Broadway Stars Debuting New TV Pilots

Pilot Season for the Major Broadcast Networks

Every year, the major television networks such as CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and the CW go through a specific course of development to determine which new shows to add to their dockets. Referred to as Pilot Season, this is an intensive process that involves the submissions of thousands of elevator pitches, followed by calls for scripts, after which some are selected, and then actors flock from all over the country and world to audition for the parts. Due to the simultaneity of the process across networks, actors generally need to choose one show to ride out, which can be a gamble as the majority of shows do not get picked up, and therefore they would be sacrificing other opportunities for this one shot. However, the payoff can be great as television can be a great career boost for actors, including those who are already big stars in the theatre. Presently, though some shows are just beginning to premiere this season, networks are already entering the early stages of next year’s process, and some exciting Broadway names are headlining.

Already Picked Up: Sutton Foster Stars in “Younger” on TV Land

younger sutton fosterA new television show by the maker of Sex and the City, Darren Star, will premiere on TV Land on March 31, 2015. The show, Younger, stars Sutton Foster who came to fame through her Broadway performances in such musicals as Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone, Anything Goes, and most recently, Violet. Her first leading role on television took place in 2012, when she starred in the ABC Family series Bunheads about a former Las Vegas showgirl turned small town ballet dance teacher. That show only lasted for one season of 18 episodes. Fortunately, Foster is getting another go at a TV leading gig this spring on TV Land. Younger, which also stars Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire), Debi Mazar (Entourage, Living with Fran), and Miriam Shor (Hedwig and the Angry Inch). The show is a single-camera, 30 minutes series about a 40 year-old mother having difficulty finding a job, so she gets a makeover and pretends she is in her 20s.

Idina Menzel in “Happy Time” and Megan Hilty in Untitled Judah Miller Projectidina menzel

Looking forward toward the upcoming pilot season, Ellen DeGeneres is producing a new series called Happy Time which stars Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked, If/Then, Frozen). This half hour comedy series is written by Randi Barnes (Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return), and produced by DeGeneres’ company A Very Good Production. The show will most likely be shopped around this upcoming summer. Details about the show are not widely disclosed, but Happy Time revolves around a woman who is ready megan hiltyto stop pretending she is happy all of the time. Furthermore, Megan Hilty, who is best known for her starring role on the TV show Smash, and also for her Broadway performances in 9 to 5 and Wicked, is cast in an upcoming pilot to be written and produced by Judah Miller (American Dad, King of the Hill, The Tracy Morgan Show). In this presently untitled single-camera comedy, Hilty plays a Tony Award winning Broadway star who is still adjusting to her new role as a suburban mom. Along with her husband, an intellectual, she is thrust into a new world of competitive sports, as their son is a natural born athlete.

Jon Stewart to Leave “The Daily Show”

Growing Restless, and Ready to Move On

Jon-StewartOn the Tuesday, February 10, 2015 episode of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, Jon Stewart announced that he would be retiring from the position of host that he has held for the past 17 years. His contract with the network is up in September, but he explained that he may leave before that, as early as July, or after that, as late as December. In any case, he will not stick around for the notorious Daily Show election coverage in the 2016 election, entitled Indecision 2016. Not long after he took the mantle on January 11, 1999, Stewart made a huge name for himself through covering the 2000 election, when the concept of Indecision election coverage began. Since that time, he has defined himself as the go-to liberal correspondent, even if he is often considered a mock host, rather than a real host. In any event, he undeniably blurred the line between “real” news and “comedy” news in this era of increasing political cynicism and declining idealism. His decision to depart stemmed from a sense of growing “restless”; he said that America deserves better than even a somewhat restless host of The Daily Show. The only plans he specified was to spend more time with his family – specifically, to eat dinner with them on a school night, which is something he has not been able to do throughout his career.

