NBC may have scored a hit with its live production of the classic musical The Sound of Music – famously adapted into a 1965 film starring Julie Andrews – in 2013. Yet, the network saw drastically different results with last year’s Peter Pan Live!
Despite receiving better reviews than singer Carrie Underwood’s turn in The Sound of Music, the show – which stars Christopher Walken as Captain Hook and Allison Williams (Girls) as Peter Pan – essentially brought in half the viewership. Any number of factors could have contributed to the apparent lack of interest in the Neverland-set musical, but now one of the network’s higher-ups has spoken out about the show’s disappointing performance.
In the network’s presentation at the Television Critics Association’s winter preview (via EW), NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt attributed the low numbers of Peter Pan Live! to a couple of pretty major aspects of the production. Here’s what he had to say:
“In spite of the fact that there was a lot of critical negativity, I think Carrie Underwood was an enormous amount of draw for The Sound of Music. That kind of big star helped bring a bigger audience, and it was the first one, and The Sound of Music was a classic also. Peter Pan’s not as well-known as a show. It’s a known fairy tale but not as well-known a show. We didn’t have stars that were as big as Carrie. I loved what [Christopher] Walken and what Allison [Williams] did, but I think [bigger] stars would bring a bigger number.”
It may initially seem a bit off-base for Greenblatt to claim that a cast led by the Oscar-winning Walken is lacking in star power. However, considering the younger demographic the network was likely aiming for, it makes sense that Underwood – a proven musical star with years of hits under her belt – would draw more eyes in the key adults 18-49 demographic than Williams (one of the stars on a niche HBO program).
In addition, the musical version of Peter Pan is still best known for another television production, made in 1960 and starring Mary Martin. It’s also not hard to imagine that the public has a bit of Peter Pan fatigue, as the character has played a major role on ABC’s Once Upon a Time and will appear in the forthcoming adventure film, Pan.
Notably, Greenblatt said that the network has “no regrets” about Peter Pan Live! and the ratings it brought in. NBC is currently considering live productions of The Music Man and The Wiz.