Late Monday, NBC confirmed that it was scrapping its previously announced plans for another live TV musical in May. With the network’s Hair Live cancelled and Rent’s poor performance on FOX, does this mean the live TV musical trend isn’t due for an encore?
NBC’s Hair Live cancelled
According to Deadline, NBC executives confirmed Monday night that the network would no longer be pursuing its previously announced Hair Live! TV musical. Originally slated for a May 19 telecast, the entire production had been scrapped. Why? Because the network felt that it should focus on more “family-friendly shows.”
“Live musicals are a part of this network’s DNA and we are committed to continuing that tradition with the right show at the right time,” NBC co-chairmen Paul Telegdy and George Cheeks said in a statement. “Since these shows are such enormous undertakings, we need titles that have a wide appeal and we’re in the process of acquiring the rights to a couple of new shows that we’re really excited about.”
Precisely what these replacement shows will be wasn’t disclosed, but as Deadline and many others note, NBC’s thinking may have something to do with its most successful live TV musicals. That, and the poor circumstances and resulting performance that FOX’s Rent live TV musical mustered in January.
So far, the highest-rated live TV musicals since the trend first took off a few years ago have been The Sound of Music and The Wiz on NBC, and Grease on FOX. In other words, shows whose content was deemed more “family-friendly” than not have done well when it comes to ratings. FOX’s Rent musical, on the other hand, delved into complex issues of race and class. And while these aspects are extremely important, they apparently weren’t enough to garner the necessary ratings to appease executives.
With Hair Live cancelled, are TV musicals over?
Hair, like Rent, also deals with topics that most would consider “adult.” So between this and the many factors that led to Rent’s poor performance last month, it seems NBC’s leaders are beginning to back away from the live TV musical trend. As of this writing, neither network (nor any others) currently has plans to do another live TV musical in the near future.