Mystery of the Week: Who Killed PETER PAN?

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I finally watched PETER PAN Saturday night on NBC On Demand. I was really looking forward to it, but what the hell happened? Act One was okay, but then…

PETER PAN LIVE!Who killed PETER PAN? I blame unseen trolls–the NBC execs who green-lighted this project (and SOUND OF MUSIC last year, and–gulp!–THE MUSIC MAN next December). Picture a bunch of fat-cat businessmen in a boardroom high above Rock Center, four-martini lunch, maybe a couple of joints to chase it down. Then one of them speaks:

“Yeah, let’s repeat last year’s ratings with a 3-hour time slot for a 90-minute show. We’ll get an unknown, untried girl to up the suspense factor–how about our anchor’s daughter? Isn’t she on some hip HBO series? Can she sing and dance? Doesn’t matter–the Tweeting snarks will love it if she’s awful, so more publicity for us. And let’s get some edgy, weird old guy with Early Onset Alzheimer’s to play Hook. Is Walken available? He won’t want to do it, of course, but we’ll pay him the world. Garish, overproduced sets to dwarf the actors, extra songs and dances for the crushingly unfunny Monty Python pirates and the Lost Chorus Boys, and we’ll get a COLLEGE STUDENT to play Tiger Lily and surround her with hunky naked braves who’ll appeal to the mostly gay audience. We’ll give Peter’s Act Two ballad to GIGANTIC, 30-year-old Wendy and her mom, and we’ll give Peter and Wendy stupid, tuneless outtake ballads from the original show to pad it out even more. We’ll get Melissa Whatsername and her adorable family to do cloying commercials every 3 minutes throughout. And just to annoy the purists, we’ll cast Kelli O’Hara AND Minnie Driver–two genuine triple-threats who could kill as Peter Pan and would NOT fade into the background halfway through the show–in supporting roles. And at the last minute, we’ll bring on a lovely, SMALL teenage girl who should have been playing Wendy as the daughter with three lines at the end. Yeah, that oughtta do it. Now, let’s do another line of coke and get back to work.”

Yes, I’m in a bad mood. All this dull TV, all these missed opportunities to do something great. And I can’t shake the feeling that they’re doing it on purpose, as if they actually want to fail. Either that, or they’re all on drugs and don’t know any better. But I’m positive the suits making these calls have never seen anything on TV before 2005–if they ever watched TV at all. They certainly didn’t see 18-year-old triple-threat Lesley Ann Warren become a star before their eyes in CINDERELLA. As for PETER PAN–well, they’ve never heard of Mary Martin, or Sandy Duncan, or even Cathy Rigby. It drives me nuts.

Still, I can’t wait for THE MUSIC MAN. I love the idea of bringing theater gems to a wider audience, and who knows? Maybe they’ll get it right next time…