It’s Thursday, which means that it’s time for my weekly Adweek Throwback Thursday column. In honor of tonight’s Peter Pan Live! (which could turn out to be as big of a disaster as the fishnet and spandex that makes up Allison Williams’ Peter Pan costume), I revisited promos from various live programs, including my favorite “live” promo, for ER’s live episode in 1997.
The show was at its creative peak, and this fantastic promo captured all its glory. Old episode footage was filmed as it played on a monitor, setting a dramatic, nail-biting tone punctuated by ace voiceover work from maestro Don LaFontaine.
See, “anything can happen. Anything!” (Quick question: Is the “Oh My God!” you hear in this clip the same one used in every single ER promo, or did they actually record a new one each time?) Alas, the episode itself was a dramatic dud, but the promo had more than done its job.
I also unearthed promos from 30 Rock’s (second) live episode, a long-forgotten Jon Lovitz Fox special from 1992, and 2008’s so-awful-it-can-never-be-forgotten Rosie Live.
No matter what your Thanksgiving plans are tomorrow, chances are you’ll be spending at least part of the day in front of a TV. As I wrote at Adweek,
Macy’s iconic parade and three Turkey Day football games ranked among the 30 most-watched network programs last fall. The whole holiday has become a testament to the drawing power of live TV—and captive audiences—as friends and families gather for the meal and end up riveted to their TV sets all day long.
I also spoke with Brad Lachman, who is executive producing his 21st Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, about the program’s enduring appeal, and why it had its highest ratings ever last year.
The news that NBC is developing a weekly live sitcom called Hospitality took many by surprise, but not me. During TCA summer press tour, I had chatted with NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt, who told me this summer that he had been looking to do just that. As I wrote at Quartz,
“We do it with sporting events, music competition shows and reality shows. There’s a lot of live things on television,” Greenblatt told Quartz in July. “The Today show is live every day; The Tonight Show is taped within hours of its broadcast. There’s a lot of immediacy, but not in scripted programming. So we’ve been talking about doing a live sitcom. We just have to find the right show.”
If the show ends up on the air, it will be the first weekly live primetime series since Fox’s Roc in 1992, which not coincidentally was overseen by Greenblatt, who oversaw Fox’s primetime programming at the time.
Happy new year! I rung in 2014 at Quartz with — what else? — this list of five resolutions that the networks should make for the coming year to thrive in this strange new world of streaming, stacking and binge-viewing. Among them: Plan for life after talent competitions.
For the past decade, talent competitions like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars have dominated the TV landscape, but across the board, almost all of those shows are showing signs of fatigue. Idol, Dancing, America’s Got Talent, and The X Factor’s ratings were all down sharply this season (only relative newbie The Voice is still robustly chugging along), despite various attempts at shuffling formats and judges.
Even with the ratings drop-off, most of these shows are still solid performers, but they are definitely closer to the end of their run. Given the vast amount of real estate they occupy on their respective networks, it’s time to come up with contingency plans for when these shows do take their final bows. Otherwise they’ll be repeating the mistakes of ABC and NBC, whose respective schedules took years to recover from overreliance on the likes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Jay Leno Show. It could be argued that they still haven’t recovered.
Resolutions are easy to make, but very hard to follow. I’ll check back in with this story at the end of the year and see how many of these the networks actually stuck with.
But why stop there? “Sound of Music” was the first live presentation of a musical on TV in more than 50 years, but there are plenty of other productions that could be resurrected as similar live spectaculars for audiences.
I came up with four more ideas, including casting suggestions. [Update: One of my picks, Peter Pan, is indeed going to be NBC’s next live special for December 2014, while Fox announced plans for Grease Live.]