Fine Tuning - A weekly column highlighting music-related television programming (Aug. 23-29)
No lie: I woke up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to watch dressage. OK, OK... It was a hungry baby that woke me up, but I was quite glad that she did. Because I was awake for this equestrian team finals event, it meant that I wouldn't sleep through live coverage of the gold medal round in men's doubles table tennis.
I can't say it often enough, I love the Olympics. There's still another week of familiar and esoteric sports competition at a level higher than most can imagine, let alone compete. And headlines about doping, illegal dolphin kicks and cocky basketballers experiencing a rude awakening aside, there's a whole lot of great theater on display on the many networks of NBC.
But there's also music to be found... Thank heaven for recording devices. How did we ever do without VCRs and their many successors?
VMA TIME AGAIN: Time and time again I have ripped the MTV Video Music Awards as an insipid reflection of the worst of popular culture and music. I have ranted and raved at the conclusion of each year's ceremony about being unable to get those three-plus hours of my life back.
Yet, inevitably, as the summer wanes, I find myself secretly looking forward to the VMAs.
The spectacle that celebrates our collective attention deficit disorder is always interesting. Be it because Lil' Kim has pasties on instead of a shirt or a Rage Against The Machine member rages against the set by climbing its largest piece or because Triumph the Insult Comic Dog baits Eminem into a hissy fit, the VMAs provide memorable moments.
They celebrate the flash-in-the-pan and musical longevity with equal aplomb. The give celebrities of-the-moment a place to shine and often reclusive artists a chance to further perplex through fleeting interview segments with Kurt Loder. Once a year, the VMAs does what the Grammys can't, won't and shouldn't: It gives wacky music folks a place to throw down.
On Sunday, MTV's annual bash moves out of its comfy New York or Los Angeles bases and heads south to Miami for the first time. It all starts at 8 p.m. ET, but tune in early for pre-show stuff, where much of the interviewing, hobnobbing and buffoonery is most likely to take place.
Gearing up for the ceremonies, on Wednesday, MTV will host the video showcase "MTV2 Award: And the Nominees Are..." On the same day, MTV2 will look at "The Best of the Best" of past VMAs. Friday brings a special edition of "TRL" in Miami and on Saturday, "MTV Cribs" will descend on the sunny shores of the Sunshine State.
Florida is in the midst of a massive recovery effort related to Hurricane Charley. Let's hope it can survive Hurricane VMA.
GMA GETS INTO THE MUSIC GAME: With NBC's concentration firmly on the Olympics, ABC's "Good Morning America" is using the opportunity to capitalize, featuring much music, which is usually the stronghold of the Peacock's morning show, "Today."
And, taking a poke at CBS, which is heavily invested in the Country Music Association Awards, where this year's final nominees will be announced next week, GMA is going decidedly country.
On Monday, Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson will welcome Shedaisy, followed by hit newcomer duo Big & Rich on Wednesday. On Friday, it's pulling out the big guns, with a free outdoor performance by superstar Tim McGraw in New York.
SOMETHING TO WATCH... EVERY SINGLE DAY: I may be mostly paying attention to the Summer Olympics, but you don't have to. Here's a few things that you should be watching while I'm flipping between Taekwondo and archery competitions:
Monday: The Mooney Suzuki is back and will be performing on CBS' "The Late Show With Craig Kilborn." (By the way, am I the only one who's excited he's not going to renew his contract with the network? Let's make some noise, people!)
Tuesday: Obviously, I work for Billboard, so I've got a bit of a thing for the business of music. Hence, I'm interested in CNNfn's look at the Corrs on "The Biz." Maybe they can figure out why this internationally successful group has only a passive audience here in the United States.
Wednesday: Sugarcult rips it up on MTVs "Hard Rock Live."
Thursday: Can't catch the Curiosa tour? One song won't replace the experience, but you can watch the Cure on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Friday: The Polyphonic Spree will fill the entire stage at the Ed Sullivan Theatre for its sure to be inspiring performance on CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman."
Saturday: BBC America is airing the Chrissie Hynde-organized tribute to Linda McCartney, "Here, There and Everywhere." Johnny Marr is on hand to play the Smiths' "Meat is Murder," while Elvis Costello, Sinead O'Connor and Neil Finn are also among the many performers. And somehow Paul McCartney leading all of the participants and audience through "All My Loving" comes off not as incredibly sappy, but poignant and touching.
Sunday: Gavin DeGraw and JoJo will entertain the tykes at the "Arthur Ashe Kids Day" event that kicks off the annual U.S. Open tennis tournament and CBS will air all of the highlights.