NBC seems to be on a renewed creative streak diving into their “event” programming the last couple of years. In many ways, it’s a throwback to an earlier era of TV decades ago when event programming was a near nightly experience. With commercial networks tightening their budget belts over the last several decades, much of that went away for a long time in favor of relying on their regular slate of drama and comedy shows. As many of those continue to fall (especially the comedies), NBC finally realized a yearly event of adapting new Broadway musicals and other family-oriented programming is worth the effort without breaking the bank.
“The Sound of Music Live” this last December was a superior example of how to put on an excellent production without having to spend a fortune. With a basic yet stylish set design, the budget was perhaps a fraction of what it costs to produce just one episode of an on-location TV show. Yet it kindled memories for those who grew up with “The Sound of Music” movie, plus was classic enough to bring in the younger demographic. With NBC staging “Peter Pan” and “The Music Man” over the next couple of years, you can see dipping into traditional material is the new intent of this new production arm.
When you mention The Beatles, you’ll likely have the same kind of multi-generational response “The Sound of Music” still generates. With Beatles loyalists encompassing 50 years, it’s no surprise why NBC wants to take on The Beatles next in a major eight-part miniseries. The question is whether The Beatles have had far more TV analysis already when compared to airings of the original “The Sound of Music.”
No doubt the response would be: you can reinvent anything that’s been seen more than a million times over. When it comes to The Beatles, we probably still haven’t heard every story that could be heard, especially from the point of view of surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Also, with NBC making this an eight-part event, it seems likely it’s going to contain actors portraying The Beatles from beginning to end.
Is it Dangerous for Actors to Portray The Beatles?
Most people would probably want a documentary style approach on The Beatles, even if we’ve already seen that done with The Beatles Anthology. When that aired on ABC in 1995, it was truly event television considering it had the direct input from the surviving Beatles themselves. Despite perhaps telling only half the story, you can see clues NBC’s event will be using actors since it’s being scripted by Michael Hirst of “The Tudors.”
Going with actors to portray The Beatles could be risky territory considering the past track record of actors trying to recreate the magic of iconic bands. While individual actors have had more luck portraying iconic entertainers on the big screen, most people realize seeing the real Beatles is the only way to get a full sense of history. It’s worse when actors have to lip-synch to the original recordings, unless you can get actors who can faithfully recreate the original sound.
Possibly, NBC has this in mind and will be holding auditions for a faux Fab Four that can truly sing and bring a suspension of disbelief. We know it can be done considering a few Beatles tribute bands exist that tour the country and can almost convince you they’re the real deal if you sit some distance away.
How dangerous is it, though, for an actor to portray a Beatle, especially when you have the scrutiny of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr? Plus, when you don’t have direct input from The Beatles, you have a lot of hearsay that could bring other problems. Regardless, this is at least interesting event TV and something the other commercial networks haven’t yet reignited.
When many doubted “The Sound of Music” could be successfully reinvented, most people were surprised when it turned into something much better than expected thanks to a talented cast. Perhaps taking The Beatles away from the actual Beatles can end up finding more truths than they were willing to give away originally. It appears it’s going to take as long as the original Beatles Anthology to find those truths.