It's no secret that, sometimes, lightning can't strike twice when it comes to television show and movie ratings. One season of a series could be highly rated and watched by millions upon millions — then, and sometimes without even a drop in quality, a show's ratings can suddenly fall as audiences find a new obsession to tweet about. It happens time and time again, and, by now, I'm fairly sure networks should be used to it. So, color me pretty confused by this statement released by NBC regarding the disappointing ratings that their recent second attempt at a live musical event, Peter Pan Live!, managed to pull in during its premiere on the network last month. Apparently, since their first live musical attempt in 2013, The Sound of Music Live!, did so well in the ratings, they totally shouldn't be blamed for Peter Pan Live! being a ratings disappointment. What?
The statement came from NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt during an event for the Television Critics Association’s winter TV previews:
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 Chris[topher] Walken and what Allison [Williams] did, but I think stars would bring a bigger number.
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold on a second, buddy. "We didn't have stars that were as big as Carrie"? I don't know about the rest of you, but to me, that statement soooort of sounds like he's just blaming the whole thing on the fact that Allison Williams doesn't have the same star power that Carrie Underwood — who, for the record, has been in the industry for a longer period of time — does. It's not blatantly blaming Williams (or Walken, for that matter), sure, but with that specific wording, the sentence sounds like a bit of a diss toward the two of them.
So, I say it again: What?
Look, no matter what ratings Peter Pan Live! pulled in for NBC (it wasn't even that much of a ratings fail as far as the numbers go: It attracted a total of 9.1 million viewers, versus The Sound of Music Live!'s 18.5 million viewers), the star power of the telecast's leads isn't to blame. I know networks care about numbers over critic response, but it's absolutely worth mentioning that Peter Pan Live! actually secured better reviews than its predecessor — and there are a wealth of reasons why the ratings for Peter Pan Live! may have been lower than The Sound of Music Live!'s ratings.
First and foremost, it was the second time NBC had tried a live musical, so the concept understandably lacked the newness it possessed the previous year. People — about 18.5 million, specifically — already knew what a live musical airing on television would look like, so the incentive to tune in out of mere curiosity may have been dampened. Additionally, the musical aired against CBS' most successful comedy block, which included new episodes of The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men: Both shows have crushed ratings competition in the past, and easily at that.
Perhaps it was just a badly worded statement on NBC's part, but still: Phrasing the sentence as if to say that Underwood was simply a bigger star than Williams (who is quite well-known thanks to Girls) and Walken (a hugely recognizable actor!) — and therefore a better casting choice for a lead role — is not only wrong, but it's offensive and disrespectful as well.
All of the stars who participated in the telecasts were talented, and they worked hard to pull off a live, three-hour musical that was being broadcast to millions of homes; that work should be recognized and commended as it deserves to be. Saying that Peter Pan Live! was a ratings failure because of the recognizability of the lead actors ("but I think stars would bring a bigger number," specifically) is disrespectful not only to that work, but to everyone involved as well. Sometimes, ratings lightning just doesn't strike twice — that's showbiz.