What the Future Holds – for Stewart, and for the Daily Showjon stewart

Stewart did not make clear what his specific future plans are, although they could range from Hollywood directing to entering the realm of actual politics in Washington. He made his foray into film writing and directing last year with the only semi-successful Rosewater, for which he took a hiatus from hosting The Daily Show for three months. The film is not his usual comedic style; it is based on a memoir written by Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari involving his imprisonment in 2009. Whether or not this indicates that Stewart intends to pursue more directing opportunities, it does hark to a new effort to express his interest in current affairs through a lens other than his particular brand of comedy. All along, he has clearly cared about the issues he covered. His popularity stemmed from the fact that he was not mocking for the sake of mocking, but rather because he was not afraid to take a stance on issues of clearly marked importance for him and his staff. Certain online outlets have even been tossing around the idea of Stewart running alongside Hillary Clinton as Vice Presidential candidate in 2016, although he has not mentioned anything himself to this end. As for The Daily Show, it will continue on with a new host. Stewart has managed not only to position himself as a force to be reckoned with among the late-night competition, on a basic cable station no less, but he has also been able to build a legacy that will continue on without him, however difficult that is to imagine at the present moment.

Who Might Succeed the Legendary Jon Stewart?

It is too early to know for sure what direction Comedy Central intends to take The Daily Show in the absence of Jon Stewart, but a few likely contenders stand out from the rest. The main question is whether the producers will hope to keep The Daily Show in a similar tone and style to the past 17 years, or whether they will try to reinvent it with a completely different personality. In any event, one obvious choice would be John Oliver, who presently hosts his own HBO show Last Week Tonight that is very similar in tone to The Daily Show. However, he may be lured back to Comedy Central, as indicated by the fact that Oliver took over from Stewart for two months while he filmed Rosewater. Another idea is Aasif Mandvi, a Daily Show insider who would continue the show in a similar vein. Another in-house idea is Jessica Williams, who the film Hot Tub Time Machine 2 predicts will host in the year 2025, and who would set a precedent for a female, African American host. Another female candidate is Amy Poehler, who recently completed her run on Parks and Recreation, or perhaps Amy Schumer or Sarah Silverman. An outside-the-box individual would be Joel McHale, who might not be as inherently political. Two other comedians who might be considered are Patton Oswalt and Ricky Gervais.

 

“Saturday Night Live” 40th Anniversary Special

saturday night liveA Star-Studded Three Hour Event

On February 15, 2015, NBC’s Saturday Night Live will air a three hour 40th anniversary special to celebrate four decades on television. The actual premiere of the late-night sketch comedy and variety show took place on October 11, 1975. Though this anniversary celebration may be eight months early, this special event is sure to attract a lot of attention due to its star-studded excitement. The occasion will welcome many previous cast members of SNL, along with past guests, who will be joining the present cast members and a slew of exciting live performances. The last time a big anniversary was celebrated on the show was 1999, when the twenty-fifth was honored. Compared to that special, executive producer Lorne Michaels said that this fortieth anniversary would feature more live performances in comparison to pre-taped bits. He also mentioned that every host and cast member from history was invited, and that he doesn’t expect all of them to come. However, when a positive RSVP was received from any of them, that’s when their team began writing sketches surrounding their involvement. In any event, this show is certainly something special, as it has been presided over by the same individual, Lorne Michaels, since it first began 40 years ago. That has allowed the brand to grow into one of the most highly regarded comedy shows today.

A Brief SNL Historysaturday night live

The origins of Saturday Night Live date back to 1975. At that time, NBC had been filling the Saturday night timeslot with reruns of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. However, Carson requested that the network remove these episodes from the weekend so that they could be saved for occasional weekday fillers, when Carson wanted to take a night off. Therefore, NBC was tasked with finding a new show to fill this crucial time period, and Lorne Michaels was approached. The NBC president at the time Herbert Schlosser tasked his VP of late night programming Dick Ebersol with filling the slot. Thus Saturday Night Live was born, although it didn’t get that name until 1977, as the name was already in use by a show on ABC. Fortunately, the spectacular success of this comedic romp gave NBC the incentive to purchase the rights to this name. Early on, the show adopted the famous tagline, “Live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

