Once upon a time, in the land of famous authors, J.M. Barrie hand-wrote a short story for Arthur Conan Doyle on the flyleaf of a book. The story was called "The Adventure of the Two Collaborators," and it was a pleasant little postscript to a very unpleasant experience the two had shared during an attempt to work together on a stage play. The tale was a happy testimony to the friendship between the two, that lasted long after their theatrical ordeal.
And last night, over seventy-five years since both men passed from this mortal coil, the shades of J.M. Barrie and Arthur Conan Doyle unwittingly found themselves working together again, to boost CBS television's ratings in the nine o'clock hour.
Barrie's part in this plan was to write a 1904 stage play called Peter Pan, which then inspired a musical adaptation in 1954, which in turn inspired a live three hour performance of said musical on NBC television last night. And that performance actually inspired over eleven million Americans to tune in and see Peter Pan whisk the Darling children off to Never-Never Land.
Unfortunately, all that inspiration wasn't up to a three-hour production's holding power over an audience, and two hours later, that eleven million number had dropped off to just over seven million viewers. Which left four million people needing somewhere else to go. Some probably wandered off to bed. None probably went to the ill-faring rerun of How To Get Away With Murder, a show whose plot twists demand first-run viewing. And the others?
Well, Conan Doyle once wrote a series of stories about a detective named Sherlock Holmes, which then inspired a BBC television show called Sherlock, which then inspired a CBS drama called Elementary. And in the final hour of prime time television last night, at least 480,000 of those four million Pan-fleeing viewers wandered from the Barrie-inspired effort to that Conan-Doyle-inspired effort to stop it's steady decline since its season premiere this year.
Barrie and Doyle, working together again, to give CBS television a little ratings bump.
T'was a little bump, to be sure, but a larger crowd than the two collaborators were able to put together in their earlier work. And if their simultaneous grave-spinnings were able to line up in frequency at some point during that last hour of prime time last night, perhaps Barrie and Doyle got to enjoy a sympathetic moment together, once more.
Just not quite as amusing this time.