Grease was the word. Now the word is â€œlive.â€
In an age when more and more viewers are binge-viewing, streaming and watching on demand, American broadcasters are fighting back with as much live event television as they can muster. More is on their way, with Fox mounting a two-hour production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show for fall (with Tim Curry narrating) and NBC bringingHairspray back as its next live holiday extravaganza.
Here are some recent Broadway to TV musical milestones:
The Wiz Live! (2015)
Critics loved this adaptation of the 1978 film, with unknown Shanice Williams drawing raves as Dorothy. It was a ratings bounceback for NBC, too, pulling 11.5 million live viewers.
Peter Pan Live! (2014)
Critics â€œpannedâ€ the show, saying it would have been given the hook on Broadway. Lead Allison Williams drew the most ire, although Christopher Walken as Hook took his knocks. Ratings fell to less than half what Sound of Music drew the year before.
The Sound of Music Live! (2013)
Critics roasted NBC for casting country singer Carrie Underwood in the key role of Maria von Trapp, but all her fans â€” and then some â€” tuned in as the special pulled close to 22 million viewers. The live Broadway TV gold rush was on.
The all-star cast for this filmed ABC musical included Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber and Jason Alexander. Almost 60 million viewers were enchanted.
Bette Midler wowed critics â€” and won a Golden Globe â€” with this revival of the Broadway hit. Cynthia Gibb, Peter Riegert, Ed Asner and Andrea Martin had roles in support. Not live, but still a big holiday hit on CBS.