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Broadway in the Box: Television's Lasting Love Affair with the Musical (2020)

By Kelly Kessler
Oxford University Press
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook. 354pp.

Kessler: Broadway in the Box
It was as if American television audiences discovered the musical in the early 21st century. In 2009 Glee took the Fox Network and American television by storm with the unexpected unification of primetime programming, awkward teens, and powerful voices spontaneously bursting into song. After raking in the highest rating for a new show in the 2009-2010 season, Glee would continue to cultivate rabid fans, tie-in soundtracks and merchandising, and a spinoff reality competition show until its conclusion in 2015. Alongside Glee, NBC and Fox would crank up musical visibility with the nighttime drama Smash and a string of live musical productions. Then came ABC's comedic fantasy musical series Galavant and the CW's surprise Golden Globe darling Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Television and the musical appeared to be a perfect match.

But, as author Kelly Kessler illustrates, television had at that point been carrying on a sixty-year, symbiotic love affair with the musical. From Rodgers and Hammerstein's appearance on the first Toast of the Town telecast and Mary Martin's iconic Peter Pan airings to Barbra Streisand's 1960s CBS specials, The Carol Burnett Show, Cop Rock, Great Performances, and a string of one-off musical episodes of sitcoms, nighttime soaps, fantasy shows, and soap operas, television has always embraced the musical. Kessler shows how the form is written across the history of American television and how its various incarnations tell the stories of shifting American culture and changing television, film, and theatrical landscapes. She recounts and explores this rich, decades-long history by traversing musicals, stars, and sounds​ from film, Broadway, and Las Vegas to the small screen.