Out of tune

As much as we enjoyed the Paul Simon/John Mayer special that aired on VH1 last spring, we at Lasers are not all that surprised to learn today that In Tune has been pink slipped: (Sorry if you have to fill out the Cleveland Plain-Dealer’s annoying web survey.)

“In Tune” premiered in June with a joint performance by singer-songwriters Paul Simon and John Mayer, taped one month earlier in front of an invitation-only audience at the Rock Hall.

It was supposed to be the first of four specials shot at the museum.

After the debut, however, the Rock Hall and series sponsor Bailey’s, the cream liqueur company, ended their partnership because of creative differences, says Todd Mesek, the hall’s senior director of marketing and communications.

Though we were intrigued by the idea of the show – rock & roll needs more cross-generational enterprises, as anyone who heard Bob Dylan and Jack White sing Ball and Biscuit last spring in Detroit – we thought its execution needed some work (not that anything could have helped it overcome the difficulty brought on by only airing a new episode once every four months). Randy Jackson, the American Idol judge turned In Tune host, needed to talk less and the performers needed to play more. Paul and John gave three of Paul’s tunes a good shake, turning The Boy in the Bubble into a driving, acoustic blues number, lending a unique perspective to Slip Slidin’ Away (a perfect example of the value in having a sixtysomething and a twentysomething team up) and stripping Late in the Evening down to its bare, funky soul (Jackson’s bass work made you almost wish the boys had brought a Paul’s band). (Paul’s solo performance of Homeward Bound was one for the ages; Mayer’s two tunes came off as nice, but nonessential.)

The performances, unfortunately, were limited – too much jibber-jabber and too many ads meant that the music was kept to a minimum. What can you do? Music TV stations have spent the past fifteen years trying to find the right sequel to Unplugged (Storytellers, anyone?), and the search remains fruitless.

There’s always Austin City Limits. (And PBS reruns of the Concert in Central Park.)