Friday, December 6, 2013

FORD EVERY STREAM:  So many of us were excited to see The Sound of Music live on NBC last night, and knew that at least if it sucked we'd have a lot to talk about, and it ... well, it didn't completely work.

The primary problems, as I see it, were one avoidable problem and one unavoidable one. The latter is aesthetic: outside of soap operas and SNL, viewers are no longer used to seeing fake sets on live (or shot-to-tape) television. The hills in particular were not alive, and it was jarring to have to get in one's head "okay, I'm supposed to use my imagination here," because we're just so used to seeing on-location shooting.

The avoidable problem was Carrie Underwood. Could she sing the part? Yes, actually pretty darn well, esp. with something as demanding as "The Lonely Goatherd." The acting, however, wasn't there in any compelling way, and it distracted the whole time. I think it was just a fundamental miscasting—had NBC started with Underwood and then figured out what musical to adapt, they could've found something more suitable like, say, South Pacific?  Because I can totally see Underwood as a more credible Nellie Forbush. (Hugh Jackman as Emile, Matthew Morrison or NPH as Lt. Cable, Alec Baldwin as Luther Billis?)

Despite that, I want NBC to try again next year with a different musical, because live television and big events are fun and there is so much great talent out there. Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, and Christian Borle (basically doing Rooster Hannigan) were all great, as expected. The kids were fine, even if Rolf's shorts remained jarring throughout.

So, what do you want to see NBC try next? has some thoughts.


  1. Jordan9:38 AM

    I'd like to see them try to put together a drama without any cops/lawyers/firefighters investigating things.

  2. I'm with you. For all its faults, the live TV format has an energy that taped shows do not. I thought the "ER" experiment about ten years back demonstrated that well.

    I think dramas ("Glengarry Glen Ross") adapt better to the small screen. I recall a Dustin Hoffman version of "Death of a Salesman" back in the 80's that was pretty good, although I'm not sure if it was live.

    There's also a lot of great family fare in the musical genre that would adapt well: "Hairspray", "Jersey Boys", or maybe one of the Disney adaptations like "Lion King".

  3. Joseph Finn9:43 AM

    I'm with Linda Holmes on this; Stephen Moyer was even more of a problem. Lordy, he looked uncomfortable and out of his depths in both the acting and the singing. Underwood at least had a nice voice to fall back on.

    I'd have had less of a problem with Rolf's shorts if he hadn't still been wearing them while hunting Trapps with a gun.

    But do I want to see this become even an annual thing for NBC? Hell yes. Just with some better casting.

    How about City of Angels? Granted, it's not the biggest show ever but it's something that could work as a live TV show quite well I think.

  4. Benner10:17 AM

    Courtney Stodden as Liesl?

  5. Adam B.10:22 AM

    Rebel Wilson is Tracy Turnbald?

  6. Adam B.10:26 AM

    Forgot to mention, though others did on Twitter: the stage version demonstrates how many smart choices were made for the film adaptation -- bringing the title song to the front and de-Nazifying things a bit, chiefly.

  7. Marsha11:12 AM

    I LOVE City of Angels. And there's a lot of talent out there that fits it. But I cannot imagine that it's the second one of these that you do - this thing got a huge audience because they already know Sound of Music, which is probably the second most-watched musical movie in history, after Wizard of Oz.

    (Of course that's one thing that bothered me about this version - with a property that is so well known, you don't need to cast Underwood and Moyer to bring in eyeballs, so cast people who can really nail the roles.)

    After they succeed at doing one of these a year, then you do City of Angels in year 10 or so.

    The next one should be The Wiz, but they'll end up doing Wicked first.

  8. Jenn C.12:12 PM

    I wish they did it slightly more concert--style, like the Les Miz 25th anniversary performance. That way, they can focus on singing and get rid of the staging/blocking/sets. Or take a more imaginative approach with sets (like do it without sets, so we are ALWAYS using our imagination).

    Can you tell? It was the sets that bothered me the most.

  9. Adam B.12:13 PM

    I do agree they've got to keep with more well-known pieces; I just don't know if The Wiz is in the top ten for that. As for Wicked, (a) aren't they still thinking film adaptation, and (b) how do you overcome the staginess of it for tv? What do you have Elphaba do at the end of Act I?

  10. Marsha12:17 PM

    The Wiz brings in a different demographic, without turning off the existing one, plus has the connection to the well-loved source material.

    As for Wicked, they'd do well to ditch the soundstage and just try airing a filming of the actual performance - as has been pointed out all over FB and Twitter, that works very well for PBS. But even if they do it on a soundstage, they can still just do the effect. they spent $9M on Sound of Music, and they got a massive audience, so I am sure they'll spend more. (But, of course, you're right - if they really are still trying to get it on the big screen, it won't hit TV first.)

  11. bellawilfer1:21 PM

    They're holding out for a big screen version of Wicked. No way they do TV before movie.

  12. Tosy and Cosh3:54 PM

    I haven't come up with the answer yet, but whatever they choose can it please have a role for Mandy Patinkin? Is he old enough for Fiddler yet?

  13. Heather K3:55 PM

    From her little bit on Crazy Ones, she is definitely a better actress than Carrie, but I am not sure she is an Adelaide.

  14. Adam C.4:08 PM

    Patinkin is 61; per IBDb, Zero Mostel was 49 when he debuted as Teyve on stage; per IMDb, Topol was around 35-36 when he played Tevye on film. So, yes.

  15. Tosy and Cosh4:13 PM

    So it's a done deal then, right? I mean, we can cast some pretty Idol alums as daughters to draw in the kids.

  16. Tosy and Cosh4:14 PM

    I was fascinated by the split, actually - with many arguments for why the play is superior and many for the opposite. I'm not sure where I fall, but I do think Elsa is much more interesting in the play.

  17. Tosy and Cosh4:15 PM

    "Your fertile lies won't fertilize." Really, if just for that, City of Angels wins.

  18. Adam B.4:24 PM

    Seth Rogen IS Lazar Wolf.

  19. Adam C.4:30 PM

    Oh, you could go all Jewish (or half-Jewish, like Lea Michele) on the casting. I mean, how do you not put a call in to Streisand for Yente? (And who would pass up the chance at the Yente/Yentl daily double?) Is Menzel too young against Patinkin for Golde?

  20. Becca5:31 PM

    Get Menzel's husband in there, too. He'd be a great Perchik!

  21. There are reports that the von Trapp family wanted Anne Hathaway, not Underwood. The ratings seem to guarantee we'll see another one next fall, but who knows what that'll look like. My expectation is that they'll stick with "name brand" musicals with a pop star as a face. Mariah Carey in The Wiz Live?

  22. Adam C.10:19 AM

    Let me guess: they also wanted NPH as the Captain?

  23. Heh. I'm assuming NPH will be on NBC's wishlist for future productions, though he may be reluctant. (Allegedly, he LOVES doing Candlelight Processional at Disney, and doing one of these at this time of year would limit his ability.)