Fall's Hottest TV: 'The Miley Cyrus Show'
It all began on August 25 with her polarizing performance on the MTV Video Music Awards, the seismic aftermath of which played out for weeks on every news and infotainment series. What would the anchors and contributors on all of those morning news shows, and the hosts of all of those late night shows, and the personalities on all of those entertainment news shows have had to talk about if Cyrus hadn't shocked the nation with her “I'm a grown-up now, darn it!” antics on MTV?
Isn't it interesting that Cyrus managed to push MTV back into the pop-culture spotlight? This high-energy 20-year-old blew the dust off a once-vital network that has been slumbering in its thirties. I haven't heard the letters “MTV” mentioned so often in so many places in what feels like forever; certainly not in conversations about music. No wonder the network ran that documentary “Miley: The Movement” last week and an extended version of it this past weekend. So what if it was simply an extended infomercial for Cyrus' new album, “Bangerz”? It helped keep MTV at the forefront of all things Cyrus.
(One thing the documentary made painfully clear is that Cyrus seems to be surrounded by people who tend to say “yes” whenever she speaks. That's usually a foundation for eventual disaster in the world of young celebrity. But she also seems to be a stubborn young woman who knows what she wants, so maybe she's going to surprise us in the years to come and not crash into that brick wall that has claimed so many of her peers. In the meantime, I'm still put off by her penchant for hanging her tongue out of her mouth, probably because it often looks “coated,” to use Cher's description. That may be okay for Jabba the Hutt, but for a young singer it suggests that none of the “yes” people around her have impressed upon her the importance of good oral hygiene. And I wish she wouldn't treat recreational drug use so lightly in her songs. We'll see how that plays out with her very young fan base.)
The VMA excitement was followed by the release of Cyrus' flesh-filled video for “Wrecking Ball” in which she did her best impersonation of Madonna circa 1989. “Wrecking Ball” stirred up a fresh frenzy among all of the shows and outlets and personalities referenced above. YouTube and social media may be responsible for feeding the fire, but television programs of all kinds couldn't hold back, daring to show as much of Cyrus' nude scenes in the video with or without blurring.
That takes us to her gig as host and musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” this past weekend. Cyrus was simply sensational in one of the most entertaining installments of “SNL” in years. Free of silly antics, costumes and gestures, and relying only on her musical talent, Cyrus’ two musical performances on the show were terrific. But it was her comic timing throughout that really impressed, from the opening sketch in which she met up with her past self, or Old Miley (winningly played by Vanessa Bayer), to her hilarious portrayals of Michele Bachmann and Hillary Clinton. Indeed, she scored with every character she played.
Cyrus didn't purposefully shock or in any way distract from her multifaceted performances on “SNL.” She simply let her talent shine through, and it was blazing. And wouldn't you know -- she lit up “Saturday Night Live,” which has felt old and dusty for quite a while, the same way she re-energized MTV a few weeks ago. Maybe it's her youthfulness, or her youthful abandon, but having Cyrus at their center seemed to bring out the best in “SNL’s” new and returning cast members, who actually managed to put on a highly engaging show late into the night for a full ninety minutes, although it ran a half-hour late because of an earlier football overrun.
One need only watch the “50 Shades of Grey” screen test sketch or the “We Did Stop (the Government)” pre-taped comedy bit to see what the current “SNL” cast has to offer, especially when they are able to play with as dynamic a host as Cyrus. I don't know if it's fair to say that she brought the new players to their full potential, but something special happened on “SNL” two nights ago, just as it did on MTV several weeks ago.