Most of ABC’s somewhat-live production of The Little Mermaid Tuesday night was actually very much not live and just footage from the original animated movie. But maybe that is for the best because what we saw on screen was — how do we put this nicely? — summoned from the depths of hell. While humans played most of the main characters during the movie’s songs (Auli’i Cravalho, not a soprano, tried her best at Ariel; Queen Latifah was a great Ursula, of course) there were a few that ended up either not being seen at all (Triton, too hunky to live, was cut) or just appeared as puppets. Poor Flounder, such a cute little fish, did not deserve the curse of transforming into the horrifying, flap-lipped creature that “danced” next to Ariel. Maybe it’s best to let a few tweets get the gist of things across.
Poor, Discount Flounder, so horrifying, so horrified to be alive. What is he thinking? This is the face of a fish witnessing the strange monstrosity that is ABC’s (apparently very successful in the ratings) con to get a bunch of people to watch a TV show that’s 90 percent something they’ve already seen before. This is the face of a fish realizing that it is also part of that grand con, that it was sputtered out from within the groaning mechanisms of Hollywood’s great content factory, making some desperate plea for attention or virality in order to joggle your sense of simultaneous nostalgia and disgust.
This is a face wishing it could’ve just been a little kid on wheelies like it was in the Broadway show (that didn’t really work, but hey, it was something!). This is a face that maybe agrees with Martin Scorsese that megacorporations are increasingly unwilling to produce art anymore and instead are focusing on theme-park spectacle — like, for instance, forcing John Stamos to have a public meltdown screaming at fish. This is the face of plastic regarding plastic and seeing nothing there except more plastic lips and some anonymous hand underneath it all, guiding it. To what end? Who knows, who cares. Its lips are sealed shut. Its eyes scream out. Poor Flounder.