3 Reasons Why The Possible Live Remake Of ‘The Wiz’ Will Suck

January 19, 2015  |  

If you haven’t heard by now, NBC is exploring the option of making a live action version of The Wiz. And I’ll give you a few seconds to let your eyeballs roll completely around in your head…

As reported by Shadow & Act, NBC might be looking to follow the ratings success it had with two other crappy live performances of beloved Broadway musicals: Peter Pan and The Sound of Music, with an even crappier live mockery of a crucial part of my cinematic childhood. According to the Black film website:

Originally, the network announced that their next live TV Broadway musical extravaganza was going to be “The Music Man,” but NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt seems to have changed his mind, and may do something else instead. And that something else could be “The Wiz.”

As he was quoted today, during the Television Critics Association winter press tour: “The Music Man is something we have optioned the rights to, and we’re looking very seriously at some casting options, but we’ve also optioned the rights to ‘The Wiz.’ That could be what we do instead.”

Let me just say right now: No!

Personally, I feel like this is all my fault. I’m the one who penned that God-awful slideshow back in November 2013 recasting The Wiz – just for shits and giggles. At the time, I thought I was just being snarky when I wrote:

Yeah I know, you saw the title and came here to verify that Hollywood had “betta” not touch that classic.

Well, you are in luck because,,as far as I know, Hollywood has yet to announce a remake of  The Wiz. (A cinematic retelling of the broadway musical, The Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,”which is a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.) But who knows, the day is still young. And after reading that a remake of Roots and a sequel to It’s A Wonderful Life were both in production, I’m sure we can expect to hear plans for a new The Wiz adaption by Christmas.”

Now, I see it was just the diabolical shadows in my soul telling me to put that energy into the air. You can call me Mr. Glass…

But all is not lost. Nothing has been finalized, which means that we still have time to fight this. All we have to do is figure out how we can play the race card and force NBC to leave The Wiz alone.

And I’m dead serious. This can’t happen. Screw a Change.org petition and letter-writing campaign. We need to bring out the heavy guns. I’m talking Jesse and Al. I’m talking the NAACP. I’m talking about all the kids of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m talking Cornel West and Tavis Smiley too. I’m talking V. Stiviano and her hidden voice recorder under that giant face visor. I’m talking another Kim Jong Un email hack. I’m talking #BlackLivesMatter. I’m talking Roland Martin and his Amazing Technicolor Boycotting Dreamcoat. I’m talking, calling on the powerful spirit of Shaka Zulu to come back and haunt each and every producer, director, writer, actor…all the way down to the guy who holds the boom mic as well as everyone else involved in this blasphemous production.

I know that The Wiz is technically a remake of something White people made first. However, the Broadway team of Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown (later Quincy Jones, Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, for the film) did a phenomenal job transforming a cute story about a lily White girl from Kansas into an even cuter, yet relatable story about a Black girl from Harlem (played by Stephanie Mills and later, Diana Ross), who got to meet the Scarecrow, played most memorably by  Michael Jackson.

In short, messing with The Wiz is like putting walnuts and cranberries in potato salad; there’s nothing good that can come from it and I’m not eating it. But if you are not yet convinced, I’ll give you three more reasons why The Wiz, on television, is going to suck really bad:

  1. NBC’s live version of Peter Pan: Really, need I say more? Okay, I will say more: it was horrible. In fact, it was so bad that I’m convinced NBC planned it that way in response to viewers who were equally disappointed in its first live musical offering of It’s A Wonderful Life. At this point, NBC had to figure that folks are only going to tune in to these special broadcasts just to crack jokes, mainly on Twitter. Therefore, I don’t expect the network to put that much thought, creativity and even money into making this version an equal or superior production to either the Broadway or film version of The Wiz. Instead of the Emerald City, we will likely get Ruby Tuesdays. And I’m sorry, I’m not down for turning The Wiz into a laughing stock just for easy ratings.
  2. I’m not trying to hear anybody else sing Michael Jackson’s ‘You Can’t Win,’ but Michael Jackson: What made this film extra special was that it was the King of Pop’s first feature-length film project. And not only did he own the role of the Scarecrow, but he absolutely killed “You Can’t Win,” which was originally composed and eventually cut from the Broadway version of the show. As many people theorize, the song (available to listen in full right here) is a musical telling of what it’s like to be Black, poor and surviving in America. And let me tell you something: that song has definitely become an anthem of sorts every single time ‘The Man’ has gotten one over on me. And I have no desire to see NBC take all of the feeling out of that song just to appease White audiences who don’t like to hear the truth about the society in which we live. Heck, without Michael Jackson on the vocals, they might as well scrap the song all together.
  3. And this brings me to my final point: I have no faith that NBC will cast this correctly. In my original piece, I had laid out my ideas of who might make a perfect dream cast for this hypothetical (at the time) remake. However, that piece was written before the Village Voice article from last year kind of reminded folks of the predator that is R Kelly. And it was before America’s favorite manic, bad boy singer got his probation revoked (I’m talking about Chris Brown.) last week. And outside of Kelly, Brown and maybe even a holographic version of Jackson, I can’t see anyone else owning the part of Scarecrow. For that matter, I highly doubt that NBC is going to pay the big bucks to have either J Hud or Patti LaBelle (two other names I had cast for the remake), or any other fantastic singer, in any of the vocally challenging roles. Instead, the network will probably cast based upon who appeals to a younger and more diverse audience and not necessarily based on who is best suited for the part. Don’t be surprised if this project comes to fruition and looks a little more “multicultural” and “Black-ish” than any (or all) versions had originally intended.

Perhaps it is the misanthropic old head in me, but I can’t help but think that this live production is going to suck worse than a kindergarten class performing the play for a bunch of soccer moms at the school’s annual Christmas pageant. I’m talking flubbed lines, missed cues and boogers everywhere. The irony here, is that in 1993, The Wiz was again “re-imagined” on Broadway for younger audiences of the hip-hop generation. And in an interview with the New York Times, William F. Brown, who wrote the original and was involved with the hip hop remake, called the 1978 film version of the play, “awful.” So who knows? Maybe every generation deserves its own The Wiz in its own image. Maybe this new version will right some of the wrongs Brown (among others) felt existed in the film version? Maybe the new performance of “You Can’t Win” will include a head nod to the nation-wide protest against police brutality?

Or maybe it will be Peter Pan. And if I had to click my heels together and take a wild guess, it will likely be the latter.

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