Following last year’s ratings-grabbing live performance of The Sound of Music, NBC has been quick to strike the format while the iron is still hot. Next month brings us a live staging of Peter Pan starring Girls star Allison Williams, and now the Peacock is planning on following that up with a live production of the well-regarded Aaron Sorkin play A Few Good Men.
A Few Good Men was of course previously adapted into a 1992 blockbuster film by director Rob Reiner, which starred A-listers Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, and Jack Nicholson. For those unfamiliar with the plot of the famous courtroom drama, A Few Good Men cast Nicholson as the imposing Col. Jessup, an unforgiving marine who orders a harsh “code red” punishment be inflicted on a private that doesn’t quite live up to his lofty standards.
The code red goes wrong, resulting in the death of the aforementioned private, leading to the prosecution of those who carried out the order. Hotshot young navy lawyer Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Cruise) is then assigned as their defense attorney, despite the vocal protests of more experienced female lawyer Lt. Commander JoAnne Galloway (Moore). The two are soon forced to reluctantly join forces in order to help their clients and expose Jessup’s cruelty.
The film earned four Oscar nominations, including an acting nod for Nicholson. The story structure of the original play is pretty much the same, as Sorkin wrote the screenplay himself. Interestingly, Oscar-winning writer William Goldman did an uncredited rewrite pass on the script before shooting, with Sorkin liking the changes so much that he would eventually incorporate them into the stage version.
The producing team of Neil Zadan and Greg Meron are shepherding A Few Good Men’s trip to the small screen, after also overseeing NBC’s prior productions of Music and Pan. Sorkin is set to give the play another scripting pass as well, in order to accommodate for the different staging challenges inherent in performing for a television audience versus a live crowd. However, the network and Sorkin are still finalizing the terms of the deal, so it will be a good while before a director, cast, or a premiere date are announced.
The smash success of last year’s Sound of Music performance really seemed to surprise NBC, and the TV industry at large for that matter. After all, performing plays on television is not exactly a proven ratings draw, and it’s been many decades since it was the norm for broadcasters to air live dramatic and comedic productions in prime time.
The December 4th debut of Peter Pan will serve as a big test for the televised play concept, one that the network clearly hopes it passes. But just because audiences tuned in for The Sound of Music doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll come back for Peter Pan or A Few Good Men. If the masses choose not to show up this time, let’s just hope NBC can indeed handle the truth.
The A Few Good Men TV production has no current premiere date.