Okay, how many of you had Allison Wiliams in the office pool?
As you probably know, NBC is doing a live production of Peter Pan this Christmas. People have been putting together wish lists of which Really Big Name Star they would hire. And today, NBC announced their decision. They are going with…Allison Williams.
I swear I had to go online to search who she was. You may know better than me. Or may not. I don't get HBO, though. And it turns out she’s one of the cast members of HBO’s show, Girls.)
I'm not remotely saying it’s a bad choice – in fact, I suspect she probably had a spectacular audition and is great, otherwise they’d never ever never have hired her. I just find it a monumentally surprising decision. After all, last year for The Sound of Music, NBC showed how essential they felt having a Really Big Name Star was when they hired one of today's biggest country music stars despite the fact that she had never acted before. The name was what mattered. Having a Really Big Name who so many in the audience will anxiously wait to see and tune in.
So, in that context, hiring Allison Williams to star as ‘Peter Pan’ is stunning. I’m guessing that if you went around America and asked everyone to turn in their Top 50 wish list, none of them had Allison Williams on it. (Other than people in the Allison Williams fan club.)
I know that Girls is very popular, but it’s HBO popular. Not Big Hollywood Star popular, or Big TV Star popular, or even Big Music Industry popular. And further, she’s not even The Star, but part of an ensemble cast. In fact, if anyone is the star of Girls, it's probably Lena Dunham.
But the thing is, I also find the choice refreshing. I love that a major TV network is hiring someone for her talent, not just that she’s a really big name. Which is why I’m looking forward to seeing if she’s as terrific as I presume.
Of course, what this also means is that, as my friend Barry noted, NBC probably got turned down by Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johanssen. And likely everyone else on their "if we could have anyone we really, really wanted" wish list. I don't know all the reasons they turned it down, though going up against the live TV legend of Mary Martin might have been on the list.
But still, there were a lot of "normal star" names who they likely could have gone with, and they went with an "under the wire" actress who seemingly has huge talent.
(Ultimately, it seems a very smart decision by Allison Williams to not be bothered by being compared to The Legend. She has little to lose, and afterward could find her career rising bigtime.)
What I suspect is that, in the end, NBC figured that the musical Peter Pan itself is the star. Even more than The Sound of Music, as worldwide gargantuan popular as that is, Peter Pan has a different kind of popularity, an iconic place in people's hearts. And not just Peter Pan, but Peter Pan live on TV. If NBC can't sell that, they may have figured -- "Peter Pan Returns to Live Television on NBC After 59 Years!!!" -- they should probably get out of the TV business.
The star of Peter Pan?? It's the second star to the right. Straight on to morning.
So...all you people who had Allison Williams in that office pool -- man, did you ever clean up!
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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