‘Stand Up’ to Sour Notes

When it first appeared a couple of years ago (also on the same of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon), “Stand Up 2 Cancer” seemed a sleek, succinct way to raise a lot of money for cancer research, using top stars, a Spartan set, brief medical updates from researchers, moving musical performances and a united front from the three network anchors.

Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Diane Sawyer returned for the second one Friday (though Sawyer’s spot was filled by Charlie Gibson) and the large volume of stars (unidentified for what reason? Because they are modest or that we were already expected to know them?) were on hand manning the phones.

But there seemed something clunky in the execution; the scripted entreaties seeming less convincing as each under-rehearsed star tried to walk and talk at the same time, often ending the sentence of the previous star; or worse, put their person on the phone on hold for a minute while they rushed through their line.

Doctors seemed more prominent this time, which is to suggest that maybe they’re getting somewhere with the research this will fund.

But the music was far less plentiful and what little of it there was not so great.

Kris Kristofferson joined Lady Antebellum in one number for no particular reason; he didn’t add much to their song and they seemed hard-pressed to harmonize with his craggy voice with the seemingly incongruous choice, “Help Me Make it Through the Night.”

The emphasis was on big group singalongs and these were almost picture perfect train-wrecks, with one of the sketchiest version of “Unchained Melody” ever broadcast simultaneously on 18 networks, led by Stevie Wonder and an assortment of musicians that included Natasha Bedingfield, Martina McBride, Leona Lewis, Aaron Neville and The Edge (who played a solo). The seoection was likely to sugest the memory of Patrick Swayze who participated in the telethon last time, shortly before he died of cancer. His widow spoke this time and they played the tape from 2008.

As wonder and company sang, an array of famous faces who died from cancer flashed behind them as if to hit home their most important message: Cancer Kills Celebrities! Please Do Something!

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