Friday, December 6, 2013

The Sound of Mediocre, Brought to you by NBC

Me and my big mouth. When my nephew, Myles, asked me if he could share my initial reaction to Carrie Underwood playing Maria with an editor-friend who was interviewing him for ABC.com, I obviously didn’t consider the outcome. (6738 comments so far. No, I didn’t bother to read them all.) Now I’m being quoted by entertainment journalists and bloggers, and I’m being criticized by perfect strangers for my opinions, which is kind of annoying, because since this is about my immediate family (we're not blood-sucking distant relations like some of the comments suggested) I think I have a right to express those opinions. Unfortunately, this experience has turned out to be more about fall-out from expressing those opinions than from the performance itself. It actually solidifies for me why, up until starting this blog, I mostly avoided the topic all together. After this post, I’m ready to go back to maintaining a low profile. So don’t expect to see any more activity on this blog. I’m thinking this will be my swan song.

But first, I feel obligated to finish what I started. For all of you who clamored for public apologies for criticizing Carrie Underwood, I’m sorry to disappoint you, because you’re not going to get one. I stand by what I said in last year’s post. She’s a talented country music star, but she is not an actress. And I think she proved that to the world last night. She kicked-ass on Lonely Goatherd – yes the girl can yodel. But beyond that I found the overall production to be completely underwhelming and mediocre at best. I kept wondering why NBC would settle for a community theater quality production. Boston Herald arts editor Michael Perigard really captured it well in his review.

As with many things, this is all a matter of personal taste and opinion. I know many people loved it, loved Carrie, thought it was great, enjoyed the nostalgia trip, etc. Many of my family members disagree quite strongly with my opinion. They asked me to keep an open mind. I tried. They declared it spectacular. I disagreed. My niece texted me, “I don’t think I understand what purpose being super critical or negative about this serves. I think they are doing it fine, anyone under 20 or so don’t really know the story. Now they will.” Ok. Good point. I wasn’t intending to be super-critical or negative, I questioned the original casting choices, and then waited to see what turned out. Personally, I think the best thing about last night’s performance was that it exposed the world to the original Broadway production, which had some great songs that never made it to film.

For everyone who thought the whole thing was wonderful and that NBC did a spectacular job, I say maybe your expectations weren’t high to begin with. If they hoped to have created a new holiday classic, I think they missed their mark. I expect most of that $9M was spent hyping last nights performance. (Then again, I could just be jaded, an arrogant snob and dead wrong.) Maybe my mistake is having higher expectations overall, and especially when classics – theater or film – are involved. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Here’s just another example how poor the quality of TV has become because viewers require so little to keep them glued to the set. We should all demand a little more for our viewing time, don’t you think?

And for all of you who feel sorry for Carrie, I really wouldn't worry too much about it. She’s a pro – she can take a little criticism. She got a lot of publicity out of this. And she’s probably laughing all the way to the bank.