TV: Fox to air live ‘Grease’ musical in 2015

By Meryl Gottlieb | | @buzzlightmeryl

Grease Sing-A-LongFor Fox, Grease is the word that will put them on the live-musical map. The network has announced its order for a live-musical adaptation of the popular ’70s musical to be aired in 2015.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the broadcast will be three hours and is the first-ever live broadcast TV production of the 1971 musical from Warren Casey and Jim Jacobs, which also inspired the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Remember that the film adaptation is the highest-grossing movie musical ever with nearly $400 million worldwide.  

“From Broadway to film, and across generations, Grease is one of the most beloved musical stories ever told – and we can’t wait to bring it to our air in a spectacular live event,” said Shana C. Waterman, senior VP of event series for Fox. “Its iconic characters and addictive songs make it the perfect fit for Fox, and we’re going to give it the kind of star power and production quality to make every Sandy, Danny, Rizzo and Kenickie out there want to get up and sing along.”

I know everybody wants a hickie from Kenickie, but it’s pretty safe to say this is Fox’s move to take some of the spotlight away from NBC, who revamped the live-musical game in December 2013 with The Sound of Music Live. With The Sound of Music garnering more than 20 million views — even though the lead actress was atrocious — it was obvious NBC would continue bringing Broadway shows to the small screen. In January, the Peacock network announced Peter Pan would be the featured musical for its Dec. 4 broadcast. Now, others are clearly looking to get a taste of the musical success.

Sure, this seems like a copycat move, but didn’t NBC’s Smash feel like an attempt to cash in on the success Fox was having with Glee? It seems these two are locked in battle for the title of musical broadcast champion. You think Glee is bad now, you should have watched passed the pilot of Smash. In that sense, Fox has won the series battle, but will it win the bigger undertaking of a live-broadcast? The Sound of Music Live was accepted so wholeheartedly because it was the first and because many were curious to see how the all-star cast would do — A+ to the Broadway vets but F- to Carrie Underwood. Who knows if Peter Pan will even be as marginally successful as The Sound of Music?

A key question is when Fox will air its broadcast. NBC is clinging to its “family” angle of airing the musical in the winter so that families can gather around and watch a family-friendly show. Is Fox going for the same motif? Both networks have chosen very safe musical choices in that, yes, they are ones an entire family can watch together — though Grease definitely has that risqué factor — and they are classics that everyone knows. I’ll be more interested in this battle when they started making tougher choices and pick a musical that isn’t so obvious.

It’s also only a matter of time until the Disney-owned ABC network produces its own broadcast. With Disney’s musical history, it’s a wonder they haven’t joined in this debacle already.

What are you thoughts on Fox’s announcement? Will you be watching these live musical broadcasts? Let me know @buzzlightmeryl


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