CNN Goes to the Ball
After the event, it was time for the pseudo-event.
See all of Slate's inauguration coverage.
TV One—which generally plays second fiddle to BET as a black-focused cable network but is easily outdoing it today—has no pretenses to journalistic objectivity, so there is no point in chiding Joe Madison for wearing an Obama knit cap while anchoring its enthusiastic coverage. But let the record reflect that panelist Al Sharpton lost significant street cred, in the moments before the ceremony, in mistaking Aretha Franklin for Barack Obama's mother-in-law. Dude was James Brown's tour manager and he can't identify the Queen of Soul?
—Posted Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009, at 3:30 PM ET
It fell to the Disney Channel to start the serious milking of the inaugural festivities for every Nielsen family they're worth. Disney, which paid handsomely for the exclusive rights to air a children's concert, saluted military families, promoted volunteering, remembered Martin Luther King, and facilitated a William Howard Taft fat joke on Monday night's Kids' Inaugural: We Are the Future. But mostly it branded its own carefully cultivated pop acts as Obamariffic agents of change. The Obama daughters and Biden grandkids teenybopped heartily to the Jonas Brothers. The musical highlight was Miley Cyrus' " Fly On the Wall," which seems to quote a riff from Blur's " Song 2." (Read Josh Levin's account of the concert.)
Elsewhere in the entertainment world, the showbiz-news programs foamed with anticipation. Entertainment Tonight's Mary Hart served up Beyoncé sound bites and Ben Affleck sightings from the White House lawn. Access Hollywood marked its territory as a keen observer of first lady fashion ("Today it was a more casual Michelle in a belted cardigan as she did volunteer work. ..."). The Insider reported that Neiman Marcus had set up a boutique in the lobby of the St. Regis Hotel on K Street. Its pampering station apparently features a Manolo Blahnik shoeshine stand and a "drive-by bow-tie service." Every viewer will get worked up about the circus around this ceremony at his own pace, and this is where I draw the line: If you can't tie your own bow tie, then go get your mommy to help you.
—Posted Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, at 9:50 PM ET
Monday's Oprah Winfrey Show was a commemorative plate of a special episode taped at the Kennedy Center. Oprah was sharing her pre-inaugural excitement in a soft-focus way, stressing self-improvement and allowing star power do its thing. "There are a lot of people who feel like I do," Oprah said. "So let's get started and welcome Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher!" You can't fault Demi for getting choked up while talking about her hopes and dreams, or Ashton for not choosing this as the day to start combing his hair.
On tape and by satellite, other celebrities helped Oprah celebrate. The singer Usher, urging public service, quoted Aristotle ("We are what we repeatedly do"), which somewhat outclassed the wisdom offered by Justin Timberlake ("We all of the sudden have swagger, America"). Tonight's cocktail chatter about the appearance of Joe and Jill Biden will concern her candor about his career choices, but for Oprah's purposes, the best part of it was Joe—can I call you Joe?—getting touchy-feely when talking about his mom.
The capper was the world premiere of "America's Song," an original composition by David Foster and the disturbingly omnipresent Will.i.am. "America's Song" is most notable for featuring lyrics more bland than its title. Will.i.am joined Faith Hill, Seal, Mary J. Blige, and the inevitable Bono in raising his voice at the chorus: "America / America / America is beautiful / (Yes it is) / My America / Your America / Our America / Is beautiful." "This came together in a week," Oprah enthused. That long, huh?
Oprah will again broadcast from D.C. on Wednesday. The promo promises a guest line-up unprecedented in the annals of broadcasting: "Forest Whitaker, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Jon Bon Jovi."
—Posted Monday, Jan. 19, 2009, at 6:42 PM ET
HBO variously invested We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration—the Sunday-afternoon concert it produced at Lincoln Memorial—with solemn ceremony, buoyant pluralism, handsome edutainment, and just enough embarrassing moments to remind us that the marriage of politics and showbiz will always have its difficulties. Was George Lopez really the biggest Hispanic male star available? Would it be possible to take Jack Black seriously in this context? Did Shakira vamp around a bit much while singing "Higher Ground" with Stevie Wonder? Yes, and no, and what of it?
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Photographs of: John Mellencamp by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Sasha Obama on Slate's home page by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.