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NBC's 'Peter Pan' Draws In 9 Million Viewers (Hate-Watchers Included)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Last night, NBC took a chance with some pixie dust and live TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "PETER PAN LIVE!")

ALLISON WILLIAMS: (As Peter Pan) (Singing) I'm flying.

TAYLOR LOUDERMAN: (As Wendy Darling) Flying.

LUCAS: (As John Darling) Flying.

ALLYN: (As Michael Darling) Flying.

WILLIAMS: (As Peter Pan) (Singing) Over bed. Over chair. Duck your head. Clear the air.

CORNISH: "Peter Pan Live!" was a new three-hour presentation of the musical which first debuted on TV in 1955. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans stayed up to watch it and is here to talk about how it went.

Hey there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey.

CORNISH: So Peter Pan was played by Allison Williams who co-stars on the HBO show "Girls." Christopher Walken was Captain Hook. How did they do?

DEGGANS: Well, first, let's note this was a really ambitious effort. I think Williams was full of energy as the boy who never grew up. She has a great singing voice. And she did a pretty good job of nailing that British accident. But Walken was so laid back as Captain Hook. He seemed to be sleepwalking through a lot of this production. Let's listen to how he sounded during one of the numbers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICAL, "PETER PAN LIVE!")

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: (As Captain Hook) Listen to your fearless leader. Once I get me hook in Peter, life will go from sweet to sweeter, I say.

CORNISH: A little loungy. Actor Josh Malina tweeted, I can't believe Christopher Walken is up this late. You know, Eric, NBC's "Sound Of Music Live!" got so much criticism online last year. People talked about hate-watching it, right? - watching it just to complain. Did that happen with "Peter Pan?"

DEGGANS: Well, I was trading a lot of messages and live tweeting myself last night. And there were lots of people cracking jokes about it online. But I coined a new term for watching this production, which was bored-watching. Despite special effects, like a computer-generated Tinkerbell, and some great production numbers, the two leads just weren't charismatic enough to command that stage. And that three-hour length was like an endurance test. So by the midpoint, people were posting all kinds of odd jokes. And by the end, I saw this post from an account named @sloganagain. And they said, next year, they should just give Meryl Streep a bottle of vodka and the script to "Oklahoma!" and see what she does.

CORNISH: I would watch that (laughing). All right. Mixed reviews at best. How did it do in the ratings?

DEGGANS: Well, NBC has preliminary ratings that show about 9.1 million people watched it live Thursday night, which is about half the night of viewership from "The Sound Of Music" from the year before. And now, that's still great Thursday ratings for NBC. And given that the Wall Street Journal reported the network earned up to $400,000 per 30-second advertisement, that's a pretty good sign that they might want to try it again. NBC seems to be trying to build an audience for live musicals. That's partly people who love this stuff and partly people who watch to make fun of it. And as long as they get a healthy rating from those two groups, I don't think they really care all that much why people are watching it.

CORNISH: That's NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans doing the tough work for us, the endurance test. Eric, thanks so much.

DEGGANS: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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