November, November: A chilly wind, slate-grey skies and rain. A sinister month made worse by the lingering impact of a storm of withering dimension.
What the world needs now (well this part of it, anyway) is diversion. One heck of a darn diversion. A few laughs, a hoot. Maybe, a hootenanny.
The 46th Annual CMA Awards (ABC, 8 p.m.) is it and, by heavens, it is a welcome distraction. Live from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., it's three hours honouring country music's finest. Damn fine. Performers include Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Kelly Clarkson and Little Big Town. The hosts with the most are Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
Listen, this is country music's time. You are aware of the rise of the redneck phenomenon in the popular culture – Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Duck Dynasty and other shows about people who don't give a rodent's posterior about you and your uptight, middle-class urban life and preoccupations. And the CMT (that's "Country Music Television") series Redneck Island and the upcoming Redneck Intervention, in which rednecks who are in danger of going bourgeois are persuaded to stick to their roots and cowboy boots.
There's Nashville, the Nashville country music soaper on ABC. Coming Friday is the debut of the Reba McEntire vehicle Malibu Country, featuring McEntire as a country singer married to a cheating singer who moves to Malibu. It's an ostentatiously bad comedy. But hey, it's the trend that matters.
You want to know who and what is celebrated in this redneck thing? As it happens, CMT has just released details of the contestants on the second season of Redneck Island. I'll fill you in on just three. "Justin Campbell – a 26-year-old labourer from Alabama, he loves jug fishing and has dreams of becoming a chicken farmer." Also, "Joe Durdaller – this 23-year-old Texan, who finally realized 'anything is more fun with whisky and women,' played semi-pro football before his current gig as a casino bartender." And there's "Nick Honea – a student who, at 26 years old, enjoys the finer things in life: chasing women, drinking beer, hunting and junkin'." See what I mean?
Now see here, people, country music provides us with a cornucopia of meanings. The other day, just before the big storm struck, U.S. President Barack Obama was talking up the tunes on his iPod. What's on it? Stevie Wonder. James Brown. The Stones. Dylan. Jay-Z. Eminem. The Fugees. Miles Davis. Gil Scott-Heron. Country music? Who ya kiddin', y'all?
A bunch of people being honoured at the CMA Awards Thursday dress in the stars and stripes. You know, stars 'n' stripes halter tops and such. These are Mitt Romney people. Dubya people. Or maybe that's the wrong interpretation. Watch this thing and decide, are these country-music performers and fans the standard bearers in some sort of counter-revolution, or what?
Or you can just enjoy the music. Look at that list of performers and nominees. Little Big Town? Oh, come on, people. You must know their song Pontoon and the video: "Mmmm ... motorboatin'!" Ya know? Buncha people on a boat, drinkin', dancin', barbecuin'. Dead sexy. "Get yourself a coozie, let's go..." It's an anthem about taking leave of the mundane working life. And it's up for the CMA's Single of the Year.
Poetry? Do you want poetry? The outfit known as the Band Perry is much celebrated for the song You Lie. Like a lot of country, it's a hurtin' song. A varmint two-timed the singer, the adorable and amazingly coiffed Kimberly Perry. How did he lie? Like this: "You lie like a priceless Persian rug on a rich man's floor/ Well, you lie like a coon dog basking in the sunshine on my porch/ Well, you lie like a penny in the parking lot at the grocery store." Yeah, like that. And warming to her theme, Perry declares, "You lie like the man with the slicked back hair who sold me that Ford /Well, you lie like the pine tree in the backyard after last month's storm."
There you go – "... after last month's storm." Regarding the timeliness of the Country Music Awards, in a song that ain't country, "this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around."
Watch for the illumination it brings to the culture. Watch for tight dresses and tighter jeans. Hoot if you want, but it's a hootenanny we all need now. I'm just sayin'. Get yourself a coozie.
The Crash (TSN, 8 p.m.) is part of the excellent Engraved on a Nation series, about 100 years of the Grey Cup. Here director Paul Cowan looks at the impact of a tragedy after the annual East vs. West all-star game in 1956. A plane carrying five all-star players crashed and for a time the accident had a profound impact on the Canadian Football League.