbial fat lady sang for: Chris Jericho.

— By Mike Madden