Woolworths Carols in the Domain 2014

This has been quite the challenging week here in Australia.

I tend to be of the belief that everyone deals with these events in their own way and that it is best to get on with life albeit with sensitivity to others.

So in that vein, striking the right tone for this review will be somewhat tricky. Yet, understand that underneath the jibes and puns is a strong degree of affection for the event and the people that put it on.

Before we actually begin, we need the show to actually start at the scheduled time.

Yes, it’s the time honoured Australian television tradition of starting programmes late in order to win the time slot.

(Australian networks are NOT fined for starting shows late.)

The show starts with a very solemn (and understandable) note about this week’s events and Mark Vincent singing “You Raise Me Up.”

This year, the hosts are the entire (Weekday) Sunrise team: [David] Koch (aka “Kochie”), Samantha Armytage, Natalie Barr, and Mark Beretta.

Mark Vincent resets the tone by bringing out a group of opera singers who sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Much rather this than Lorne Michaels asking Giuliani “if we can laugh again?”

It does end in a flurry of glory notes, but at least everyone onstage can hit them.

Adverts: This is being marketed as “Woolworths-Disney Carols in the Domain,” and Big Hero 6 is the new Disney film getting released soon, so I fully expect the ratio to be 50% Disney ads during the break, but surprisingly there’s only one…Woolworths “cheap cheap” ads never fail to make me snicker (“Wow, that’s cheap!”)

And our guests include: A whole bunch of X-Factor people, The Wiggles, and Georgie Parker & Jay Laga’aia. (I’m truly looking forward to that reunion.)

Kochie welcomes the Premier & Police, and it’s rather interesting to note that as part of a Quartet, the HBIC powers of Natalie Barr are diminished.

Nat does get to announce Dami Im (X Factor 2013 winner) singing “O Holy Night.” Dami does an extremely good (and glory note free) version of the song.

Strike that, she did melisma the last part.

Now, it’s Taylor Henderson (who is also responsible the new Sunrise theme song, and a X Factor alumni) singing “The First Noel.” As pious as Taylor is, I question his choice to sound rather nasal when singing about Jesus and looking solemn.

Mark & Nat give a really quick intro to Christine Anu (the first non-reality show soloist) singing “Little Drummer Boy.” As good as Christine Anu is (and she is VERY GOOD), there will always be only one version of this song for me and that’s Vanessa Williams’s Jazz version.

Mark tells us “The kids take over with Jay Laga’aia…”

I didn’t hear Georgie Parker’s name afterwards, which makes me doubt the chances of a reunion of their awkward 2012 duet.

Adverts: So Fresh “Songs for Christmas” surely must be an ironic title as those are some very dated covers…And Disney and Qantas must be using the same advertising agencies.

And we’re back in the Quartet, and now we’re really back because it is all bad puns about Kochie being responsible for Santa Claus.

They intro Jay Laga’aia (sans Georgie Parker). He sings “Frosty the Snowman” and at least his mic is on.

It’s been awhile that I’ve heard the song, but I don’t remember a line about a “traffic cop.”

Mark & Nat come back with the first of several Disney plugs, this time for the live-action Cinderella. Nat does a very obvious segue by saying “Here is are own Cinderella story, [X-Factor 2014 winner] Marlisa.”

Marlisa sings a melisma filled version of “A Dream Is a wish your heart makes,” she is accompanied by a bunch of scenes from Cinderella, of course.

I voted for Dean Ray, and let’s leave it at that.

And we’re back to the quartet, who for people who appear on television 5 days a week, look oddly stunned.

Sam intros Nathaniel [X-Factor] singing “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

There will be no rap break, fortunately.

Nathaniel has opted for a version that veers occasionally close to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five.

That said, you can only inject so much soul into “Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Kochie teases me with another promise of a Laga’aia-Parker duet.

Adverts: I am very happy they finally turned the bloody volume down on that Freeview ad. The whole world has had it in their hands and ears…On Sunrise, no matter what you do, we will make your Christmas feel inadequate.

Mark & Nat finally deliver the goods: The Laga’aia-Parker duet.

