Dolly Parton's 'Coat of Many Colors' Airs to Record Audience

Autobiographical NBC TV-movie, the first in a series based on Parton's songs, draws nearly 13 million viewers

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Alyvia Alyn Lind and Jennifer Nettles
Alyvia Alyn Lind stars as Dolly Parton and Jennifer Nettles plays her mother Avie Lee Parton in the 'Coat of Many Colors' movie. Quantrell Colbert/NBC/NBCU

Early numbers for NBC's Coat of Many Colors, which aired Thursday night, December 10th, suggest good news for fans of Dolly Parton and country music. With 12.8 million viewers, the two-hour special based on Parton's autobiographical song was the most-watched film on the "big four" broadcast networks in nearly four years. The film also marked a four-year high in the key demographic — adult viewers 18-49.

The heartwarming family drama was highlighted by country superstar Jennifer Nettles' impressive performance as Parton's mother Avie Lee Parton and delivered NBC's best total-viewer result in the time period — excluding sports and live musicals — since the 2009 ER series finale drew 16.4 million.

By comparison, the 2013 airing of The Sound of Music Live! with a cast led by superstar Carrie Underwood drew 18.5 million viewers for the broadcast and added to that with subsequent DVR viewers as well as additional airings of the musical event.

While promoting Coat of Many Colors at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles last summer, NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt told Rolling Stone Country the network hoped to produce more films based on Parton's iconic story songs.

"We have a script underway on a couple of others, like 'Jolene' and 'I Will Always Love You,'" said Greenblatt. Although the solid ratings for Coat would suggest more Parton-related films are definitely on the way, he was cautiously optimistic at the time, noting the major difference that would mark any future projects.

"Coat is the easiest one in a way because it's literally a story from her life," he said. "The other ones are just completely fictional ideas inspired by the song so they're still forming." 

Although she did not appear in the film, Parton was seen singing the title song at the beginning of the telecast. She also sang a new song, "Angel Hill," which featured Alyvia Alyn Lind, who skillfully carried much of the film in her demanding role as the young Dolly.

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