Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Don't do it. Just don't do it, NBC. Not another version of The Grinch… especially not a staged production.
Any musical on network television, live or otherwise, is a tremendous challenge to pull off well. This recent trend started with Carrie Underwood making the hills come alive in 2013 with The Sound of Music. The Wiz then eased on down the road and solid ratings followed. Naturally, the networks seized upon the trend, and the novelty stated to wear off for these type of live events.
Audiences didn't find classics like Peter Pan, Hairspray or Jesus Christ Superstar. Grease was fun, but not the sensation that the networks anticipated. Viewers looked for glitches as they sang along with these live performances. People were laughing at these Broadway mainstays, not along with them.
Rent was an all-around disaster. That meant no Hair or Bye Bye Birdie even with J Lo attached. The Little Mermaid tried mixing live action and animation and was accused of pulling a bait and switch. Hamilton took us to the stage, but that was only available thanks to Disney + and COVID. The live element was gone.
I get the temptation to stage any holiday production, but A Christmas Story Live did not translate well. Now it's the most famous resident of Mount Crumpet's turn. I was not a fan of Jim Carrey's Grinch, nor any other reboot/revamp/rethinking of this Christmas classic. Just leave a good thing alone, even if it's re-aired countless times.
Matthew Morrison leads the way in this new production of Dr Seuss' The Grinch Musical, which was staged in London. This is no knock on the Glee star/Tony nominee's performing ability. It just makes me clamor for Boris Karloff and the real thing.
I know how Grinchy my attitude is towards this "network event." Any theater performance on television is a technical achievement, and people will tune in just to see how it’s pulled off. Perhaps my heart will grow three sizes on December 9th. Merry Merry.
The avalanche of specials continues as we draw closer to Santa's big day…
HOLIDAY SPECIALS THIS WEEK
High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special (DISNEY+)
Friday, December 11th
We're all in this together. Troy and Gabriela, who appeared long ago, are really the ones who brought the musical format back to TV. Bridging the gap between the first and second seasons, the cheeky crew behind High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is back with a new holiday-themed musical extravaganza. Watch trailer.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (APPLE TV+, PBS)
Friday, December 11th, Sunday December 13th
My all-time favorite. Free on Apple TV+ for three days beginning Friday and also airing Sunday on PBS. Learn what the holidays (and dancing) are all about.
Talking Dead: The Walking Dead Holiday Special (AMC+)
Sunday, December 13th
The franchise’s first-ever holiday special is hosted by Chris Hardwick (of course) and premiering on AMC+. Cast members reminisce about their favorite scenes from the past, present and future. Ho ho ho!
Couples Therapy COVID Special (SHOWTIME)
Sunday, December 13th 8pm
Grab a seat on the couch as Dr. Orna Guralnik wrestles with our new COVID world. Hope Santa makes an appearance.
You can also catch Elf almost any night on AMC. Lots more mirth on the way.
THIS WEEK'S (NON-HOLIDAY) PICKS
The Wilds (AMAZON)
Friday, December 11th
A plane carrying a group of teenage girls crashes on a deserted island. Yup, it's the young adult version of Lost.
This ten-part series is Amazon's first foray into original this type of drama as it explores the present and past of these young women with very different backgrounds.
Survival at this age is tough enough in high school — these ladies have to do it Kate and Sun style.
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (HBO)
Saturday, December 12th 8pm
Staying Alive. How Deep Is Your Love. To Love Somebody. Massachusetts. The number of potential titles for this documentary is endless.
The Brothers Gibb are one of the most misunderstood and underrated acts in musical history. The band went through many styles and experienced all the highs and lows of the business. Everyone thinks disco kings, but they were so much more than that.
This HBO doc digs deep into their relationships over the years and the tremendous effect their music has had on all of our lives. My love for these brothers is quite deep.
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.
TOPICS: Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical!, NBC, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Couples Therapy, High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special, The Walking Dead, The Wilds, Matthew Morrison, TV Musicals