Viewers could be forgiven if they thought they had tuned in to Canadian Idol instead of The Juno Awards last night. All those nasty, unkempt indie bands like Arcade Fire were kept well away from the stage. Everything was neat and tidy, middle of the road to maximise the appeal to the biggest-possible Sunday night TV audience.
The show was once again produced by the official production house of all things live in Canada, Canadian Idol suppliers Insight Productions. The crew has this gig down cold by now. All that was missing were the cut aways to the four Idol judges.
The fact that Blue Rodeo also emerged as Group of the Year (what year--1989?) was another tip off that this Junos was aimed at the MOR comfort zone where most viewers and advertisers live.
Look at the stars who performed last night: Michael Buble, Anne Murray, Sarah Brightman, Jann Arden and opera star Measha Brueggergosman. This WAS your parent's Juno Awards.
Except for one big exception: the host, Brampton's own Russell Peters. The "Brown Bomber" played this enormous Calgary house as if it were just another stadium venue on his raunchy comedy road show. Anybody who has seem Peters hilarious DVDs knows the dude takes no prisoners as he goofs on all nationalities and persuasions.
He opened last night with some very funny lines, especially at the expense of "his driver," Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. He's the dude who keeps getting booked on DWI charges. Peters suggested that Kroeger's band change its name from Nickelback to "Get Your Licence Back." He admitted he'd never seen The Junos before, which proved he was "Canadian." He pointed out how South Asians like himself were the largest visible minority in Canada now. "You know what that means Calgary? Pretty soon your cowboys are going to be Indians."
Peters also mocked absent singer Celine Dion, explaining "Rene, I think, just lost her in a high-stakes poker game."
Peters was less funny later on, especially when he goofed on an 11-year-old boy in the audience with a series of "flaming" jokes. It was also creepy the way he kept telling viewers how much he wanted to sleep with Avril Lavigne and Jully Black. "We're going out with a bang, and if she goes out with me," he said introducing Black at the very end of the show, "I'll give her a bang!"
As tempting as that offer undoubtedly was, Black would probably rather have been placed earlier in the two hour broadcast, instead of after the last award of the night was handed out.
Peters best bit came in a sketch with Arden, with the Calgary diva getting a back stage foot massage while she gave the host tips. "Oh my God, Mike Bullard, you look amazing with that tan!" she cracked. "What in the hell have you been doing with yourself?" She later warned Peters, who she kept calling Murray or Darrell, to not even mention "Toronto"--which got huge laffs from the Western stadium crowd.
Even Arden wasn't as funny, however, as minister hottie from Quebec Josee Vernier, who implored the crowd to "put you 'ands together for 'edley."
And what was with that empty oil drum set? Were they trying to draw attention to Canada's "canned" music? "Empty oil can drums?" asked Peters. "Is the price that high?"
If you wanted to know who was going to win all the awards last night, all you had to do was look for who was sitting directly in front on CTV CEO Ivan Fecan. Ivan and Ivana got plenty of face time as Feist kept getting shocked out of her seat all night with another call up to the podium.
Have to say I don't get Feist. I was even more confused during her performance when she seemed determined to pass out by repeating the same annoying mantra over and over again while standing too close to an amp. Meanwhile, some chick was doodling a tribute to "Pick a Letter With George Feyer" on a large overhead screen.
The impression that Feist seems about 14 was cemented during one of her acceptance speeches, when she kept checking out the names of the people she wanted to thank which were written on her arm. This is The Junos, honey, not a Grade Nine history test!
Avril Lavigne tried to bratty it up by pinning a paper Canadian flag to her ass, but even that just looked like a "kick me" sign pinned there by the horny host.
Later, some "ultimate fan" got the supreme privilege of shilling for Doritos. Michael Buble won the cheese product award, which seemed about right.
Actually, The Junos could do worse than to book Buble to host next year. The dude makes Ryan Seacrest look like Shawn Penn the way he shamelessly works the crowd and the camera. He was self-effacing and funny last night--even goofing on Doritos--and he sings nothing but safe standards. Plus he already comes with a black and white suit.
The crowning touch came toward the end of the show when the hall of fame or heritage award or whatever went to heavy metal mockers Spinal Tap, although people kept referring to them as Triumph. The Harry Shearer character even went so far as to wear a home town hockey jersey, a nice touch. Nice to see, also, that Christopher Guest has hooked up with Dolly Parton.