Michael Bolton, that curly haired crooner of romantic pop rock ballads, fell into VH1 obscurity after a solid run that lasted from the late 80s to mid 90s. He reentered the cultural mainstream in 2011 after singing and starring in a viral Lonely Island video “Jack Sparrow,” in which he played his Pirates of the Caribbean-loving alter-ego. The gamble paid off – adults chuckled at the freshly shorn Bolton having a go at himself and the kids found a kindred, if slightly older, spirit. The singer briefly reunited with the musical comedy trio last year for their feature film, the mockumentary Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, belting out another soulful number, so it was only a matter of time before we’d see a third collaboration, this time with the help of podcast Comedy Bang! Bang!
The resulting comedy-musical variety hour, Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special, is their response to celebrity-filled Christmas specials and charity telethons. It’s also a parody that fits right into Netflix’s wheelhouse. The streaming site is an incubator for niche, off-beat comedy, and this celebrity love-in tries for that perfect balance of goofy irreverence.
Things aren’t quite as magical this time around though. While the show has its cheeky moments, it’s never laugh-out-loud funny and fails to deliver a truly memorable sketch. Bolton’s willingness to poke fun at himself does make for some amusing viewing. Dressed in a jacket that looks like it was cut from the drapes at Trump Tower, he introduces each new act from his Love Nest. The set, which might be a leftover from one of his music videos, is a luxury satin and fur covered suite boasting a grand piano, gilded nudes, a Swedish designed fireplace. But despite his charged surroundings, Bolton maintains an adult contemporary innocence and decency that his fellow and more juvenile performers purposely try to undermine.
Childish sex jokes aren’t what cause this special to stray, however. This is, after all, from the group that brought us the infinitely watchable “Dick in a Box.” Instead, it’s more a case of too much of a good thing. “Jack Sparrow” was funny because it provided a few minutes of pure confusion, joy, and nostalgia. MBBSVDS, meanwhile, takes one long, meandering hour to achieve the same effect, without ever doing so.
It’s framed as a baby making telethon, spurred by an overproduction of toys at the North Pole. Santa appeals to Valentine’s Day king Bolton to help boost baby numbers, and the crooner sings, “I know what I must do to make them copulate.” As various acts – a raunchy Sonny and Cher-like duo (Randall Park and Sarah Silverman), a versatile diva (Maya Rudolph) – take the stage, celebrities like Bob Saget and Brooke Shields man the phones, dutifully recording each new conception. Some performances stand out more than others; Michael Sheen is effective as a batty, chainsmoking choreographer and Chris Parnell elicits a few chuckles as a batty, jealous virtual reality sexpert. But other sketches drag on, chocolatier Fred Armisen’s take-down of personalized Valentine’s Day sweets, for example. The obligatory bit with Kenny G (Andy Samberg) detours into something about cat blood. The only times the special really hits its stride is when the man himself starts singing, his mournful eyes gazing off in the distance, a montage of galloping horses fading into view, a naked, busty stick figure gracing his Love Nest.
Prod: Russell Sanzgiri, Jason Korstad, Joe Saunders
Dir: Akiva Schaffer, Scott Aukerman
Writer: Scott Aukerman, Dave Ferguson, Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, Joe Saunders, Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Michael Bolton, Adam Scott, Sarah Silverman, Randall Park, Andy Samberg, Fred Armisen, Jorma Taccone, Michael Sheen, Akiva Schaffer, Chris Parnell, Maya Rudolph, Will Forte, Kenny G
Time: 54 min
Country: United States