And it is as awkward in 2014 as it was in 2012, with the dancing children as a wall between Georgie-land and Jay-Land. At least Jay’s microphone is turned on.

Poor Rudolph, the co-dependent Reindeer.

More woeful jokes about Kochie’s incompetence as Santa introduces The Wiggles.

Santa Claus with a strong Australian accent is something to behold.

Unlike his former colleagues, Anthony ain’t retiring anytime soon.

They sing a song about Emma’s Christmas Bow.

I tune out of sincerity. Though the word “Bow” rings in my ears for several minutes after.

The camera does a closeup of a baby as The Wiggles sing “Silent Night.” The baby looks rather annoyed.

And then it’s the inevitable “Go Santa Go.”

The interesting about Wiggles performances is that the parents tend to be more into it than the children.

That said, The Wiggles do their annual duty and bring in Santa Claus, who is being driven in via golf cart.

When Santa does get onstage, the orchestra greets him with a couple instrumental lines from Jesus Christ Superstar, or it certainly sounds like it.

All and sundry onstage perform a considerably restrained version of “Jingle Bells” considering they are being assaulted by silly string.

Adverts: “This is Aus-TRAL-IA!” Seven is running a serious risk of pissing a portion of the public off with the constant promotion of “Australia: The Story of Us.”…A Crystal Furby?…If you don’t fly Qantas, you have no family…Dear Sweet Lord this Qantas ad is long…I probably could be back in 1990s Wisconsin by the time it ends.

Celebrity greeting: Jamie Oliver (Woolworths $pokesperson) tells us to donate to the Salvation Army.

Kochie tells Sam that he’s been eager to host Carols for some time, and proceeds to embarrass his grandchildren and contrive a link to Marlisa.

Marlisa sings “Away in a manger.” She sounds not as polished as previously.

Nat & Mark intro Taylor Henderson and Samantha Jade singing “Happy Christmas.”

Henderson looks startled, whereas Jade looks like she is about to bust out a “Praise Him” at any moment.

Kochie & Sam show us some of the actual programs the Salvos do (which is a pleasant change from just saying “DONATE”) and then introduce Judith Dunham.

Dunham is the grande dame of this year, and first performs a song in round
with The Australian Girls Choir. Then things get seriously ratcheted up to eleven in a very loud version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” that threatens to drown poor Judith out. When they get to the final chorus it gets so brassy, I have expect a chorus line to come out kicking.

Mark promises Adam Garcia next. (Doing what?)

Adverts: My Kitchen Rules: Real People, Real Food? So they were cyborgs all the previous seasons?…When will these Hobbit films ever end?…Australia Post, Please Privatise Us (despite it being foolish to do so)…

And we return with a smiling Nat & Mark introducing Adam Garcia singing (and fortunately dancing to) “It’s beginning to look like Christmas.” Some cruel audio person turned the volume up on Adam’s mic so we hear every last breath.

The audio evens out during his rather impressive tap break with The Tap Pack.

Partial advertising break: Woolworths hardware store refurbishes a house for a youth centre in Blacktown. Though the faux reality show narration does grate.

Sam & Kochie intro Lee Kernaghan & his very gorgeous wife singing a version of “Jingle Bell Rock” with a lot more sex appeal than you’d expect.

Mark mentions Nat’s previous hosting of Carols, and we get a glimpse of the old HBIC Nat. They introduce The McClymonts doing the inevitable-but-meteorologically-impossible in the Australian Summer medley of snow songs which will include “Let It Go,” (as in the Disney film…It’s Showtime, Synergy.)

The camera tries to catch as many children singing along, though it unfortunately captures a boy sleeping.

Mark promises Dami Im and “more.” I notice one thing that is absent this year, and that is the overseas celebrity gue$t.

Adverts: Seven News is omnipresent, in fact, Chris Bath is already filing a report about what you had for dinner…Buy jewellery to make up for being a crap partner…That poor Dick Smith voiceover artist must be still aching after having to speak so fast.

Kochie & Sam again, and they FINALLY tell us how to make a donation via SMS. (It’s been onscreen several times.)

