NBC’s The Sound of Music Live! pulled in big numbers last night with a whopping 18.5 million viewers. With the wonderful vocal talents of Carrie Underwood and the bold undertaking of airing the performance live, the made-for-TV film had a great deal of hype leading up to it. But did the production deserve the numbers it got?
As the years have gone by, our expectations of entertainment has changed. While I would not go so far as to say the modern musical has died (it hasn’t), it has certainly changed. Catchy show tunes performed by a pretty girl with a great voice is no longer enough. There needs to be some real acting ability to back it up. Surely films like Les Miserables and even Sweeney Todd are evidence of that. Regrettably, Underwood clearly demonstrated that she was not up to the task. While her vocal abilities cannot be denied, her acting talents left quite a bit to be desired. Her performance was about as flat and artificial as the tacky mountainous backgrounds.
On that point, when it comes to live performances, certain allowances must be made in terms of set quality. But many of the set designs and backdrops looked as if they were borrowed from a local middle school production. They were poorly detailed and only compounded the audiences’ inability to suspend their disbelief. Put simply, those hills were most certainly NOT alive.
All qualms aside (as there are enough to fill few pages), overall, NBC deserves the numbers they received. Was this a failed experiment? Yes. But given that most of today’s networks produce nothing but gritty TV dramas (typically of the police/firefighter variety) and reality TV shows, this was an intriguing attempt to try something new. Should the endeavor prove to be profitable (and let’s face it, that soundtrack will sell big time), it is likely that other networks will follow suit and work outside the pre-determined box.
Although critically The Sound of Music Live! was unsuccessful, NBC’s head is in the right place, and they should be commended for it. That said, in the future, hopefully they will learn from their mistakes and get some better sets and lead performers.