At first glance, these seem like worthy goals: Revive the past AND do a live TV show.
Still, there’s a key question: Is this piece of the past really worth reviving?
NBC’s “Annie Live” (shown here) was mostly excellent; ABC’s “Diff’rent Strokes” was thoroughly awful. Let’s look at both:
— “Annie” has always been a mixed blessing – a weak story, salvaged by vibrant songs. NBC wisely presented it as just what it is – a stage show, with small-but-flashy sets and high-octane people.
Harry Connick and Celia Smith (shown here) were terrific as Daddy Warbucks and Annie, surrounded by other talented singers – Nicole Scherzinger, Megan Hilty, Tituss Burgess and more.
My one gripe, as always, is with Hannigan. Somehow, theater people have decided that none of the usual overacting constraints apply to this role; now Taraji Henson has taken that to extremes.
Still, this is mostly terrific. Catch a rerun at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 on NBC or any time on Peacock.
– “Diff’rent Strokes,” however, has always been a weak show. It’s a reminder that Norman Lear – one of the greatest producers in TV history – is imperfect, like the rest of us.
Jimmy Kimmel created “Live In Front of a Studio Audience” as a reminder of the great work of Lear, now 99. Scripts from his old shows would be revived by modern actors.
The first two specials each started with a great show (“All In the Family”) and followed with a very good one – “The Jeffersons” the first time, “Good Times” the second.
But the newest special skipped “All in the Family” and went with two shows – “Diff’rent Strokes” and “Facts of Life” – that were never very good. Those shows were sometimes salvaged by the likability of Gary Coleman and the “Facts” girls … and by the fact that in the old days, it was possible for one show to draw a split-level audience – kids and old people.
Episodes of those two were revived with a gimmick – adult stars, pretending to be kids. I didn’t see “Facts,” but I did see “Strokes” and grimaced: Talented people – Kevin Hart, Damon Wayans, John Lithgow – could do nothing to save a flat and silly script.
Next time someone revives the past, let’s hope it’s something worth reviving.