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Is NBC's gritty Wizard of Oz reboot a hit?

Justin Harp
Photo credit: NBC

From Digital Spy

Are you ready for a dark and moody reboot of The Wizard of Oz aimed firmly at adults? That's exactly what NBC has in store for you with its big-budget fantasy drama Emerald City.

A radical reinvention of L. Frank Baum's beloved children's stories set in the Land of Oz, Emerald City ups the sex appeal, violence and overall weirdness as Dorothy - now an adult played by Person of Interest's Adria Arjona - heads off on the Yellow Brick Road in search of the mystical Wizard (Daredevil's Vincent D'Onofrio).

You probably have one question right now - do we really need a moody adult version of The Wizard of Oz? Let's look at what the critics have to say:

Photo credit: NBC


"There are moments in Emerald City that are involving and scenes that are visually appealing, but none that are particularly distinctive. Everything about this city seems to have been borrowed from other lands: a little Lord of the Rings here, a little Grimm's Fairy Tales there.

"Oh sure, you can play spot the influences in Judy Garland's Oz as well - but you also get the great joy of seeing those influences coalesce into something fresh and totally delightful. Just try to imagine anyone watching Emerald City saying the same."


"As far as thrilling reinventions of The Wizard of Oz go, it's no Wicked or The Wiz. The production values are impressive and the images are frequently stunning, including a final battle that pits The Wizard's army against a plague of metamorphic locusts.

"But as is often the case with [director Tarsem Singh], the drama is more static than kinetic - a consequence, perhaps, of his painterly symbolism. Arjona fails to make this very complicated Dorothy as compelling as she should be; she struggles to juggle and sell the array of responses - wonder, confusion, fear - she should have to Oz.

"There are many subplots and tangents, and not all of them are interesting. They contribute to a feeling of a season that doesn't need to be 10 episodes long. The first two hours are a rocky, labored introduction, and I was ready to skip to the end by episode 4. Singh's opus isn't a musical, but it might have been more amusing and lively as one. I can imagine the Moulin Rouge! approach, using pop mash-ups to match the pastiche construction.

"The Wizard does like to zone out to Pink Floyd, which is ballpark appropriate: Emerald City is TV as a prog-rock concept album, trippy and turgid."


"Game of Thrones consistently ranks as one of TV's most pirated shows. If Emerald City, premiering Friday on NBC, is any indication, it's also become one of the most widely imitated.

"Though it is billed as a dark new take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which has inspired scores of adaptations over the past century, the 10-episode miniseries probably owes more to George R.R. Martin - or for that matter, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss - than L. Frank Baum. (And, if I'm being honest, some royalties may also be due to the Outlander team.)"

Photo credit: NBC / / Getty Images


"Essentially, think of this first season of Emerald City as a long origin story for Dorothy's adventures in a distinctly steampunk-y Oz, which plays out like any good mythological quest or half-decent RPG. There are prophesies and beasts and magic and a lot of simmering romances (yes even for the Wizard), though accents are all over the place and its 'one long movie"'structure leaves it episodically a little week.

"The series also feels a little hamstrung by its place on broadcast. Though NBC, more than almost any other broadcast network, has tried pushing the boundaries of what audiences expect from the Big Four, it still hesitates. Because even its greatest critical and creative triumphs - Hannibal foremost among them - have not turned out to be hits."


"You're right to cringe whenever TV and film executives announce that they're 're-imagining' a beloved classic. The acid reflux you experience is also justified whenever they proclaim without shame or irony that it's going to be 'gritty'.

"But believe it or not, you shouldn't need to keep the antacids close at hand when you check out Emerald City, NBC's gritty re-imagining of Dorothy Gale's adventures in Oz. Creator Matthew Arnold, showrunner Josh Friedman, and director Tarsem Singh have worked hard to define the unique edges of this, the thousandth incarnation of this popular story.

"Like telling our own dream back to us, the challenge of taking on a tale this well known is a matter of getting eyebrows to raise so that eyes can't roll. They've achieved that difficult balance with a fantastical vision of Oz as a grounded nation, cinema-worthy visuals, and particularly strong casting."


"The occasional clever nods to the source... don't compensate for the ungainly writing, ho-hum characters and uneven performances, albeit under an assortment of fabulously garish outfits. Indeed, as constructed the story is so dispersed and fragmented that it's almost impossible to follow -- or more accurately, to muster enough energy to try.

"The major networks take so few creative risks along these lines that one hates to dissuade them from acting on such ambitions. But high marks for effort and looking beyond the traditional black-and-white development palette are no substitute for magic."

Emerald City airs on Fridays at 9pm ET on NBC in the US, and will be debuting on 5STAR in the UK later this year. Watch a trailer below:

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