Cast Members, Hosts, and Returning Guests

This year, the fortieth season of Saturday Night Live, includes a number of repertory players as well as featured players who will likely go on to lead successful comedy careers, as many SNL players have done in the past. Current cast members include Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Taran Killam, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Jay Pharaoh, Cecily Strong, and Kenan Thompson. Each episode is hosted by a different individual; this season, hosts have included Chris Pratt, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Woody Harrelson, Cameron Diaz, James Franco, Martin Freeman, Amy Adams, Kevin Hart, Blake Shelton, and J.K. Simmons. As for the past cast members and hosts who will be joining the 3-hour fortieth anniversary special, that waits to be seen. However, some names have been leaked. One interesting individual who will be showing his face on the special is Eddie Murphy, who made a point of never appearing on the show since he left in 1984. This opens up the possibility that any number of surprise guests may be making an appearance, and the special will certainly be an exciting one indeed.

“Live with Kelly and Michael” to Air “After Oscar® Show”

live with kelly and michaelKelly Ripa and Michael Strahan Bring the Show to Hollywood

On the morning after the Academy Awards, Monday, February 23, 2015, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan will air their fourth annual special segment of Live with Kelly and Michael: their After Oscar® Show. The show will film from Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre, where the episode will include interviews from the red carpet and backstage, as well as live on the show. Both winners and presenters will be featured as special guests, interviewed by Kelly and Michael with their renowned style. Presumably, the show will return to New York the following morning for their regularly scheduled programming, where it is filmed at ABC Studios at 7 Lincoln Square, on the corner of West 67th St and Columbus Avenue. The show airs on WABC-TV and is syndicated throughout the country. It normally tapes live at 9:00am Eastern Standard Time, and then is tape-delayed to play at the same time in the rest of the country.

Will It Really Be “Live”?live kelly michael oscars

It has long been apparent that Live with Kelly and Michael, as well as the franchise’s predecessors Live with Regis and Kelly and other couples, actually incorporate a limited amount of live content. Some attendees of the live studio audience have complained that their experience is made less enjoyable due to the fact that Kelly and Michael appear in the same clothes as they were wearing on previously taped segments, wherein they actually interviewed celebrity guests. Studio audience members, therefore, are often asked to sit through pre-recorded interviews played on a large monitor, awaiting the less interesting live segments wherein Kelly and Michael introduce the guests. This After Oscar® special will most likely have a similar structure, particularly because the show will surely include many pre-taped segments from the night before at the Academy Awards, both on the red carpet and backstage. However, some of these guests will hopefully also visit the live studio taping the following morning, as that is the reason that the show will relocate to Hollywood in the first place.

The History of the Franchise

Michael Strahan has been Kelly Ripa’s co-host on Live with Kelly and Michael since 2012, when Kelly was in search of a replacement following the departure of Regis Philbin. The concept of pairing Regis with a female co-host dates back to 1988, when his co-host was Kathie Lee Gifford, and the show was called Live with Regis and Kathie Lee from 1988 to 2000. It took a year for Regis to find a suitable replacement for Kathie Lee, and thus the show was called only Live with Regis from 2000 to 2001. Kelly Ripa, at the time a successful soap opera star, was paired with Regis in 2001, and Live with Regis and Kelly was born, which lasted until 2011 when Regis finally retired. Similar to when Regis was left alone, Kelly hosted the show with a series of rotating cohosts for a year from 2011 to 2012, until Michael Strahan joined her. Strahan had already hosted the show 16 times, so it was a natural fit although not as highly rated as other trial co-hosts such as Seth Meyers, who soon got his own late night show. However, ever since Strahan joined Kelly, the show has been on a whole new level with renewed, healthy ratings.

