'The Wiz' Sparks Controversy, Sets Twitter Record For Live Specials

| by Nik Bonopartis
"The Wiz.""The Wiz."

Based on a 1975 reinterpretation of the 1939 classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" with R&B flavor, NBC's "The Wiz Live!" featured an all-black cast — something that didn't go unnoticed by viewers of the Dec. 3 special. 

"The Wiz" was the third time NBC has broadcast a live Broadway-style special for the holidays, following 2013's "The Sound of Music Live!" and 2014's "Peter Pan Live!"

Queen Latifah starred as the eponymous wizard, with the cast rounded out by stars like rapper Common and actress Uzo Aduba from "Orange Is the New Black."

"The Wiz" also broke the record for live-tweeting during a live special, with 1.6 million tweets by a quarter million Twitter users, according to Nielsen.

Critics took to Twitter to complain.

"Just saw the commercial for 'The Wiz Live!' All black cast, no whites, Asians, Latinos, Eskimos...not very inclusive is it?" one user tweeted.

"'The Wiz' looks like complete garbage," another user declared. "Why do blacks have to culturally appropriate 'The Wizard of Oz' from whites?"

Others saw it as a slight against the original 1939 production, which featured an all-white cast: "Why change every single characters color in the wiz? If every black character in tv or movies were switched to whites there'd be an uproar."

It didn't take long for the trolling and insults to go both ways on the micro-blogging platform.

"CNN invited white folks to #BlackTwitter for The Wiz like whites dont ruin everything lmao. How they gonna write a think piece the next day?" Tweeted a black Twitter user, poking fun at web publications that run daily TV reviews.

"The Wiz" was a hit for NBC, drawing 11 million viewers, according to Variety. That's a 40 percent increase from last year's "Peter Pan Live!" Ratings for the coveted 18 to 49 demographic were triple what the network usually scores for programming in the same time slot, the Variety report noted.

Sources: Variety, The wis whites/Twitter / Photo source: NBC