Upon seeing the above image of James Corden on the latest cover of one of my favorite magazines, Entertainment Weekly, with the title of “Carpool Karaoke King,” I was reminded of both Corden (who I think is doing a lovely job with “the Late Late Show“) and his carpool karaoke segment, where he drives around with the likes of Adele and Elton John, singing along to their songs and just generally having the kind of bite-sized, charming fun you’d expect from a segment on a late-night talk show. I was also reminded of that fact that this bite-sized, charming fun is currently being developed into not just one, but two different full-sized television series. This, I’m not so jazzed about.
It all goes back to Jimmy Fallon (as so many things do) and another bite-sized, charming bit of late-night fun that he did on “the Tonight Show” called the lip sync battle. Here, guests like Emma Stone and Paul Rudd would compete against Fallon to see who could most convincingly (or really, most entertainingly) lip sync along to a song of their choosing. It was perfectly simple and hugely popular. Every time a new lip sync battle occurred, the Internet would collectively lose its mind and a new viral hit would be born. So of course Hollywood decided to ruin it.
It was announced in November 2014 that “Lip Sync Battle” would become its own show on the Spike TV network. At first, I was very excited about this. Like everyone else, I got absurdly excited at the sight of a new Tonight Show lip sync battle and had the highest of hopes that this new series would be equally simple, charming and delightful. And then I watched it. Gone was the simplicity of a guest, fresh from an interview, just lip syncing alone onstage. That was replaced by excessively high production values and costuming that took people like my beloved Joseph Gordon Levitt from an approachable guy who really gets into game night to a celebrity who gets waaaaay too into game night.
What made the original lip sync battles so great was that they gave celebrities a certain level of accessibility. They were just themselves, seemingly goofing off. You could practically imagine them as one of your friends, over-dramatically lip syncing at a party. The TV series on Spike removed all of that accessibility by giving the celebrities more of the resources that we expect celebrities to naturally have, like costume designers, makeup artists and choreographers. It took away the relatable quality that the original clips had. These aren’t your friends, Spike TV reminded us, these are celebrities. And they can basically do whatever they want. Needless to say, “Lip Sync Battle” is not on my regular viewing list.
This brings me back to James Corden and carpool karaoke. As of now, the idea seems great. Really, anything that gets Jennifer Hudson to sing “And I Am Telling You” is great. But I can’t help but worry that it’ll go the way that lip sync battle did, that it’ll lose its simplicity and charm to Hollywood’s never-ending need to take everything from a 10 to a 10,000. I guess I’ll have to watch and find out.
What do you think? Do you hope that the new versions of carpool karaoke will retain their current simplistic format? Love the high production values of “Lip Sync Battle” and think I’m just a curmudgeon? Wanna say that to my face, ya punk? Let me know in the comments. And, before I forget…