Jimmy Fallon Heads West for the Super Bowl

jimmy fallonFirst Stop Phoenix for a Post Super Bowl “Tonight Show”

Jimmy Fallon is bringing his Tonight Show westward for the first week in February. Tonight, after the Super Bowl XLIX telecast where the Seattle Seahawks battle the New England Patriots, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be broadcasting from Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre. Tickets were released for a free giveaway at 9:30am on Wednesday, January 14, 2015, and a reportedly 42,000 people signed on for the opportunity. All tickets were gone by 9:34am. Since Fallon commenced his role in succession to Jay Leon, he has been the bona fide king of late night, maintaining high ratings and a beloved status among celebrities and fans alike. He is sure to attract a lot of stars on his show tonight, as they are all in town for the big event. It has been announced that his guests will include Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, and Ariana Grande. The latter will perform her recent single “One Last Time,” giving her first live television performance of the song.

Second Stop Los Angeles for a Week-Long Stayariana grande

After the post-game show, Fallon will head to Los Angeles for the week from February 2 through 5, 2015, where the show will tape from Universal Studios Hollywood. This marks the first time The Tonight Show will be hosted from Los Angeles since the show moved from Burbank to New York City for Fallon’s takeover. The show’s origins date back to 1954 when the debut took place in New York City, but since 1972 it has been filmed primarily in Los Angeles County, except for a brief stint in Chicago in 1957. Still, Fallon and his team chose to take a little vacation from the cold winter in New York City, taking advantage of the Super Bowl timing in order to visit some friends out West. The guests appearing in the L.A. week include Vin Diesel, Carl Reiner, Gwen Stefani, Michael Keaton, Will Smith, Rosamund Pike, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jack White. This is a great opportunity for Fallon to invite some exciting guests who may not live in New York or who are hard to pin down to appear on the show when they are visiting the East coast.

The Super Bowl Special

Following Super Bowl XLIX, NBC will air one episode of The Blacklist, after which the local late news will air, followed by the live airing of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Most of the show’s secrets are undisclosed, but it is revealed that a famous lip sync battle will take place between Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart, and Will Ferrell. Furthemore, Ariana Grande will make her live TV debut with her new single from her second album, performing with the house band The Roots. The show is also sure to include some hilarious games such as the “box of lies” shtick, as well as a number of jokes about football. The evening will feature some other stars as well: for the Super Bowl’s pre-game festivities, Idina Menzel will sing the national anthem, and John Legend will sing “America the Beautiful.” Furthermore, the Super Bowl halftime show will feature performances by Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz.

Jimmy Fallon’s “Lip Sync Battle” Becomes Spin-Off TV Show

Jimmy Fallon and the History of the Lip Sync Battle

jimmy fallonJimmy Fallon has been the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since he took over the post from Jay Leno in February 2014. He had earned his beloved stature through his tenure hosting Late Night with Jimmy Fallon also on NBC from March 2009, when he took over from talk show legend Conan O’Brien. Prior to that, he gained acclaim from his tenure as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, which occurred from 1999 to 2004, when he left to pursue a film career. He appeared in a quite a few movies including Fever Pitch, Almost Famous, Factory Girl, and The Year of Getting to Know Us, but ultimately his home was the talk show circuit, and he was roped back in by NBC. Since seamlessly taking over from Leno almost a year ago, Fallon has proved his insurmountable stature by remaining a huge success with fans and celebrities alike. One of his most beloved shticks in The Tonight Show has been a “Lip Sync Battle,” whereby he competes against his guests, who are often huge stars such as Emma Stone and Paul Rudd, to see who is better at lip syncing. In addition to being hilarious and entertaining, this battle is said to prove the winner in terms of charisma, talent, individuality, and guts.

The Pilot Will Be Shot This Month; Premieres On TV April 2nd, 2015

While Fallon continues on as the successful host of The Tonight Show, he will also serve as a producer of a new spin-off show on Spike TV. Two other producers include John Krasinski and Stephen Merchant, who were the creators of this segment on Fallon’s show, along with Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt. Krasinski and Merchant are also sometime performers in the lip sync battles. Memorable episodes include performances by Emma Stone and Paul Rudd, as well as a three-way battle between Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Merchant, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now, this new pilot will be shot in January in front of a live studio audience. It is set to premiere on Spike TV on April 2, 2015. It is unclear how this mini-segment will be able to expand into an entire episode, not to mention a 10 episode series. Still, the show has a lot to work with, given the allure for celebrity guests. Thus time can inevitably be spent in celebrity banter if not interviews, although the set-up will ultimately need to differentiate itself from the usual talk show format and focus in on the lip sync battle first and foremost.

