Though it’s been a year since Whitney Houston died just hours before the Grammy Awards, the topic is still at the top of mind for many people. At press tour Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich said that all questions about how the death impacted the show will (probably) be answered in a one-hour documentary scheduled the night before the Grammy Awards (which will air on CBS Sun. Feb. 10). “It gives people a look at something you very rarely get to see,” he said. “We tell the Whitney story… all of the footage came in after the fact. We didn’t plan to do this. We put together a little reel about this… and [President, CBS Entertainment] Nina Tassler said, this would be a great show.”
Returning host LL Cool J also discussed why he chose to open last year’s show with a prayer. “When Whitney passed the night before, I was going over material that had already been finalized. I felt for Whitney and her family. After that, I immediately called Ken [Ehrlich] and just started asking questions, trying to figure out what we were gonna do… the difficult balance was giving all these amazing performances their due on this great day, but at the same time we wanted to pay homage to Whitney’s legacy.
“Bruno Mars is about to perform; he doesn’t want to perform at a memorial, but at the same time I have to show respect and love and honor to Whitney and her fans. As far as the prayer, it was something I thought over… it’s an elephant in the room. I don’t have the personal wisdom or creativity to tell millions of people what to feel right now. [Ken Ehrlich] called me back and said let’s do it. I’m grateful that we did it.
Ehrlich added, “The real hero of the show was LL. Fate sometimes intervenes in a good way and sometimes not good… The fact he came in this year; I don’t think anyone else could have handled the situation the way he did and be such a strong presence behind the scenes. We’ve done the show without a host for years, but the fact that he came to us and he was there for us, there’s no doubt in my mind, we would have not have gotten through the show we did without him to get us through.”
Jack Sussman, Executive Vice President of Specials, Musicals and Live Events at CBS, answered a question about whether the Grammy Awards might air live on both the West Coast and the East Coast in the future. “It’s something we think about every year, but I would argue that the delay helps the West Coast viewership. When my daughter can blast [a message about the show] to her West Coast friends, it helps.” Ehrlich noted that, because so much of the show comes together at the last minute, there’s no way to promote exciting duets or big moments in advance — but the time delay gives the show a chance to be promoted via social media.
When it was suggested that CBS may have tried to push their “NCIS: Los Angeles” into the hosting gig, which had not existed on the show for several years prior to LL Cool J, for the Grammys, the executives on the panel quickly shot down the idea. “When Nina said ‘we have a deal with him,’ I thought that was a gift. He has amazing street cred, artists want to be with him… it’s a no-brainer.”
As for LL Cool J, he’s happy to have the gig. “I’m happy to be hosting the Grammys. It’s an honor. I have a great relationship with CBS, we do wonderful things together… and when you get a chance to work with a great group of people, team work makes the dream work.” The rapper-actor flashed his trademark grin. “I had a couple Grammys before we worked together, so I think I had a little credibility.”