The sounds of Sepinwall
Posted by Alan Sepinwall July 18, 2007 12:45AM
I’ve been blessed/cursed with one of the ultimate dichotomies of man: I dearly love to sing, and yet the proper key and me have always been two ships passing in the night. So when I heard an NBC publicist floating around looking for a critic or two to compete in a scaled-down version of “The Singing Bee” at NBC’s non-party party, I couldn’t resist signing up.
So midway through the non-party party, after I had chatted with a bunch of the second bananas from “The Office” and asked some follow-up questions of one of the “Friday Night Lights” actors, I was called over to meet the competition — including “Chuck” star Zachary Levi, “Friday Night Lights” star Scott Porter (he plays paralyzed QB Jason Street) and Us Weekly writer Jeffrey Epstein — the producers and host Joey Fatone for an impromptu briefing on the game, and after a few minutes, the non-party party ground to a halt so we could play.
Fatone called us up on stage one by one, introduced the Bee Girls (you can find photographic evidence of this moment at NBC’s own press tour blog; I’m the second guy from the left), then launched into the show’s first round, where the first two contestants to successfully finish the line of a song move on to the next round. The first song was “Roxanne,” specifically the first verse, leaving off at “Walk the streets for money…” Jeffrey didn’t get it. Porter, who seemed confident and had been talking trash beforehand, came close with “I don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right.” Finally, it was my turn, and in the loudest, most tone-deaf voice I could muster, I belted out, “You don’t care if it’s wrong or if it’s right!” Point to Sepinwall, and I advanced to round two, followed by Levi.
Then came my downfall: the round where we had to sing the complete chorus to a popular song. There was some jostling between me and Levi about who should go first, but Fatone insisted it had to be me, and since he was in ‘N Sync, who was I to argue? The song was “Like a Virgin.” Now, if you want me to recite Quentin Tarantino’s opening monologue from “Reservoir Dogs” about “Like a Virgin,” I can do that in my sleep. But the actual song wasn’t one of my favorites from the Madonna catalog (of that period, I prefer “Get Into the Groove”), and I didn’t feel confident.
I tried to fake it, swaying to a verse I knew almost no lyrics to. Then the music dropped out, and I bleated, “Like a virgin! Touched for the very first time! Like a viiiiiiirgin…”
…the crowd was with me. Zachary Levi was with me. Joey Fatone was with me, and the man used to work with Timberlake…
“Feel your heart beat, next to–”
BZZZT!!! Thank you for playing, it was “When your heart beats, next to mine.” D’oh!
I exited the stage graciously and watched Levi proceed to own the game like a singing machine, getting the lyrics to seven or eight songs in a row correct. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had no chance against him; even if I had gotten “Virgin” right, I would have tripped up sooner or later and there was no way he would have.
Reaction from the crowd was mixed. The NBC publicists all loved it, but they’re publicists, and their word is therefore shaky. Some of the critics patted me on the back, saying I did the best I could (implied: with the voice God gave me), while a few others rolled their eyes and either suggested that I had done poorly or that I had sacrificed too much of my dignity by participating.
Even the response from the NBC talent was mixed. I’ve been friendly Kate Flannery, who plays Meredith the office lush on “The Office,” for a while, but when I bumped into her after the show, she cringed and said she was sorry, but she couldn’t lie: it was bad. Keith Olbermann said that he had been begging the waiters, the NBC publicists, and anyone who would listen to please stop all the caterwauling (though he was unclear whether he was referring specifically to me or the whole endeavor; I choose to think the latter). But Fatone, Levi and a few producers of NBC shows commended me on my bravery, if not my pipes. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.
Great White Way, here I come!