LL Cool J Announced to Serve as the Show’s Host ll cool j

The rapper-musician LL Cool J has signed on to host this new show on Spike TV, as announced this month. He will also join as a producer on the show. He has expressed great excitement about being involved with the show. This will be his second recurring gig on television, in addition to his role as a regular cast member on the hit show NCIS: Los Angeles. He announced that this show was going to bring the concept of the lip sync battle to a whole new level – as it must in order to fill in the longer timeslot. Still, hopes are high that the combination of a winning battle concept, celebrity guests, and LL Cool J as host will allow the new show to thrive on Spike TV.

Click here for Tickets to the show Lip Sync Battle Tickets

“The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” Premieres on Comedy Central

“Daily Show” Spin-Off Replaces “Colbert Report”

Larry WilmoreOn January 19, 2015, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore premiered on Comedy Central. Larry Wilmore has led a long and successful career in television comedy, and most recently received acclaim for his recurring role on The Daily Show as the “Senior Black Correspondent” since 2006. He published a political humor book called I’d Rather We Got Casinos: And Other Black Thoughts in 2009. Earlier in his career, he served as a producer and writer on shows including Sister, Sister, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and The Jamie Foxx Show. He co-created Eddie Murphy’s show The PJs and served as executive producer for the duration of its run. He collaborated with Whoopi Goldberg on her show Whoopi, which he created and produced. He was also a consulting producer on The Office from 2005 to 2007, and once made a cameo on that show as a “diversity consultant.” Needless to say, Larry Wilmore is a tried and true comedian, show runner, and spokesman of the black community, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore will solidify his position as television royalty.

Critical Praise for the Premierewilmore

Top industry press such as The New York Times, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly all praised The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times confidently declared that everyone will want to know what Larry Wilmore has to say in his next show of the nightly series. She was pleased that unlike other talk show hosts, he is not white, male, and insecure about that fact. Rather, she was relieved how he can address racial topics head-on without feeling the need to be politically correct. He even made a daring joke about the Eric Garner case and unapologetically asked the audience if it was too soon. Brian Lowry in Variety was less bowled over, but acknowledged that the show demonstrated great potential. However, he said, it would be premature to give the show an unqualified rave, because it only revealed a small part of what it will ultimately offer. Jeff Jensen in Entertainment Weekly also gave it a restrained rave, saying that he will keep watching as long as the show can remain consistent. In reference to the show he replaced, The Colbert Report, Jensen calls this much more conventional. This 30-minute add-on to The Daily Show is also produced by Jon Stewart, and fills the slot the Stephen Colbert vacated to replaced David Letterman.

A Wide Range of Subjects

In the premiere episode, Wilmore touched on a range of topics. He discussed Selma and its Oscar snubs, as well as the protestors at Ferguson. He mentioned that he would never hesitate to bring up race, and he seemed both proud and mischievous about that. He said he would address Bill Cosby’s sexual scandal the following evening. His guests included Senator Cory Booker, and his panelists featured Shenaz Treasury and Bill Burr. Jensen in Entertainment Weekly criticized these guests and panelists for being on the bland side, expressing his wish that Wilmore learn to take over the microphone more and smoothly intercept the long running talk of his less interesting guests. In any case, the show is, as its name implies, nightly, and thus there will be many more opportunities in which to determine whether Wilmore is living up to his timeslot.

Letterman Announces Final Show Date; Colbert Announces Debut

Letterman Will Step Down on May 20, 2015

David Letterman Studio - smallSince 1993, David Letterman has been leading his late night talk show, Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. In April 2014, it was announced that he would retire, and then in December, the date of May 20, 2015 was given as the day he would conclude his tenure. He has served as a role model for many talk show hosts who became his contemporaries and some his successors. He received a prestigious honor at the 35th Annual Kennedy Center Honors in 2012, and he earned the George Foster Peabody Award in 1992 for his innovative contribution to the talk show genre. His comedy has been honored with accolades ranging from the first of Comedy Central’s annual “The Comedy Awards” Johnny Carson Award for Comedic Excellence, to the twice receipt of the American Comedy Awards honor of Funniest Male Performer. His retirement has been a slow revelation to his reverent public, who will surely miss his regular presence of their television screens.

