Do you have about 45 minutes to spare? If so, you won’t want to spend it watching Neil Diamond … Hello Again, a television special that aired on CBS in 1986. (As you probably know already, we can apply the following formula here: CBS + 1986 = a world completely devoid of irony.) Our friends at Seventies Saturdays have just uploaded all five parts of this truly, truly awful/awesome special.
Part 1 “highlights”: Neil’s horrible song/music video “Headed for the Future,” which will forevermore be my answer whenever I rhetorically ask myself, “Why did Neil Diamond get a bum rap in the ’80s?” It’s all awful: the lyrics, the choreography, the Diamond. And how is it that I swear I hear Auto-Tune at 3:34?
Part 2 “highlights”: Stevie Wonder completely wasting his talents miming a performance of “Overjoyed,” followed by some horribly forced dialogue between Wonder and Diamond, a stupid comedy sketch (briefly lifted by a cameo from Lionel Richie), and check this out: if you’ve ever listened to “Sir Duke” and thought, “This is an amazing song, how could anyone ever ruin it?”, well …
Part 3 “highlights”: I’ve always wondered, especially in the ’80s, how random artists were able to pair up and sing romantically to each other, despite not really knowing anything about their duet partner. Diamond and Carol Burnett give it a try here, and the results actually aren’t disastrous, mainly because Burnett is a comedic genius. This section ends with a “live” performance from Diamond. This part could have been much, much worse. Is it wrong that I’m a little disappointed?
Part 4 “highlights”: Neil sings more of his hits, and all I can think about is how his hair never moves, and how he actually got it into that style in the first place. The performance of “Sweet Caroline” is 100% lackluster.
Part 5 “highlights”: Jesus, as if “America” wasn’t a melodramatic song already. And of course, he finishes the concert off with “Hello Again,” which I believe we’ve now heard three times in the course of this special. Neil croons over the credits, where we find out that Kenny Ortega was one of the choreographers of this dreck — the man who, one year later, would choreograph Dirty Dancing, and eventually go on to direct the High School Musical series. Funny that most biographies of Ortega leave off his brilliant work in “Living for the Future.”
Summary: While nobody would be caught dead airing a special like this today, it somehow fits in perfectly with the cheesy crap we allowed into our homes in the ’80s. For the height of awful/awesome, you can skip Parts 3 – 5 and just focus on 1 and 2. You won’t regret it, and by “You won’t regret it,” I mean “You will regret it highly.”