The rise of the live television musical has been a strange thing to watch. Kicked off by Carrie Underwood starring in The Sound of Music Live!, the trend was off to critically mixed reviews (at least we had Laura Benanti and Christian Borle), but delivered huge numbers for NBC. They followed up that success with Peter Pan Live!, but the combination of Christopher Walken not giving a single sh*t (in a bad way) as Captain Hook and Alison Williams’ crowing, the ratings tumbled and it was panned as a hate-watch. While The Whiz and Fox’s Grease! Live fared better critically, nothing has reached the same level of as The Sound of Music.
It was clear that NBC was planning on going on in on these live musicals, but some recent shake ups leave some wondering if the critical downturn will lead to the genre dying out for the time being. NBC previously postponed Jennifer Lopez’s Bye Bye Birdie until 2018, and it was announced on Thursday that ABC’s live take on The Little Mermaid has been scrapped for the time being. An ABC spokesperson told TVLine,
We are postponing the Little Mermaid Live special. We love the idea of doing a live musical and want to make it wonderful. The project is so unique that we are making best efforts to do it next year and want to give it all the attention it deserves.
Now, these bumps in the road could be just that: bumps. NBC is still planning on Jesus Christ Superstar and A Few Good Men in the spring, and Fox is moving ahead with A Christmas Story and Rent. This hesitation could mean the they really are waiting to make it right, or the networks could be reconsidering whether the hate-watching is worth it.