Colbert Will Take Over on September 8, 2015Steven Colbert and David Letterman take a selfie

After a summer hiatus, Late Show will continue with Stephen Colbert at the helm. His lauded and renowned The Colbert Report concluded on December 18, 2014. One of the major discussion points in the media has been over Colbert’s fake personality from The Colbert Report and whether he will be as successful in the more sober role of a straight talk show personality. The truth is, no one knows exactly what blend of comedy and character Colbert will bring to his new position, as he surely will not undermine his own comedic instincts. Rather, this will be a chance for him to flex his comedic muscle in a new way, a challenge that is in all probability quite welcome for a change of pace. He will be bringing his same support team from The Colbert Report to his new place on Late Show, and he will also clearly bring his trademark intelligence and wit. The show will still be topical and deal with current events, and he will need to introduce himself to his audience, new and old, as the real guy Stephen Colbert.

A Season of Late Night Host Handovers

Colbert taking over for Letterman is one of many handovers that has been announced this season. In early 2014, Jimmy Fallon took over for Jay Leno, and he has filled those shoes so seamlessly that many of his fans have probably forgotten his old timeslot. As for the inevitable chain reaction, Seth Meyers took over the vacant slot left by Jimmy Fallon in February 2014. Finally, Craig Ferguson gave his last episode of the Late Late Show on December 19, 2014, and it has recently been announced that his successor will be the British comedian James Corden, who is best known in the United States for his critically praised lead performance in Broadway’s One Man, Two Guv’nors. Now he will have a chance to show and refine his chops for a much wider American audience.

“The Colbert Report” Plays Its Final Episode

As Colbert moves on, the Colbert Character retires

colbert characterAfter nine years and 1,447 episodes, The Colbert Report played its final show on December 18, 2014 on Comedy Central. Though Colbert fans must concede their congratulations to their beloved host, who is moving on to host CBS’ The Late Show in a post vacated by the illustrious, long-standing David Letterman, they are also sorely disappointed. That is because the reason they came to love Stephen Colbert in the first place – his fictional ultra-conservative superhero furtively promoting liberal values – is supposed to be no more. True diehards of the show cannot image losing this character, who has at times seen so vividly real – such as when he spoke in front at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. However, in respect to the tradition held by David Letterman for decades (as well as for the ratings he brought in), Colbert will maintain the structure of The Late Show with his opening monologue, and non-character interviews of celebrities. However, audiences are still hoping to see glimpses of this character, because it is such an effective critical tool in a world where politically sensitive topics are frighteningly becoming risqué.

The Hilarious, Worthy Finale

The screwball final 30 minutes of The Colbert Report let Colbert release his character into eternity. He gazed into the eyes of Alex colbertTrebek to discover the answers to all the world’s questions, and he passed the torch to Jon Stewart. He threatened to kill off the character through the special guest of “Grimmy”, aka Death, but then suddenly, immortality took over, and a huge group of past guests convened all together to sing “We’ll Meet Again,” foreshadowing an eerie reincarnation of a supposedly departed figure. The show has been offbeat from the beginning, and it is to Colbert’s credit that the finale was just as unlikely – he didn’t cave to normalizing commercial pressures. Although the shelf life of this show is not certain, as his topics were always so timely, his contribution to the cultural mindset is definite.

