First, NBC aired a live musical, “The Sound of Music” last December, which garnered top ratings. Now Bill Cosby is returning to the same network. And NBC’s planning a live “Peter Pan” musical for the next holiday season.
Family entertainment might be in vogue again. The executives at Hallmark Channel are probably smiling, since that independently owned network posted a nice 38% prime-time viewership gain in November.
Some TV “families” might stretch this idea of family entertainment: ABC’s “Modern Family; TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo”; A&E’s “Duck Dynasty”; E!’s “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”
OK, we digressed a little. It might be hard to define a “family,” but it’s easy to know what “familiar” is. For many networks, that’s enough.
Many would say singing competitions fall into a retro-TV format. This summer, ABC’s “Rising Star” will look to join the race that NBC’s “The Voice” and Fox’s “American Idol” and “X Factor” have battled in for sometime.
ABC might also join other networks in airing primetime NFL football should it win the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” package. It’s no doubt a case of “if-you-can’t- beat-‘em-join-‘em.”
Another throwback to an earlier TV time has been live episodes of regular series, such as “30 Rock” most recently and “E.R.” some years back. Many singing competition and other performance shows have also run live.
Familiar brand performers like Cosby -- who viewers favored in the past -- are always welcome by network executives looking to kickstart new franchises.
NBC went this way recently by bringing back Michael J. Fox for another sitcom, whose ratings are currently mediocre at best.
What’s next? Networks continue to talk up “event” programming, with miniseries also included in that conversation. Perhaps variety shows? Any successors in mind for Dean Martin or Carol Burnett?