Two hours later, the upfront that began with a fake Beatles ended with a surprise performance by The Who. The actual Who - surviving members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend - playing their songs that have been adapted as "CSI" themes (for "CSI: NY," it's "Baba O'Reilly"), for what amounts to a sales conference of ad men, brand managers and TV affiliate executives. It was one of the sadder things I've ever seen, and yet it was somehow appropriate. They closed with "Won't
Get Fooled Again" - the "CSI: Miami" theme - which, for its time (1971), was an unusually conservative anthem, in that its message was, like CBS's, that revolutionary change isn't necessarily good. ("Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss.")
Townshend and Daltrey barreled through the songs - Pete windmilling on the guitar, Roger unleashing his trademark screams - as if they were in front of any other audience, say, one composed of people with souls. That, I guess, is what great entertainers do, in popular music or popular TV: they forget, for a while, about the compromises and cynical dealing that
keep their business afloat, and occasionally manage to create something wonderful and transcendent. Maybe one of the shows we see this week will do that, maybe not, but it was good to get a reminder that it could happen, before the TV people and the advertising people left to drink and schmooze at Tavern on the
Green, beginning their negotiations over dollars per air second and demographic delivery, each side silently promising itself it would not get fooled again.