Watching Oscar winner Anne Hathaway run and jump onto a prop wrecking ball in a tank top and men's underwear is a next-level type of entertainment.
Such is the magic of Lip Sync Battle, Spike TV's wildly popular celebrity competition show.
When the Ritz Ybor announced Wednesday that it would be hosting a local Lip Sync Battle on May 14, it seemed to go slightly against the spirit of television's best competition. Anyone can submit an audition video to compete in this local battle; 10 standouts will be culled from the herd of submissions after April 1. But the whole reason people care about Spike's Lip Sync Battle is because people like Hathaway, Justin Bieber and Joseph Gordon-Levitt — people we are accustomed to seeing in serious settings — get to let their hair down.
Lip Sync Battle has grown from one of the best gags on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon to its own TV and Internet phenomenon. The second season premiere on Jan. 12, which pitted Tampa's own Channing Tatum against his wife, Jenna Dewan Tatum, drew 4.7 million viewers and got 18 million YouTube views in the first week, according to Deadline.
When it debuted last summer, Lip Sync Battle felt like an unnecessary extension of Fallon's bit, even trotting out Fallon to compete against Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in the first episode.
Two celebrities chose two songs each to lip-synch and really tried to get the crowd into it by acting and mugging and dancing terribly.
Fallon nailed that one in 10 minutes or less. Why did they need a whole half hour? Enter John Krazinski, Stephen Merchant and a host of other producers to take this seed and nurture it until it became a full tree of awesome.
They hired actor-rap legend LL Cool J to host and model Chrissy Teigen to be the Vanna to his Pat.
Seemed random until you heard LL laugh for the first time. The spontaneous burst of high pitched "ha!" could only come from the depths of joy. His laugh makes you laugh.
And Teigen turned out to be more than window-dressing. She's just as good at off the cuff comments in real life as she is on Twitter and Instagram. Her jokes stick when LL's slide. They are the new Sonny and Cher.
But the real selling point for Lip Sync Battle is the reinvention of the format. What was once a simple face and body language competition has graduated to full on spectacle. Competitors get access to costumes, make-up, dancers, sets and props for their second song.
Hathaway, who competed against friend and The Devil Wears Prada castmate Emily Blunt, did her first song (Mary J. Blige's Love) with little fanfare but some solid attitude and posing. When the second round came, she was ready to destroy the place. The halting first notes of Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball began and what followed was two minutes of hammer-licking, stage-humping, hair-mussing intensity that culminated in a her infamous ride on the wrecking ball with a bird flipped at her frenemy for good measure.
The Tatums smashed the game by performing four full stage numbers complete with props, sets and costumes that made last season's budget look paltry. Channing Tatum began by channeling his inner Elsa for an ice show rendition of Let It Go from Frozen and closed the show out with by dressing in Beyonce drag and gyrating to Run the World (Girls) with a cameo from Mrs. Knowles-Carter herself. His resplendent lace front wig even had its own wind machine. It was high art.
That's what makes Lip Sync Battle special. It's a place to see rich and famous people leave their dour expressions at the door and be ridiculous. There is more comedy in the two minute clips produced by Lip Sync Battle than some entire Adam Sandler films.
That's why Tampa's Lip Sync Battle ought to think bigger. If it truly wants to tap into the zeitgeist, it should cast Tampa's A-List to let its hair down and put on a show.
Here's our fantasy Tampa Lip Sync Battle cast:
Bob Buckhorn vs. Rick Kriseman
James Borchuck, Will Vragovic | Times
This is the battle with it all the on the line. Everyone knows that the war over words over which city is better, T-Town or Da Burg, will always end in tears and lonely Uber rides across the Howard Frankland Bridge. Let's let the mayors settle it with an epic showdown to claim the title, at least until another urban development opens up.
Song suggestions: Buckhorn: Shipping Up to Boston by the Dropkick Murphys. Come on. The man wears shamrock pants to dye his city's river green every St. Paddy's Day.
Kriseman: It's Gonna Be Me by N'Sync. St. Pete often gets lumped into the bay part of Tampa Bay, but the mayor would like to make the case of why St. Pete would be the better life partner.
Jameis Winston vs. Evan Longoria
Dirk Shadd, Will Vragovic | Times
Jameis Winston, left and Evan Longoria, right
Arguably the two most famous sportsmen in Tampa Bay could take this chance to actually win something for a change.
Song suggestions: Winston: Loser by Beck. Because the great 2015 collapse is still fresh for Bucs fans everywhere.
Longoria: Move Along by the All-American Rejects. Encouragement for his Rays to be less awful this season.
Billy "Huuuuge" Fuccillo, the Kia dealership owner vs. Roz, former spokeswoman for 1-800-ASK-GARY
Credit: Syracuse.com, 1-800-ask-gary
Their voices have become a part of the Tampa Bay commuting tradition. Now we get our chance to silence them in favor of something a little more pleasing to the ear.
Song suggestions: Fuccillo: Mercedes by Pebbles. Can't you see the wig? Marvelous.
Roz: Crash Into Me by the Dave Matthews Band. Self-explanatory.
John Wilson vs. Mark Wilson
Photo by Brian Blanco
Being a Fox 13 anchor is a family affair for this father-son duo. They're a local institution that we'd love to see duke it out on the lip-synch stage, if only to see what they'd look like with some sort of change to their impeccably neat manes.
Song suggestions: John: I Can't Drive 55 by Sammy Hagar. Mark loves David Lee Roth's Van Halen. Let's rub his nose in his dad doing Hagar.
Mark: Jump by Van Halen. He's a fan, we're fans. Let's do this.
Steve Weintraub vs. Julie Weintraub
Amy Scherzer | Times
The couple battle royale. You know their faces as owners of the Gold and Diamond Source, but what is one of Tampa Bay's most prominent couples like under the stage lights?
Song suggestions: Steve: Diamonds by Rihanna. Think of the choreography! The writhing on stage! The costume!
Julie: Gold Digger by Kanye West. Let's be honest. Jewelry stores are the gold digger promised land.