But upon researching the Dean Martin Show (read: looking the entry up on Wikipedia), the commercials started to seem even weirder. The maniacally stilted laughing-gas vibe of the variety show is, for generational reasons, as foreign to me as vaudeville, so the commercials are already pretty jarring. Hearing the crowd go apeshit when Michael Landon shows up at Dino's "door" -- a title announces who it is under his name, the crowd flies into Double Rainbow-grade ecstatic-tears like OH MY GOD IT'S MICHAEL LANDON HOLY SHIT I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S REALLY MICHAEL LANDON -- or watching Martin lip-synch through a weird dance routine with Florence Henderson is already baffling enough to me. But that those hoary-from-the-jump shows could've been delivering their Hiroshima-grade hokiness payloads while Watergate was going on -- and that the show was on the air for nine freaking years! -- is even weirder. People are strange, obviously, and life moves quickly, but it's weird to think that something that's just five or so years older than me, and which was popular with regular American humans, basically looks like this to me now:
Anyway, given that the idea of spending an hour watching LeBron James get interviewed about where he will become a billionaire is roughly as impossible for me to imagine as sitting through a bunch of Dean Martin Variety Show episodes, I guess it was natural that the variety show format occurred to me as an easy -- and perhaps the only -- way for LeBron to make tonight's ESPN special watchable. I did some brainstorming with some friends -- thank you, Ryan Genovese and Brendan Flynn -- and I did some deep-dive conceptualizing myself. And while I know that it's probably too late for all but a few of these ideas to actually make it into tonight's show, here's what I'm most looking forward to from The LeBron James Variety Hour.
- A song and dance medley dedicated to the cities LeBron is considering, featuring musical and athletic ambassadors from each city. These would include LeBron performing "Crossroads" with Bone Thugz and Bernie Kosar, "If You Believe In Having Sex" with Luther Campbell and Edgerrin James, "500 Miles and Runnin" with MC Ren, Ice Cube and Loy Vaught and "Endless Summer Nights" with Richard Marx and Will Perdue. I know the last one seems out of place but 1) Common has an Old Navy photoshoot he has to be at and 2) Global Icons need diversified brands.
- Avant-garde moments, such as a mostly silent 15-minute segment in which LeBron paints an oil painting of Art Modell, screams a profanity, and then the show abruptly cuts to commercial. In another, a brief nature documentary about beavers plays, with dubbed narration in an imaginary language.
- LeBron is interviewed by a 12oz bottle of Powerade.
- In an earnest and surprisingly informative conversation with Charlie Rose, LeBron lays out his proposal for reforming the electoral college.
- A bewigged and very enthusiastic James performs Broadway classics with the cast of Glee, finally bringing down the house with a rollicking version of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair." Then he signs with the Heat.
- A visibly nervous LeBron performs last night's Jay Leno monologue word for word, with uncomfortably long pauses for laughs after each Lindsay Lohan joke. He concludes with, "We've got a great show for you tonight, Reba McEntire is here, and I'm signing with the Clippers" and ESPN displays a test pattern for the next 56 minutes.
- After regretfully announcing that he won't be resigning with the Cavaliers, LeBron attempts to make it right with Clevelanders by punching Drew Carey in the face.
- Instead of discussing basketball, James delivers a teary and mostly incoherent 60-minute monologue on "Creeping Monarchic Fascism, In The Woodrow Wilson Tradition" in front of a dry-erase board on which he circles and recircles the word "Liberty." He concludes the show by yelling, "Wake up, Sheeple!" into the camera and pulling on a Miami Heat jersey.
- In a series of inspirational vignettes, LeBron visits overweight people across the country and helps them lose weight... and rediscover themselves.
To say that the possibilities are endless is obviously not true. To say that the end of this ridiculous and ridiculously tone-deaf orgy of poorly orchestrated hype is something I am seriously looking forward to is, however, very true. Start the countdown, and someone tell Michael Landon that he's on in five.