Billy Joel ‘Madison Square Garden’ Special to Re-Air on CBS After Broadcast Is Cut Short Midway Through ‘Piano Man’

Billy Joel fans will get to find out whether Davy is still in the Navy after all. A broadcast special of the singer in performance at Madison Square Garden was cut off abruptly in most time zones Sunday night during his climactic rendition of the signature hit “Piano Man,” and after considerable public outrage, CBS has committed to re-airing the entire program on Friday night.

Said the network, in a statement released Monday morning, following widespread news reports of viewer dissatisfaction: “A network programming timing error ended last night’s Billy Joel special approximately two minutes early in the Eastern and Central Time Zones. We apologize to Mr. Joel, his fans, our affiliated stations, and our audience whose viewing experience was interrupted during the last song. Due to the overwhelming demand from his legion of fans, ‘Billy Joel: The 100th — Live at Madison Square Garden‘ will be rebroadcast in its entirety on CBS on April 19th at 9 p.m. ET/PT.”

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Following up the snafu with a make-good rerun allows CBS to tamp down viewer anger, but it also allows the network a good excuse to re-air a special that anecdotal evidence suggests attracted a great deal of viewer interest. (Ratings for the Sunday premiere are not yet in as of this writing.)

The show started a half-hour behind schedule in the eastern and central time zones because it followed a broadcast of the Masters Tournament that went past its expected end time. CBS has not explained exactly what transpired to have the Joel special get so close to its finish time before the abrupt cutaway. But with some local affiliates upset that the lateness of the Joel special was cutting into their local news time, it would seem that someone made the fateful decision that no one would miss it if they never got to the part of “Piano Man” about how “the microphone smells like a beer, and they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar.”

Wrong, on that score, as even some local newscasters found themselves in the position of apologizing to Joel fans upset to see their faces instead of the singer’s, which was definitely not an instance where they “got us feelin’ alright.”

“Piano Man” was the final song in the TV special, even though it was not the last song Joel performed at the Madison Square Garden concert that was filmed. In the original MSG show, “Piano Man” was followed by an encore of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “Uptown Girl,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” and “Big Shot.” For the purposes of the two-hour special, three of those final four songs were cut, while “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” was moved up ahead of “Piano Man.” So viewers may not have missed as much of the special as they thought, although even losing those last two minutes of his first major hit was a painful blow for many, who were not expecting a “Sopranos”-type ending to the special.

And west coast viewers, meanwhile, will get a chance to see Joel stick the landing twice.

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