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Cher wows em in final TV special

Pete Schulberg/On Television

Ratings don't lie.

The Nielsens say we're no longer hooked on war coverage. After two weeks, we're gradually returning to the escapism that TV is known and loved for.

Take tonight, for example. NBC's 'Cher: The Farewell Tour' proves to be one of the most strangely entertaining network events since the last Michael Jackson special. It also features nearly as much plastic surgery.

But give the woman credit. Not just any 57-year-old performer could pull off two hours of wig, headdress and veil changes while strutting with dancers 25 years younger.

'I've been a diva for 40 frickin' years,' she tells a wildly enthusiastic throng at Miami's American Airlines Arena Ñ and you wind up sort of believing her when she says she's had it with the concert grind.

While Cher has set new standards for fashion highs and lows (look no further than the video for 'If I Could Turn Back Time,' not to mention some of those odd-while-revealing getups from 'The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour'), she still has the knack of knowing how to further her career and break new ground in the TV universe.

As televised concerts go, this one is a surprising keeper. Top-notch camerawork and special video effects mesh nicely Ñ unusual, since most televised concerts are cluttered with enough edits to make you want to lie down and take a nap.

You get the impression that it's more fun watching at home than it would have been sitting in the outer reaches of the massive arena and having to peer at the big screen to figure out if Cher's current wig is blond or green.

The special borrows an effective touch from the recent Rolling Stones concert on HBO: We see a dressed-down Cher arriving at the arena and watch her head toward the limo after the show, talking to the camera all the while. As a result, we get the sense that we're special guests for the proceedings, although we never get to see Cher backstage during the myriad of costume changes.

Some of the best stuff is in the homage to Cher herself: clips of her impressive array of movie hits ('Moonstruck,' for which she won an Oscar, 'Silkwood' and 'Mask,' among others) and gobs of TV bits from the '70s when her weekly comedy-variety show topped the ratings. There's Cher performing with the Jackson 5, Liberace, Tina Turner, Elton John É stealing the scenes with her dynamism and well, talent.

They might even be showing this concert years from now.

Pete Schulberg is the host of 'Portland's Morning News' on KPAM (860 AM). Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..