“You love The Sound of Music more than I do,” was the way my wife defended her decision to take over the living room for a few hours and subject me to watching The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood and “Vampire Bill from True Blood.” Although I know shockingly little about HBO vampires, she was right about my love for the 1965 film starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer — but only because I’m a sentimental type, and I fell for the film when I was five years old.
Too tired to argue, we watched. I sang along to a few songs, loved the nuns, liked Christian Borle as Max, and thought it was a shame that the Baroness looked like an old neighbor I hated — and that Carrie Underwood looked comically like the St. Pauli Girl.
At the end of it, my review of the live broadcast came down to a solid “meh.” It wasn’t great, it wasn’t even good, but it wasn’t offensively bad, save for what may have been the worst accent jumbling since Kevin Costner made Robin of Locksley sound more like Rob from Toledo. You had Carrie Underwood talking like Carrie Underwood, Stephen Moyer talking like Stephen Moyer: rich English lord, and a bunch of other people trying to sound vaguely European.
But at least we had the Nazis, right? Thank goodness there were Nazis in theose weird leather trench coats that Nazis on the screen seem so fond of, because if not for the Nazis, nobody would have actually sounded German on The Sound of Music Live! And boy, oh boy did we have a lot of Nazis. Lots of Nazis, and plenty of Nazi flags.
The Sound of Music Live! was, for about 20 incredibly awkward minutes, basically one big Nazi rally featuring the Von Trapps, in what Ben Greenman called “the most disconcerting TV-G rating in history.” For a small chunk of the show, we were treated to great big swastikas, totally impossible to take our eyes off of, just bearing down on us from behind Underwood and co.
The thing is, there are Nazis on television all the time! And it isn’t like there was an option to slash the Nazis out of The Sound of Music — it’s just that the swastika flags were so distractingly big. It would take a mind like Mel Brooks’ to purposely bring us the utter weirdness of an American country music star in full German dress singing in front of those enormous flags, but it’s clear that the special’s creators didn’t even recognize how absurd that must have looked to most people. Yet this is how they succeeded in giving the The Sound of Music Live! its place in TV history — not as a great moment for televised musicals, but as yet another leather-clad, flag-waving example of Nazi camp.