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.