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I remember, like most of you do, sitting in front of the television set wide-eyed in wonder as Judy Garland hopped and skipped her way into our hearts, as well as, to the Emerald City. If you were lucky, either your parents or yourself read through some of the fanciful adventures written by Frank Baum as you were growing up. There were several books covering a myriad of travels of Dorothy Gale among others.

And, now, thanks to Baum’s work being in Public Domain, you get to experience the amazing stories in a multitude of ways. The Wizard of Oz as well as the other volumes of stories have been turned and stretched in unending interpretations throughout the years. Some have been homages to the classic as others have downright ripoffs and tragedies. The story just seems to strike a nerve with people; resonate with them.

The first edition cover
The first edition cover

Maybe it's because that the adventures of Oz were the first great American fairy tale; born out of the youth of our country. Frank Baum first penned the classic at the turn of the century on May 17, 1900. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz began a life long endeavor by Baum that he didn't even see coming. Two years later, a musical was made to promote the book and developed to appeal to more adult audiences. This was to be expected as Baum was a former actor and playwright.

Much like you would expect, most of the stories were told to Baum's children before being published; as it should be. The lead character, Dorothy Gale, was even named for his wife's niece who had died at 5 and was close to them.

Some of the day saw other influences on the tales, stating in a September 1900 review in the Grand Rapids Herald that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a "veritable Alice in Wonderland brought up to the present day standard of juvenile literature" . But the fact that the adventures of Oz were so uniquely American make the book series a national treasure.

Original cast of the 1939 movie
Original cast of the 1939 movie

The 1939 movie musical starring Judy Garland is the most loved and remembered rendition of the classic stories. Although it's place in the heart of American nostalgia has continued to peak the imagination of millions since. Play adaptions like THE WIZ with an all black cast and the Broadway smash WICKED rank at the top of a myriad of productions to hit the stage. WICKED is even slated to be adapted to the big screen around 2019. Attempts to recreate the magic of the 1939 musical have fallen flat for the most part. The latest attempt, OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL, received mixed reviews.

The works of Frank Baum being in Public Domain means that anybody and everybody can adapt the characters to their own will. You'll find anything from a comic on the WICKED WEST to an independent film called APOCALYPSE OZ that combines footage, ideas and lines only from The Wizard of Oz and the movie Apocalypse Now.

The story seems to cultivate the best and worst of our imaginations.

And, this year is no different.

Friday, NBC is airing a new drama which borrows heavily from Frank Baum’s work. EMERALD CITY, debuting at 9/8c, will take us on the trip down the Yellow Brick Road like never before. Now, all we’ve seen are a few trailers to give us glimpses of the strange renditions of Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Lion but only have a small inkling of what the story will actually be. The only thing we do know is there’s a war coming and Dorothy is the key. Now, although this sounds a great deal like the premise of the two Alice movies, the visuals leave me interested and ready to view.

But will it surpass the parade of movies, mini-series, plays, books and graphic novels that have deeply borrowed from Baum’s work? All I have to say is, “FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD” to find out.




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