Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Retirement

Here’s the question: should, in fact, old acquaintance be forgot? Has the venerable New Year’s Rockin’ Eve run its course?

This isn’t so much about Dick Clark, or whether he’s ready for the pasture. He’s not.

He never will be. Despite a massive stroke in 2004, which caused him to miss the first NYRE telecast since the show’s inception in 1972, Dick Clark has been back behind the desk (though perhaps in pre-taped segments) in years since. When he returned in 2005, he said of his stroke, “It’s been a long, hard fight. My speech isn’t perfect, but it’s getting there.” And it’s still not perfect; it’s still getting there. But the guy has earned the spotlight, earned his continued time behind the mike for however long he wants it. And as I said, this isn’t about Dick Clark.

It’s about New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. It’s about how just that name has become a joke, and for so long now that it was ridiculed on Friends in one of their waning seasons. It’s about time, and obsolescence, and the way pop culture moves on. New Year’s Rockin’ Eve was started as a young alternative to the longstanding tradition of the Guy Lombardo New Year’s specials of years past, which always culminated in Lombardo’s Royal Canadians playing Auld Lang Syne. But that television tradition gave way to something new, and now, perhaps, it’s time for New Year’s Rockin’ Eve to do the same.

It’s sad, sure, in a way. But things do change, and we can’t keep everything around for sheer kitsch value. Not that there’s much kitsch left in NYRE, aside from the “Rockin’” reference in the title. It’s tried to reinvent itself too much, tried to stay up with the times. Ryan Seacrest does most of the hosting these days, and hip-hop chicks Fergie and Rihanna do their parts, too. If it was still a disco-inferno of a show, maybe there’d be some nostalgia value to it. But there’s not. What NYRE is now is your Dad trying to use the word “pwned” correctly in a sentence, or your Mom singing along with "My Humps." It’s not that they’re not trying—it’s just that they can’t pull it off.

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve is, at this point, a fading institution at best. At worst it’s a solid kick to the ball-drops. So it’s time to embrace something new—or even to re-embrace something old? If we’re talking about kitsch value, the ratings for a old-fashioned big-band Guy Lombardo-esque New Year’s Eve special would probably beat most of the faux-hip options that exist out there today. All we need is someone to host. I nominate Dick Clark. -- Teague Bohlen


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