He Provided a Revolution

Colbert himself admitted that he has served as a revolutionary figure over the past few years – for after all, a revolution is turning around 360 degrees and staying where you are. His humility is touching, but he is also being truthful to say that. He always showed the world what it was; his portrayals of conservative viewpoints were so mesmerizingly accurate that he was said to have convinced conservatives that he was speaking genuinely. That may have accounted for part of his fanbase, but ultimately it was the cunning ingenuity of the construct that made him such a successful satirist over the past decade. He managed to cause sincere belly laughs at the same time as expand our intellectual points of view. Though he will continue to play this role as host of The Late Show, he will also need to inevitably cut back on his mischief. However, the finale of “We’ll Meet Again” certainly implies that the Colbert character is not gone forever – but rather, like Santa Claus, hiding in the North Pole until he is needed next.

“Peter Pan Live” Airs on NBC

Allison Williams and Christopher Walken Star

Peter Pan Live!On December 4, 2014, NBC continued its now annual tradition of airing a theatrical production filmed exclusively for television. Last year, NBC had a stupendous success with their airing of a live production of The Sound of Music, amassing 22 million viewers for the special, which was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the producers of the Oscars as well as many musical films such as Chicago and Hairspray). This year, the same producing team mounted a production of Peter Pan, adapting the version first produced in 1954. Following in a tradition led by Mary Martin and Cathy Rigby of a female portraying the young boy, Allison Williams (Girls) was cast as Peter Pan. In addition, Christopher Walken (A Behanding in Spokane, Hurlyburly) portrayed Captain Hook, Christian Borle (Peter and the Starcatcher) played Smee, Kelli O’Hara (The Bridges of Madison County) played Mrs. Darling, and Minnie Driver played the adult Wendy and the narrator. The broadcast, though not as successful as last year’s The Sound of Music, brought in 9.129 million viewers.

Sometimes Growing Up Is Not So Bad photo

Allison Williams is a star who has recently skyrocketed to national recognition, and this performance certainly took her notoriety one step further than the already immense fame she has garnered for her supporting role on Lena Dunham’s Girls on HBO. It’s not an accident that her father is Brian Williams, managing editor and anchor of NBC nightly news for over 20 years. Still, it’s hard to resent the nepotism involved here, because both father and daughter are so sweetly earnest. This photo is a screen shot of a recent facebook post Allison Williams made on her personal profile, showing how she has yearned to play this role since the age of 2 and a half. And her father was the first to announce the casting on his news show, adorably citing how this is a role she has always longed to play, and he should know, as he’s her father. This was an interesting way for Williams to foray into professional stage performance, as the broadcast had elements of both stage and screen performance. Whereas the musical was written and principally staged for the full-scale live stage performance, there were also elements that were only possible due to the filmed format, such as a larger set and cast and more diverse camera angles. Walken was cited to express ambivalence about this duality of performance methods, as he wasn’t thrilled about having a stage show broadcast to millions without the usual weeks of rehearsals and previews given to a Broadway show, and also that he’s never quite sure when the camera was even on him.

Firmly Mixed Reviews

peter panEven prior to the airing on Thursday evening, Williams conducted several interviews in which she predicted that many people would “hate-watch” the special, but also expecting that once they sat down to view it, it would be difficult to realize the “hate” part of the equation. Perhaps her self-aware semi-cynicism stems from her friendship with fellow millennial stars such as Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke, who would never be caught dead performing in such a classically un-ironical role such as this one (though Dunham probably wishes she could be a musical star, but she cannot sing and her comedy stems from a very different place; Kirke honestly would never wish this upon herself). Anyway, Williams was thrust amongst these fellow girls, and does offer a nice juxtaposition to their sentiment on the HBO show, but in this case, she proves herself to be paving the way to a very different career. As for actual reviews, some people loved it, and some people genuinely despised it, but most were somewhere in between. Alessandra Stanley in The New York Times said that Allison “ruined hate-watching,” because she convincingly pulled off the role after all. The Hollywood Reporter lauded Williams’ performance, and considered the entire special a success. Still, musical theatre lover Adam Feldman in Time Out New York came out with perhaps the most objectively accurate response, critiquing the entire show of Peter Pan for not being a first-rate show in the first place, but also critiquing Zadan and Meron for minimizing the inherent theatricality of the piece. Still, he expressed a sincere wish that NBC try again with the live television musical theatre concept next year, which the network has already expressed their intent to do.