TV

This Haunts Me: Shaggy as Sebastian in "The Little Mermaid LIVE!"

Who forgot his claws? Was it you, Shaggy?!

ABC13 Houston

Today's greatest threats to civil society may be climate change, the 2020 presidential election, and live versions of Disney musicals.

Despite the combination of curiosity, nostalgia, and skepticism that keeps viewers tuning in to ABC's live productions of musicals, it's not like we like them. Are we entertained? Surely, but for all the wrong reasons. When The Little Mermaid Live! aired last night, Twitter was interested in how the 1989 beloved classic would be staged before an audience. After all, it's been 30 years since songwriters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman gave the world "Part of Your World," "Kiss the Girl," and "Under the Sea."


What aired was a bogus bastardization of Broadway musical numbers, creepy puppeteering, and a watch party of the original animation, as the "live" musical was a disjointed mix of animated clips and live performances. Even with Queen Latifah breathing life into the production with a sonorous performance as Ursula and a decent, if pitchy, showing from 18-year-old Auli'i Cravahlo (Moana), ABC's constant commercial breaks advertising the upcoming Disney+ streaming platform made it clear that the whole production was just "the most expensive Disney+ ad" made to date.

But above all, what cannot be unseen is Shaggy's role as Sebastian. Yes, the officious, suck-up crab and side kick who represented every nerdy teacher's pet who tried to sit with the popular kids in the cafeteria but ended up a tattle tale by recess. Most notable about his performance as the iconic crab was the fact that Shaggy, rather than matching the staging and rest of the cast's costumes, simply wore red pants and a red, boxy faux leather jacket. Some viewers saw Michael Jackson from Thriller ghost-walking along the bottom of the sea and haunting Ariel, while others saw Shaggy doing a good job playing Sebastian if Sebastian were a 51-year-old philandering reggae singer.

Queen Latifah strutted across the stage with full tentacles, Cravahlo was rendered immobile by Ariel's fish tale for whole scenes, and, oh yeah, children dressed in full red crab costumes scuttled across the stage during John Stamos' harlequin rendition of Chef Louis's "Les Poissons." But Shaggy apparently got a pass.



To be clear, ABC's resident costume guy, Robert Mills, came to his own defense. (Apparently his title is "senior vice president of alternate series, specials, and late-night," but realistically, all we know him as is "the crab costume guy" now). Mills tweeted, "For those wondering, Shaggy wore crab claws in early rehearsals and it looked ridiculous." Then he answered public demand by tweeting a photo of Shaggy wearing the claws behind scenes, closing the loop of the masochism and cartoonish hellscape that is modern entertainment on ABC.

What's worse than Sean Spicer, Trump's former Press Secretary and traitor to the American public, being cast on ABC's Dancing with the Stars? Sean Spicer remaining on Dancing with the Stars because of Trump's encouragement to get his 66.5 million Twitter followers to keep voting for him. And you know what's worse than that? Shaggy cast as Michael Jackson playing Shaggy as Sebastian.

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2020 is on fire.

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the racist police epidemic to freaking murder hornets, let's just throw 2020 out. Yes, the entire year.

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TV

Sean Spicer Is Basically RoboCop

Sean Spicer's character arc on Dancing With the Stars is ripped straight from RoboCop.

ABC

In a dystopian American future, a man who has lost everything and been shamed and brutalized beyond recognition is revived by a mega-corporation and brought back into society as both a hero of the people and a tool of fascism. Welcome to Dancing With the Stars starring Sean Spicer.

As disgraced ex-U.S. press secretary Sean Spicer glorbled his way around the dance floor to "Spice Up Your Life" by Spice Girls, the very fabric of reality collapsed around my computer screen. "Glorbled" isn't even a real word, but there's no other way to capture the alienness of witnessing Sean Spicer gleefully smacking bongos in a frilly, lime green top and dumpy, ill-fitting slacks. This is a man who used his official position as the White House mouthpiece to knowingly lie to the American public, and now that he's left the government in disgrace, we're watching him crotch slide. Excuse my language, but what the f*ck is wrong with us?

Sean Spicer's Salsa – Dancing with the Stars www.youtube.com

Then it dawned on me. This premise is ripped straight from RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven's enduring 1987 cyberpunk-satire that warned against capitalism run amuck.

RoboCop takes place in a dystopian-future Detroit on the brink of collapse until a mega-corporation called Omni Consumer Products (OCP) steps in to save the day. OCP turns the once-downtrodden city into a bustling, high-end utopia and also takes control of the police force. So when Alex Murphy, one of the best officers on the force, gets brutally murdered in the line of duty, OCP uses his corpse as the test subject for an experimental cyborg program, reanimating him as RoboCop.

RoboCop quickly becomes a hero to the public, operating on three Prime Directives: Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law. But there's a secret fourth directive RoboCop doesn't know about: "Any attempt to arrest a senior officer of OCP results in shutdown." In short, RoboCop is designed to be a tool of corporate fascism, capable of reinforcing the ruling party's will while never turning against his creators, no matter what they do.

robocop Orion Pictures

Verhoeven's entire point in RoboCop is that corporations only care about social goodness to the extent of their ability to profit off it. ABC seems to be doing everything in their power to prove him right, and what better way to do that than by stealing RoboCop's character arc for Sean Spicer?

Like RoboCop, Sean Spicer is a man who has been brutalized by society. There are some differences, of course––Alex Murphy was very good at his job, while Sean Spicer was a total nincompoop––but for all intents and purposes, Sean Spicer's public image is battered and bloody, just like Alex Murphy's corpse after being torn apart by shotgun blasts.

Luckily for Spicer, ABC can rebuild him. They have the technology and, more importantly, a primetime TV slot. So just as OCP outfits Murphy's corpse with android technology and sends him out to patrol, ABC outfits Spicer in silly costumes and sends him out to dance. They hope that, in the same way the dystopian Detroit public came to love RoboCop, so, too, will the dystopian American public––most of whom ABC hopes have been lobotomized by the 24-hour news cycle––come to love goofy dancing Sean Spicer.

One would hope people could see through the charade and crush ABC's attempts to normalize a guy who literally defended Hitler. But I'm not so confident we can do that.