The program starts with a historical update on Elvis' past. His creation of 'Rock'n'Roll' in SUN through to the terrible mid-sixties movies. The commentators are the usual EPE suspects, (Priscilla, Jerry Schilling, Joe Esposito) but it was good to see enthusiastic fans such as Chris Isaak, Faith Hill, 50 Cent and Beyonce involved. Fans will also spot erroneous dismissive statements like "In 1968 Elvis hadn't had a hit record in seven years."
It is also interesting to see other fans such as film director David Lynch talking about Elvis. A clip of Nic Cage in David Lynch's 'Wild At Heart' (the great movie Elvis never made) is matched to Elvis on stage. Chris Isaak always has a good sense of humour and Faith Hill shows her adoration, "I've never seen anything like Elvis to this day".
Hot rap star 50 Cent makes some interesting statements and the general respect the modern black artists seem to show Elvis was positive to see. The show features other stars performing Elvis classic songs - and although I obviously prefer Elvis I also understand the concept of providing something different with other hot-new-stars singing his songs. However where was Rihanna purring a sultry 'Love Me Tender'!?
Setting the scene the introduction strangely features Bruce Springsteen's 'Viva Las Vegas' and not Elvis' version! Next up Faith Hill in black leather does a pretty good 'That's All Right.'
Other interesting versions featured were the clip of Paul McCartney playing 'Heartbreak Hotel' in SUN studios. To the other extreme Rap artists Three 6 Mafia working with sampling and rapping with Elvis' 'In The Ghetto' was something new and noteworthy too.
Aerosmith's Joe Perry rocks out with Toby Keith on a fine 'Mystery Train', Norah Jones does a fabulous 'Love Me' and Chris Isaak/Brandi Carlile do a very cool 'Don't Be Cruel'.
Disappointing performances were Miranda Lambert doing 'Jailhouse Rock' and Celine Dion can't help but go way over-the-top with the final 'Can't Help Falling In Love'. Although Celine does make a sincere statement about the importance of Elvis.
The last half of the show touches on the dark side of Elvis in Vegas. Elvis' addiction to uppers & downers is discussed - but the combination of drugs and rock'n'roll is hardly shocking is it. The one-night stands (no shock there) and separation from Priscilla are also mentioned.
Sadly the all-important role of Linda Thompson (who after all spent more time in Vegas with Elvis than Priscilla did) in Elvis' life is completely ignored.
The importance of Barbra Streisand's 1974 offer of the lead role in 'A Star Is Born' is emphasised as the real turning point in Elvis' downward spiral, and Colonel Parker is blamed. The program shows an fascinating clip of The Colonel defending this decision, which only shows him as having no answer at all to this failure on his part.
Finally future projects such as the 'Cirque De Soleil' show and two Elvis movies are mentioned - who would have thought of The Rock as such a fan!Overall Elvis fans will be upset that all that exciting "unseen footage" of Elvis in Vegas is missing and there is far too little Elvis. Short clips of songs like 'Sweet Sweet Spirit', 'Polk Salad Annie', 'Blue Suede Shoes', 'Little Sister' etc are used, but the biggest disappointment has to be that the program does not feature one complete Elvis performance!
And not having Elvis ending the program with his version of 'Can't Help Falling In Love' was ridiculous.
However the idea of the program was of course to promote Elvis to a new younger audience and the general public. In that way including 50 Cent, Rob Thomas etc as well as very successful American Idol performer Chris Daughtry, I think the concept worked.
The program audience was of course not aimed at hard-core Elvis fans. Interestingly while some of their performances were interesting none of them were really a patch on Elvis' sublime versions.Of course it was great to see two hours of Elvis in Prime-Time TV but maybe mainstream TV will never produce the historical documentary that Elvis deserves. In the end the abundance of these middle-of-the-road Elvis programs (like the never-ending BMG/RCA recycling) will stop audience interest and demand for a definitive Elvis anthology documentary series. This will be the ultimate shame for true Elvis fans.
In a weirdly missed marketing opportunity, during the show there was only ONE short advert for Elvis' new double CD 'Viva Las Vegas' that was released in the US to coincide with the program. What kind of promotion is that! The Colonel would have been disgusted.
As always the program proved that "There is only One Elvis" - and you better believe it!
Comment on this review
Elvis super-fan Ida Ritter wrote the following letter of complaint to EPE, even mentioning Priscilla's meddling in the Elvis legacy!
Graceland's reply was an interesting understatement, but also no rebuttal of Ida's comments.
To: Ida Ritter; Sent: Friday, September 28, 2007
Subject: RE: TV Program Elvis Viva Las Vegas, 9.18.07
Thank you for your comments, Ida.
It is very kind of you to send us your thoughts on the ABC program.
