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YMMV / The Wiz

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The musical itself

  • Accidental Innuendo: The last line of "Slide Some Oil To Me": "Let me lubricate my mind."
  • Ear Worm: Many of the songs, but "Ease on Down the Road", "Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day)", "You Can't Win", "Slide Some Oil to Me" and "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" are the standouts. In some of the songs cut from the film, there is the Tornado Ballet
  • Ending Fatigue: After Evillene is killed, there's not much story left to tell, but it still takes several songs to get to the end. The screen adaptations each cut three numbers from this stretch (though Schumacher and Fierstein made different choices on the second song worth removing). Made more bearable for viewers who consider at least one of the two songs that survive all versions of this stretch, "Believe in Yourself" and "Home", the musical's Awesome Music.
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  • Minority Show Ghetto: The musical seems to fall out and in of this, depending on the quality of the production. On the positive end of the spectrum, the original Broadway version ran for four years, and the 2015 TV special scored NBC their strongest Thursday night ratings in at least two years. On the negative end, the 1978 movie bombed so hard that it killed Blaxploitation, and the 1984 Broadway revival closed after only 10 days (reviews claim that too little time had passed since the end of the original Broadway run to necessitate a revival, and that the production values also seemed cheaper).
  • Older Than They Think: The thought of Oz using then-modern technology in addition to magic dates back to at least L. Frank Baum's seventh Oz book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, which begins with Baum explaining that since the events of the previous book resulted in Glinda cutting off Oz from the rest of the world, Dorothy now delivers Oz news to him via telegraph.
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  • Painful Rhyme: "Soon As I Get Home" has a failed attempt to rhyme "air" and "fear". Neither Stephanie Mills nor Shanice Williams even tried to force the words to sound similar, and Diana Ross just skipped this part of the song.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: If you believe in yourself and work hard to take advantage of the perfect opportunities, you can bring about positive change in your life and others'.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Some fans of the play have expressed these sentiments towards the screen adaptations, since neither of them seem 100% faithful to the show.
  • We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: The screen adaptations make a few extremely forced attempts to reference their respective eras of American culture. To name but one example from each, the movie has a disco in the center of the Emerald City, and the TV version replaces Addaperle's Magic Slate with an iPad.

The movie

  • Audience-Alienating Premise: Between the thirtysomething Diana Ross' overly-emotional take on Dorothy, the story now taking place in a grimy, desolate, colorless world where Oz is effectively New York City with all of its worst aspects on display, and several questionable song numbers it's little wonder that the film adaptation failed to find an audience upon its initial release.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Nipsey Russell's Tin Man's talk-singing made some viewers deem the actor an inappropriate choice (especially since he seems like the only one of Dorothy's friends to get two songs all to himself), while others try to defend him by arguing that the talk-singing further highlights the tragedy of the Tin Man's inability to feel.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Diana Ross portrays Dorothy as an overwrought wreck who will go into hysterics at the drop of a hat.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Evilene may certainly count as this for many.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • The Emerald City is represented by the World Trade Center.
    • During the second season of American Idol, during the movie theme week, one of the contestants sung "You Can't Win" as their choice which didn't agree with the judges. In the following elimination round, he was knocked out of the running.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Dorothy's goodbye to her friends at the end as they fade to black is all the sadder when you realize that Diana Ross has outlived each one of her main co-stars from the movie. Even sadder is the Scarecrow's last line to Dorothy considering what would happen to the actor who played him.
    Scarecrow: Success, fame, and fortune, they're all illusions. All there is that is real is the friendship that two can share.
  • Most Annoying Sound: The Tin Man can be brought to tears by the memory of his fourth wife Teeny, or as he tends to put it, "TEEEEEEENY, TEEEEEEEENY, TEEEEEEEEENY, TEEEEEEEENY, TEEEEEEEEENY..."
  • Narm: Glinda attempting to perform "Believe in Yourself" as a gospel number can fall under this or Narm Charm, depending on how strongly you think Lena Horne's hamminess and un-convincing lip-syncing overshadow the song's message.
    • The aforementioned "TEEEEEEENY..." could count as well.
    • The second half of the "Brand New Day" number, where the Winkies unzip their clothes and all dance in loincloths.
    • The film way overdoes the whole gimmick of the heroes having what they thought they were missing all along, to the point where it makes no sense that they would ever think they didn't have it.
  • Padding: As per the significant changes made to accommodate both Ross and the shift to a modern setting, a whole subplot of Dorothy being pressured to move out of her house and to make a living for herself on her own terms is set up purely to showcase her emotional insecurity before being whisked away to Oz, with little to no resolution after she finds her way home.
    • One could argue that the Dorothy does gain a character arc. In this version, the finale could be interpreted as Dorothy finally gaining confidence. Images of people she's met and lessons she's learned in Oz flash past her during "Home", indicating she'll retain what she's learned in Oz and be more brave at home.
  • Special Effects Failure: It's terribly obvious how far out of his comfort zone Sidney Lumet was, showing no idea of how to stage musical numbers despite the songs themselves still being pretty good. The worst offender is filming "Ease on Down the Road" from behind the actors, in a wide shot with a completely static camera that creates the impression of watching a live performance from the very last row of the balcony - and on the wrong side of the stage.
  • Vindicated by History: The film is viewed a bit more positively nowadays (especially among the black community), to the point where it has become something of a Cult Classic. Though there's still plenty of people that view it as a bad film, you're just as likely to find people that like it and defend it.
  • Wangst: Don't do a Drinking Game of how many times Dorothy sobs piteously. You'll be passed out after 30 minutes.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: Oz features hookers, brutal torture sequences, an opium den, and a (mostly) clothing-optional musical number. Nonetheless, the MPAA still rated the movie G for General Audiences.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Diana Ross, who in her thirties seems out of place in the shoes of the much younger Dorothy despite her singing chops. Ross was initially refused the part but eventually won it after persisting in her negotiations with the producer, with her age singled out as having rendered her unconvincing in the role of an emotionally distraught young woman.
    • Nipsey Russell as the Tin Man, as his singing was not quite up to par with that of his co-stars.
  • The Woobie:
    • The Scarecrow starts out being tortured by the crows and is similarly abused throughout the movie. Being played by a 19-year-old Michael Jackson helped.
    • At the end, the Wiz reveals he lives a lonely, fearful life, and begs Dorothy and her friends not to leave:
      The Wiz: "Please... please don't... don't go. I li... I live here all alone... in terror... that someone will find out that I'm a fraud. Please... just stay with me a little while and talk. You can talk to me crazy... call me names..."

