"Peter Pan" may not have soared to the ratings heights many expected, but NBC's live telecast was still "a great night," according to network chief Bob Greenblatt.
The three-hour musical extravaganza, starring "Girls" co-star Allison Williams in the title role with Christopher Walken as the villainous Captain Hook, drew 9.1 million total viewers, according to Nielsen.
NBC narrowly won the night in the key demographic of adults aged 18 to 49 that governs most of the TV business. But "Peter Pan" shed viewers throughout the evening and drew only about half the audience that the network got for last year's "Sound of Music Live!" That was the show that prompted NBC to start doing musical theater in prime time again after a decades-long layoff.
Even so, Greenblatt said he was thrilled with the response.
"We're very pleased with the 'Peter Pan' ratings and it was a great night for NBC," Greenblatt wrote in a statement. "I'm proud to be part of a company that takes chances and creates big events, and that's exactly what we're going to continue to do."
As for the comparison to last year, Greenblatt was pragmatic.
"We didn't expect to reach the same rating as 'The Sound of Music' since that was the first live movie event of its kind in over 50 years," he wrote.
Indeed, "Sound of Music" became an event last year partly because Broadway shows in prime time had not been done in ages.
"It's not a novelty [anymore] so there wasn't as much of a curiosity factor" for "Peter Pan," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for ad firm Horizon Media in New York.
In addition, "'Peter Pan' is more of a kids musical than 'Sound of Music,' which has a broader family target" audience, he added.
"Sound of Music" also had a broad-appeal star in country music performer Carrie Underwood. Williams, the daughter of NBC anchor Brian Williams, was known until now only to fans of her HBO series.
During the 1950s, NBC telecast "Peter Pan" - featuring now-familiar songs such as "I Won't Grow Up" by Moose Charlap - with Mary Martin in the title role.
The reviews for Thursday's show were mixed, summed up by The Times' Mary McNamara, who pronounced the show "neither mess nor magic."
But the reaction on social media was predictably withering, with many commenters accusing Walken of forgetting his lines. Detractors also assailed the decision to perpetuate the casting of a grown woman in the role of the boy protagonist. Gawker attacked NBC's telecast as "a three-hour college musical theater show."
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