From: Ida Ritter. To: Graceland
Subject: TV Program Elvis Viva Las Vegas, 9.18.07
As an Elvis Insider that has the right to comment or say my point of views, I would like to comment on this program:
Was a very bad program and that opinion is the one of many other fans if you read their comments, below at least my expectations, there was nothing there that I as a hard dye fan do not know about Elvis. I bet we expected a lot more.
And of course the only ones appearing as usual, Priscilla, Schilling and of course Joe Esposito, while so many others part of Elvis's life were totally ignored, like Linda Thompson, that spend so much time with Elvis in Vegas, moreso that Priscilla, and so many fans that followed Elvis from concert to concert and were not even mentioned, the TCB Band that played with Elvis in al his concerts, John Wilkinson a very good friend of Elvis and there every step of the way without missing one concert, today ignored and not even mentioned in any of the concerts, what is EPE thinking, the TCB Band is not complete John Wilkinson is missing and even if not able to play at least could be mentioned.
Bad program and such a nice opportunity missed, only because Priscilla and all EPE I bet had their hands in the handling of all these, only the ones that bow to them are honor or able to be there, I pity them, Jerry Schilling with his submissive way of behaving towards EPE, Joe Esposito a double crosser that served Col Parker behind Elvis's back.
This is my opinion and my sadness is displayed here because of all this stupid behavior, you Priscilla are there only because it happened that you were there in the right moment at the right time, and you Lisa Marie, don't you have any say in all this?
A true Elvis fan
Here however is a different viewpoint from Christopher Tyler
The special, designed for the masses - and not the niche "Elvis fan" did something very important that most of the people here are always complaining about. Ie. Not putting Elvis in a good light regarding race relations. Hence, with 50 Cent, Beyonce et. al., it probably went a good way in doing away with that negative image of Elvis for whatever amount of African Americans watched, which was probably around 10% - 15% with Beyonce et. al. on there. So a positive message got out to 600,000 to a 900,000 African American households which is a REALLY GOOD thing.
Things like Aloha with extras and the 68 special etc. were made for the fans and even though I as an Elvis fan want more, more, more, the truth of the matter is that without Priscilla, Graceland and the huge operation it is wouldn't be what it is today.
- Christopher Tyler
Jeff T: That special was so disappointing. Yeah the acts gave Elvis his rightly due but I didn't learn anything I didn't already know a thousand times over.
Karen Williams: Why can't Graceland give us a decent Elvis tribute rather than these bland specials????
Brian Friends: You're right, this television special was bad!
Gail: I had been looking forward to the special but found it very disappointing. There were a few good performances but overall it didn't live up to its advertising.
Don Cooper: Referring to the article "ABC Elvis TV Special reception underwhelming" i've seen nothing but positive remarks on elvis message boards across the internet. of course nothing will ever take the place of elvis. no tribute show or tribute artist, but i like these programs because it lets people know that elvis is still relevant and he can still wow people like nobodys business. also i believe elvis can make it onto the digital download charts, elvis fans just need to stick together to accomplish it.
EIN thanks Don for subsequently providing us with the following board/email links where fans are more positive about the special:
Jeanne Pellicani: I TOTALLY AGREE with your comments regarding this program. I was VERY DISAPPOINTED!
Sammy C: What a shocker!! Can't they ever get these Elvis tribute shows right?
Adele Parsons: The show was OK but it wasnt about Elvis and Vegas as they said it would be.
Frank (Netherlands): I liked the boss and Chris Isaak but the rest of the performers left me cold. This shouldve been a lot better than what it was.
John Telford: The basic idea was good but the program let down by poor execution. It reminded me of the equally disappointing tribute from the Memphis Pyramid.
Celia: I thought the performances were good but the show lacked something.
Tom (UK ex pat): JUST BLOODY TERRIBLE!!!!!!
Ben Simmons: What a waste of time that show was. I wish I'd put Elvis and Ann Margaret on in Viva Las Vegas instead.
Ida Ritter: This program a total waste of time, nothing new that we hard dye fans do not know about, it did not meet what was announced and my expectations were totally down; and as usual the only ones interviewed were Priscilla and JS, and of course JE. So many were part of Elvis, Linda Thompson one of them and as you said spend more time with EP in Vegas than Priscilla, but she was ignored.
Why Priscilla wants to deny the part of Elvis's life that we all know about it, Linda took care of Elvis in a way that not even Priscilla did, why ignore such an important part of Elvis's life. What about the members of the TCB Band that spend so much time with the King on stage and so many others including fans that adore Elvis so much and followed him from one concert to another, not even them deserved to be mentioned. A very good opportunity went down the drain, I am assuming "my personal opinion" that EPE had a lot to do with all this.