Let Us All Praise NBC For 'The Sound Of Music Live!'
Seriously, if ever there was a network entertainment program that deserved dignified and unqualified support from the press, this was it. What was with all the nitpicking? It wasn’t just a triumph of live entertainment programming (no network had attempted a live telecast of a fully produced musical in 50 years): It was the finest night of family-friendly programming on a broadcast network in recent (or perhaps distant) memory. It may not have been perfect, but other than a sound glitch here or there -- something that happens with wearying regularity in digital television transmission anyway, regardless of the audio quality of the source material -- it came off without a hitch.
Those who couldn't give themselves over to it, marvel at the state of live entertainment television and simply relax and enjoy it need to reevaluate their priorities. A production of this kind is not something to discourage.
So what if Carrie Underwood wasn't as breathtakingly wonderful in a live television adaptation of the original stage version of this property than Julie Andrews in the classic big-budget movie musical we all know by heart? It's an apples-to-oranges comparison -- and besides, was there ever any expectation that Underwood or anyone else in any medium would surpass the forever iconic Andrews in the role of singing nun and governess Maria? Underwood did a terrific job under the most demanding circumstances imaginable for a live television performance. Indeed, the entire cast of this production shone, including the seven talented kids and teens at the production's center. I don't think one of them made a wrong move or hit a false note throughout the show.
Outside of the Super Bowl and a couple of awards shows, broadcast television hasn't offered anything so spectacular in 2013 or in any recent year that I can recall. (As an aside, the spoof of “The Sound of Music Live!” two nights later on “Saturday Night Live,” featuring returning “SNL” vets Kristen Wiig as Dooneese and Fred Armisen as Lawrence Welk, may have been the most entertaining bit on that show yet in this way-above-average season.)
Throughout “The Sound of Music Live!” as I watched all of those Walmart spots that were specially produced for inclusion in the telecast, as well as other commercials, I found myself wondering how many advertisers regretted not being included in so memorable a program. I imagine those who recommended their clients avoid it were hiding under their desks on Friday morning -- especially after the initial ratings reports, which placed the audience for “SOML” (as it was known on Twitter) at more than 18 million. One can only imagine the total audience it will be credited with reaching once live-plus-same-day and live+7 numbers are factored in.
As broadcast networks are perpetually beaten back by ever-increasing news, entertainment and social interaction options, isn’t this the kind of thing they should be doing to flex their muscles and show the media who’s the boss? This is special event television kids will remember watching with their families for the rest of their lives. Adults today still talk about watching during their childhoods CBS’ legendary live telecast of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Cinderella” (with Julie Andrews) in 1957 and a second production in 1965 (which many people remember as having been live, but in reality was a taped presentation).
Anyway, broadcast television today provides very little family entertainment of the caliber that might be remembered many years in the future. NBC’s production of “The Sound of Music Live!” has proven it could still be done. I believe this will be a popular annual holiday special for years to come.
My only regret about “The Sound of Music Live!” is that I didn’t get to watch it live. I was at an event earlier that evening and on a train during the last 90 minutes of the telecast. I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances: Follow it on Twitter during my ride home. That was a mistake. Many tweeters had me convinced that I wasn’t missing much of anything and that it would be painful to sit through.
When I began watching it the following evening, I half expected to turn it off and forget about it. Instead, “SOML” won me over right from the start.
Collectively, those tweeters’ relentlessly snide comments made me realize the problem with paying too much attention to certain folks on Twitter: They’re more concerned with being snarky and clever than informative or enlightening. Even with those stylized Alps on grand display in the background, they couldn’t see the forest through the tweets.