Dami Im sings “The Christmas Song” at a piano. She’s coming across as the real star this year, as her performance is seemingly effortless.

Kochie returns us to the most plug-filled renovation show ever. But it is for a good cause.

Kochie embarrasses Nat (who apparently likes Wicked), with the cast of Wicked singing some of the songs from the show.

I’ve seen Wicked, but I’m rather indifferent to it, or rather the PLEASE-LOOK-AT-ME style of musical theatre.

The cast sings “Joy to the World” with a lot more restraint, fortunately.

Interesting lyric: “He makes the nations prove his righteousness.”

Kochie threatens/promises us with Doug “Hiro Tsunoda” Parkinson and Jubilation.

Adverts: Buy an Apple product and bridge the generation gap…Shut up Meerkat…super synergy is achieved with a Woolworths ad for Frozen…

Another thing this year is missing: Matt “Gnat” White, who has gone over to Ten.

Nat wishes everyone who is watching this on the ashes of the Australia Network, “Australia Plus.”

Paulini (Australian Idol) comes on to sing “Jesus, The Wonderful Child” with Jubilation.

She is gospel-ing it up in a rather risqué evening gown, which makes it rather interesting visual.

Alas, no one onstage gets the spirit.

She then is joined by Doug “the white Australian possessed by an old black gospel singer” Parkinson in a version of “Go Tell It On the Mountain.”

And again, no one gets the spirit.

They try again when Doug starts singing “This Little of Mine,” which I don’t even think of as a religious song, though clearly I’ve never made it past the chorus.

No one gets the spirit and does the spinning chook dance.

Adverts: Australia was made by bullets (“THIS IS AUS-TRA-LIA”)…They really want people to buy that Human Nature album…The Water Diviner has got some howl-worthy lines…Heterosexuals are easily blinded by jewellery…Optus needs to say no to Josh Thomas…Ford apparently keeps Australia “real.” Woolworths is cheap, but the CGI in those ads isn’t, and they’ve got to recoup their costs somewhere

Kochie & Sam introduce Samantha Jade singing a song whose title I wasn’t able to get. Jade looks much more appropriate this year than in previous years, where her outfits were more Mary Magdalene than Virgin Mary.

Though she does a good job, alas this year belongs Dami Im.

And as in years past, Mark Vincent sings “The Holy City,” a song I’ve never heard of until moving to this country.

This has been a very interesting, and dare I say, innocent edition of Carols. It seems stripped back.

While on some level, I miss the madcap craziness, it’s an understandable decision.

Kochie tells us an All-star singalong is next.

Adverts: Give a gift from Officeworks, the gift that says “5 January isn’t that far away”…Mortein, I’ve been slapping all day long, I’d like my money back…Michael Hill, where clueless men are separated from their money…The new Annie is the remake no one asked for.

Christine Anu sings “Silent Night” with the Australian Girls Choir.

The camera cuts to another child asleep…and another…and another.

I should mention it’s now after 11 at night.

Sam finally mention the fireworks, because this show truly needs to end.

As is always the tradition, it’s “Song of Joy,” performed by the classical singers who opened the show along with all the other singers: Jay Laga’aia & Georgie Parker cling to each other, as do Nathaniel and Taylor Henderson.

A few fireworks half-heartedly spit up in the air.

Kochie still promises us more, and there’s a bit of tiredness/desperation in his voice.

Adverts: Is Kylie Minogue singing 80s covers a bit redundant?…Foxtel is also “cheap, cheap”

Kochie says that it has been a sensational night, though it’s also been a rather flat one.

One by one, they rattle off the sponsors, and close with what seems to be the new “seasons greetings” “Look out for each other.”

And after several false starts everyone sings “Reach Out And Touch Someone’s Hand,” then “We Need A Little Christmas,” and then “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.” Kochie is completely wooden, the rest of his colleagues are surprisingly not.

Because this thing will not end, they then sing “Go Santa Go,” “Jingle Bells,” “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

Why on Earth is this “family” show ending at almost 11:30 at night?

Finally credits amongst a more potent firework display.

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