NBC confirms it is talking to Aaron Sorkin about mounting a live production of his 1989 hit Broadway play A Few Good Men. It’s still in a preliminary stage — no deals have been made on the project — but the hope is to have Sorkin write for a live production based on his original play.
The project would reunite Sorkin and the network after the two teamed on one of NBC’s most decorated drama series, The West Wing, which Sorkin created (he wrote almost all of the episodes for the first four seasons) and ran from 1999-2006. It won 26 Emmys including four Best Drama Series wins in a row.
Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron – NBC’s go-to guys for live productions, having produced last year’s live adaptation of Broadway play The Sound Of Music – are shepherding the project, having put it under the nose of NBC Entertainment Group chief Bob Greenblatt. Sony TV is a participant in association with Zadan and Meron; it holds rights from the original feature film deal on the play, which resulted in the 1992 Columbia/TriStar hit about a court-martial case against two Marines accused of killing another. Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore starred.
NBC has made no secret of its enthusiasm for live TV specials; last December’s live holiday confection, the Carrie Underwood-starring The Sound Of Music Live! scored an impressive 18.6 million viewers and a 4.6 rating in adults 18-49 on a Thursday night — NBC’s best adults 18-49 Thursday average with non-sports programming in since the night of the ER finale in April 2009, and the largest overall Thursday audience in almost 10 years, since the night of the Frasier finale in May 2004. The network is following that up with Zadan and Meron’s re-staging of Broadway hit Peter Pan for this coming holiday season, on December 4.
But a non-musical live production, particularly one that tackles a military storyline, may not prove such a slam dunk. Last network to attempt this was CBS, at the start of this century, when it broadcast George Clooney’s live remake of the 1960s apocalyptic Cold War flick Fail-Safe, in which a squadron of U.S. bombers mistakenly gets sent to nuke Moscow. In addition to the dark subject matter, that project gave itself the extra challenge of being presented in black and white; but it nonetheless clocked about 16 million viewers, thanks to the all-star cast that included Clooney as well as Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Dennehy, Sam Elliott, James Cromwell, Harvey Keitel and Don Cheadle.
CBS’ follow-up, a live staging of On Golden Pond starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, premiered in April 2001. That remake, tackling the equally non-TV-friendly subject of old age, logged approximately 12 million viewers – which, back then, made it the least watched broadcast program in its time slot. Nonetheless, in 2005, Clooney leaked word that he was developing a live TV remake of Paddy Chayesfky’s scathing satire of the TV industry, Network, as his second live TV production for CBS. That one, however, never made it to the screen.