I am a purist at holiday time. That means I always have the final say when choosing the family Christmas tree, always carve the holiday bird and always stand on a rickety ladder while hanging lights from front yard trees as neighbors watch from their windows and, via text messages, place bets on the duration of my continued good health.
I also like my holiday television programming to remain traditional. It's usually around August when I begin anticipating classics such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Sound of Music," the latter which NBC normally airs on Thanksgiving night.
But this year the network chose to scrap the Julie Andrews classic, wait a week and then air a live "Sound of Music" broadcast starring country girl-next-door Carrie Underwood and some guy who plays a TV-show vampire.
And now that it's over, I can only hope whoever came up with the idea suffers a dog bite or a bee sting. At the very least, he or she should feel extremely sad.
For months, I'd seen promos for the broadcast, most notably during professional football games, which I found odd. One need only harken back to the infamous "Heidi" debacle to know that football and wholesome family entertainment are a lethal combination. (Google "Heidi game" if you are unaware of the world's worst decision prior to Oct. 1, 2013, when President Obama gave the go-ahead to take healthcare.gov live.)
Speaking of live, I'll admit that the possibility of a mishap was the only reason I tuned in. I knew that despite her "American Idol" pedigree, Miss Underwood couldn't fill the habit of Julie Andrews. Other shows have experimented with the live formula -- "30 Rock" and "ER" come to mind -- but a three-hour musical production? What if a nun flubs her lines, or worse, suffers a wardrobe malfunction while strolling through the abbey? Sporting events aside, isn't that why we watch live TV? For the train wreck that could result?
So there I sat, watching the cast navigate Austria as if it were the size of a studio apartment. I've visited Austria and don't remember it being so compact. The von Trapp kids needed only seven steps and a sharp right turn to get from the Alps to their bedrooms.
The longer I watched, the more I also started to wonder about the benefits of performing live. Wouldn't it have been advantageous to occasionally stop tape so an acting coach could tell Underwood how to deliver lines? Or apply makeup to von Trapp daughter Liesl so she appeared younger than the governess hired to take care of her?
But snarky comments aside, the real reason I was disappointed is because, due to repeated Thanksgiving viewings, I know every line from "The Sound of Music." Isn't that a part of tradition? Enjoying and even relishing in those deja vu moments? So imagine my shock when the writers dared alter the dialogue, even slightly.
"Wait!" I yelled at the TV. "When little Gretl asks, 'How come I'm always last?' the correct response is 'Because you are the most important.' It's not 'Because you're the youngest.' How DARE they!"
I was not alone in my disdain, judging from the barrage of tweets that accompanied the broadcast. On a day that also saw the passing of Nelson Mandela, the Twitter universe chose to pick apart a musical as opposed to praising a world leader. My personal favorite? "Remember, it's live TV. The Captain could still run off with the Baroness."
Finally it was over. And instead of feeling victory for the Swiss-bound family, I felt cheated. Their journey felt rushed, their triumph over the Nazis hollow. Captain von Trapp didn't even carry Gretel, piggy-back style, over the mountains. She merely disappeared via a stage blackout.
This year has already seen retailers interfere with the tradition of Thanksgiving family meals by opening stores on that day. "Cyber Monday" is becoming dangerously close to "Cyber All Days" as those same retailers compete for our Christmas dollars. Classics like "The Sound of Music" and "It's a Wonderful Life" are the sole reminders of a simpler time and, in this author's opinion, should not be touched.
TV programmers, please remember that before you decide to air a live version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" next year.
(Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem. Visit Greg on the web at http://www.gregschwem.com.)
(c) 2013 GREG SCHWEM. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC