Tonight's special "My Night At the Grammys" (7 p.m., CBS) is not an awards show, but it deserves some kind of recognition for confusing, ill-timed and misbegotten programming. As a salute to the 50th anniversary of the Grammy Awards, "My Night" might make some kind of sense if it aired in hot anticipation of that event, but the golden-anniversary Grammy awards are not scheduled to air until Feb. 10. In fact, nominations won't even be announced until next month.
Over two hours, "My Night" will recap the 25 top moments and performances from the half century of Grammys, culminating in the top five, chosen by viewers on a network Web site. Voters got to choose among 50 nominated clips, including performances by Prince and Beyonce, Eminem and Elton John, Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, as well as Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Simon and Garfunkel reunion.
I think a more appropriate poll question might be: "When did you stop caring about the Grammys?" Or "When did you realize that the award seems strangely out of touch?" I may be dating myself, but I think the scales fell from my eyes sometime around 1982, when Grammy smiled upon Toto and the album "Toto IV." Any organization that can bestow a "best of" on drivel like "Rosanna" can count me out.
The Grammys have often seemed hidebound and out of touch, accentuating the safe and accepted over the innovative and interesting. Elvis Presley won three Grammy awards, but only for gospel recordings. Steely Dan won a handful of Grammys in 2000, roughly a quarter century after their innovative heyday. And I may have been missing something, but Paul Simon's "Graceland" album seemed to be honored every year for most of the mid-1980s. At least it wasn't "Toto V."
The Internet is crammed with sites listing the worthy artists who never won a Grammy, including Buddy Holly, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Doors, Bon Jovi, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Neil Young, Queen, Diana Ross, Led Zeppelin and Tupac Shakur. OK, Cary Grant never won an Oscar, either.
I do have a soft spot in my heart for the very first Grammy winners from 1958: the soundtrack album to the "Peter Gunn" TV series composed by Henry Mancini, and the single "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu," better known as "Volare" by Domenico Modugno. After a start like that, who knew the Grammys would suffer a 50-year skid?
¢ Tom Hanks stars in the 2004 fantasy "The Polar Express" (7 p.m., ABC). Based on a best-selling illustrated children's book, this adaptation charmed some and appalled others with its combination of computer animation and live action. Some found it enchanting, while others cold and off-putting. Roger Ebert called it "magical." A critic for the Wall Street Journal thought it was "a train wreck of mind-numbing proportions." Director Robert Zemeckis employs similar, if updated, animation technology in his new adaptation of "Beowulf," currently in theaters.
Tonight's other highlights
¢ A solar eclipse brings a battle of the ages on "Avatar: Day of the Black Sun" (7 p.m., Nickelodeon).
¢ Smash's dream recruiting trip takes an unexpected turn on "Friday Night Lights" (8 p.m., NBC).
¢ Bear survives Panama on "Man vs. Wild" (8 p.m., Discovery), but just barely.
¢ The guys disagree about an abuser of the mail on "Numb3rs" (9 p.m., CBS).
¢ News of the robbery reverberates throughout the gaming community on "Las Vegas" (9 p.m., NBC.
¢ The team returns to Earth to locate McKay's kidnapped sister on "Stargate: Atlantis" (9 p.m., Sci Fi).
¢ Ashley Judd hosts "India's Hidden Plague" (9 p.m., National Geographic), a look at that nation's AIDS crisis.