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Except ratings in high for Brooks special

By Dan Ladd
TVWEEK

February 27, 1998--Garth Brooks is the best selling solo artist in U.S. history. And through his music is
certainly a big part of the picture, he has achieved his success by enlisting mass media,
particularly television, to support his music career. The dance continues with "Garth
Brooks: Ireland and Back", airing Wednesday, March 4, on NBC.

The special features Brooks performing during a record breaking three-night concert at
Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland. Following the concert footage, Brooks performs selection
from his current top-selling album "Sevens," which debuted at No. 1 on the "Billboard"
Top 200 and has already yielded a No. 1 single, "Long Neck Bottle." Also performing
with Brooks are his duet partner Trisha Yearwood, contemporary Christian artist Susan
Ashton and country veteran Steve Wariner, one of the writers of "Longneck Bottle."

Brooks’ first NBC special, "This is Garth Brooks," aired in 1992 and gave the network its
highest rating on a Friday night in two years. "This is Garth Brooks II," the 1993 special
filmed during three sold-out shows at Dallas’ Texas Stadium, also brought in hefty ratings
for NBC and was followed in 1995 by "Garth Brooks: The Hits." In August 1997, Brooks
and HBO staged "Garth Live From Central Park," a milestone free concert in NewYork.

Though the Big Apple is not a town normally associated within country music, attendance
was the highest ever in the park, and television ratings that evening topped three of the
four major networks combined. It was cable television’s most watched program in 1997
drawing 14.6 million viewers.

You have to wonder how to top all that. " You don’t just try to top it," Brooks says.
"You just keep being yourself because, you know, after Texas Stadium they asked, ‘How
do you top it? Then came Central Park and now comes Dublin. You just keep doing what
you do and being just who you are, and as long as that’s cool with the people, then it will
have a place to exist."

The Dublin segment of the latest special was actually filmed three months before the
Central Park concert and includes not only concert footage but several clips shot in and
around Dublin. There’s a performance of "That Ol’ Wind" with Brooks and his fiddle
player, Jimmy Mattingly, shot on the waterfront in Howth, a fishing village outside Dublin.

For Brooks, going to Ireland was a chance to get a peek at part of his family heritage and
to appreciate the musical heritage of Ireland. "I think the roots really grow deep in Ireland
as far as country music, fiddle-based music," Brooks says. "There’s actual footage of us
going to the oldest pub in Ireland, called the Brazen Head. "We actually played music in
there and actually sang it back to us as well as some of their traditional stuff."

Brooks’ intensity on stage is hard to beat and is a big part of his television success. This
latest special has Brooks’ trademark exuberant rock-star performance style and visual
effects, and also featured him being carried on top of the audience. "There was something
in (the) air there in Dublin," Brooks says. "I never mean to be sacrilegious at all, but
someone called it a religious experience. I was just shocked at how the people reacted."
Brooks’ long-term association with NBC is not contractual, but his relationship with the
network is quite harmonious.

It’s not that Brooks shuns the other networks - CBS owns the Nashville Network and
Country Music Television, and Brooks once worked for Disney - but other than HBO’s
Central Park show, NBC continues to get Brook’s business. "NBC is just a family, you
know," Brooks says. "You feel like these are people you can cal up at their homes, and
that’s how I like to work. I marry people, not companies. The people of those companies
are what means the world to me."

Those people are second only to his family and his fans in reaping the rewards of those
marriages. Since NBC recently divorced the NFL and will soon lose "Seinfeld," the
Peacock network could use a few more Garth Brooks specials to keep its ratings dynasty
rolling. And if Brooks’ exhausting recording and performance schedule is any indication,
the marriage should be a long and happy one.

Country superstar Garth Brooks brings his trademark high-energy performance style to a
new TV special, " Garth Brooks: Ireland and Back," airing Wednesday on NBC.

 


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