The TV version

  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • Dorothy's arc, about learning to adapt to new environments, provides a contrast to the lesson of MGM's adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz:
      Dorothy (1939): If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!
      Dorothy (2015): Omaha is where I was born, but where I belong is with Aunt Em in Kansas...Home isn't where you live, it's where you love.
    • Viewers who felt uncomfortable with past productions fat-shaming Evillene could find it refreshing that not all of the heroines here look skinny, and that none of the characters comment on their figures.
  • Award Snub: Despite positive reviews, the telecast failed to earn an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Program. It also failed to break the streak of NBC musicals earning zero Emmy nominations for acting. Instead, it had to settle for six technical nominations — before winning for Outstanding Costumes For A Variety, Nonfiction Or Reality Program.
  • Growing the Beard: For NBC's attempts to bring back the live TV musical. After its previous productions of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan were largely seen as hot messes buoyed by the occasional good performance, The Wiz got strong reviews just in time for other networks to try the concept out.
  • He Panned It, Now He Sucks!: Raven-Symoné fell victim to this when she admitted that she didn't think Shanice Williams and Elijah Kelley could compare to the "original" Dorothy and Scarecrow, Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. She proceeded to receive a ton of reminders that Ross and Jackson weren't really the first people to play Dorothy and Scarecrow in The Wiz.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Evillene tries to paint herself as one when she admits her frustration with Dorothy killing her sister, taking said sister's shoes, then rallying her new friends to help her also kill Evillene. However, Evillene's threats to stew Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, and her plans to enslave everyone in Oz, make it harder to pity her when Dorothy does kill her.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • For one (fairly conservative) online reviewer, The Wiz Live! was apparently tainted with the violence of black culture, thus making it less family friendly from the "original 1939 version", due to Dorothy being prompted to murder the witch (as opposed to stealing her broomstick). Ironically, that only occurred in the 1939 film, which isn't the original Wizard Of Oz. In the original book, the Wizard really does tell Dorothy to straight up murder the Wicked Witch, who at that point wasn't even actively a threat to her. This act of violence wasn't added to the story of The Wiz Live! due to it being a black casted show. It was always there from when the story was originally written.
    • Oz having a crossdressing Wizard also dates back to the original book, in which the Wizard dons several disguises, one of which makes the male Wizard seem like a lovely maiden.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Glinda makes the most of what little screentime she has compared to Addaperle and Evillene, from when she descends from the sky in a Big Entrance, to when she belts out a show-stopping performance of "Believe in Yourself".
  • The Scrappy: Common as the Emerald City guard, pointed out by every review as sticking out horribly in an otherwise well cast production. At least his costume was pretty cool.
  • Slow-Paced Beginning: It takes about four minutes to reach the first songnote , most of that time spent delivering talky exposition regarding Dorothy's new backstory.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Dorothy delivers this gem when the Tin Man sounds shocked to discover that the seemingly-powerful and high-ranking Wiz was actually a woman.
    Dorothy: And what's wrong with being a woman?
    Tin Man: (nervously) Uh, nothing...
    Dorothy: That's right, nothing wrong with being a woman! I don't know where y'all fools learned y'all manners.
  • Special Effects Failure: Like Peter Pan Live!, the strings helping the actors and acrobats fly proved impossible to hide at certain scenes.
  • The Woobie: Ne-Yo sure brought a lot of tragedy and pathos to the Tin Man, especially in his heart-wrenching deliveries of his backstory and his "I Want" Song.


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