Hate The Idea Of 'Peter Pan Live'? NBC Is Counting On It NBC's Peter Pan Live! production seems to be utterly in earnest — but TV critic Eric Deggans wonders if the show will need a viewership boost from critics snarking on Twitter to really succeed.
NPR logo

Hate The Idea Of 'Peter Pan Live'? NBC Is Counting On It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/368308833/368408285" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Hate The Idea Of 'Peter Pan Live'? NBC Is Counting On It

Hate The Idea Of 'Peter Pan Live'? NBC Is Counting On It

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/368308833/368408285" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's report on a supernova of a television program. NBC has staked millions of dollars in two hours of airtime tonight on a boy who never wants to grow up.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE!")

ALLISON WILLIAMS: (As Peter Pan) Just think lovely, wonderful thoughts and up you'll go.

(MUSIC)

WILLIAMS: (Singing, as Peter Pan) I'm flying.

INSKEEP: "Peter Pan Live!" revives the classic children's tale. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans thinks that - as they say on TV - this program is so crazy, it just might work.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: One of the biggest ironies of NBC's gamble with "Peter Pan Live!" is that this incredibly earnest musical just might succeed on TV if people hate it enough.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE!")

WILLIAMS: (Singing, as Peter Pan) I won't grow up.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE! BEHIND-THE-SCENES")

WILLIAMS: It's a tone that's risky. People like to hate-watch things. People are very cynical. That's a much more fun way to watch television.

DEGGANS: That's Allison Williams, NBC's new Peter Pan, speaking in a behind-the-scenes video.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE! BEHIND-THE-SCENES")

WILLIAMS: Why have we been taught that it's not OK to genuinely like anything anymore?

DEGGANS: She's talking about the notion that modern audiences might watch just to snicker at the show's sentimentality.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE! BEHIND-THE-SCENES")

WILLIAMS: Peter Pan lives and breathes by people believing in fairies.

DEGGANS: This idea of hate-watching arises because of the biggest reason NBC's trying "Peter Pan Live!" right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SOUND OF MUSIC LIVE!")

CARRIE UNDERWOOD: (Singing, as Maria) The hills are alive with the sound of music.

DEGGANS: Nearly 22 million people last year watched NBC's performance of "The Sound Of Music" both live and by DVR. That was the network's largest non-sports Thursday audience in four years, but the show and star Carrie Underwood also generated a tidal wave of snarky Twitter comments and negative reviews, often centered on Underwood's stiff acting.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE! BEHIND-THE-SCENES")

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: Frankly, it's intimidating.

DEGGANS: Christopher Walken, speaking in a behind-the-scenes video, plays Captain Hook. Fans who know him as a film actor might not realize he started as a musical performer, singing and dancing as a child on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN LIVE! BEHIND-THE-SCENES")

WALKEN: It's almost like the whole team, we're getting ready to play this big football game and December 4 comes and you go and you do it, and you do your best and it's an event, you know.

DEGGANS: The presence of an Oscar-winner like Walken is just one of the signs that NBC wants critical raves along with the hate-watchers this time. They have Oscar-nominated Minnie Driver playing a grown-up Wendy, a computer-generated Tinker Bell, giant sets that includes a pirate ship and of course, the flying - but they also have to contend with a pretty hefty legacy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Announcing) NBC presents Mary Martin, as Peter Pan.

DEGGANS: Jerome Robbins's Broadway version of "Peter Pan" debuted in 1954. NBC broadcast a version of it a year later with stage star Mary Martin re-creating her Broadway performance as Peter. Martin began a line of actresses who played the boy who never grew up on stage and TV, including Sandy Duncan and gymnast Cathy Rigby, whose Emmy-winning "Peter Pan" production aired on the A and E channel in 2000.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "PETER PAN," 2000)

CATHY RIGBY: (Singing, as Peter Pan) Conceited? Not me. It's just that I am what I am - and I'm me.

DEGGANS: Now Allison Williams, best known as a co-star on HBO's "Girls," has a chance to make her own mark in the role. Not to add pressure, but this is also a crucial moment for network television. As viewership of traditional TV drops, networks are scrambling to make must-see events from all of their programming that viewers will watch live. A "Sound Of Music"-sized blockbuster audience for this "Peter Pan" could create an annual holiday tradition of live musical theater on television. All NBC has to do is convince an audience of social media-wielding critics that sincerity can be a lot more fun than snark.

I'm Eric Deggans.

INSKEEP: You're listening to the blockbuster program called MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.