I grew up on three network TV stations – ABC, NBC, CBS – and PBS (FOX came along later). We planned our evenings around their programming. Many TV shows that I grew up with were successful, not because of the scintillating stories, great writing, or state-of-the-art special effects, but because of the actors whose performances created iconic characters.
A common trope in Hollywood is recycling. This has happened for years with countless reboots of endearing movie franchises, and classic TV show adaptations. Some have been very successful, again mainly because of the actors who bring the characters to life, and some not so much. The most recent such recycle is Tarzan. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation has appeared on the screen numerous times and has been rebooted for multiple generations. I could go on and on about such recycles, reboots and adaptations. I guess we just never get tired of watching hapless Peter Parker get bitten by that damn radioactive spider.
The main reason it seems that the movie studios do this is for the money. They know what these tried and true stories are familiar to multiple generations and will make money at the box office. Television on the other hand, I just don’t see it happening.
I was a fan of Charlie’s Angels as a kid. I didn’t care for the movie(s) at all. Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson – the original Angels – made the show for me. ABC brought it back as a TV series in 2011 (who knew?) and it lasted all of four episodes.
Knight Rider was big for me. Ever since Smokey and the Bandit, I have loved the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am – I’ve owned four Firebirds in my lifetime. From 1982-86, David Hasselhoff was Michael Knight; he was the Knight Rider. Say whatever you want about the guy, he was made for the role or he made the role. In 2008, a ham-handed attempt was made to bring Knight Rider back with a Ford Mustang and the main character was supposed to be Michael Knight’s estranged son. This mess lasted one season.
The latest disaster in the making involves two new shows set to premiere on network television this fall. One is a reboot of a beloved franchise, and the other is a TV adaption of a beloved movie franchise.
From 1985 – 1994, Richard Dean Anderson was MacGyver. Although I was never a fan, I understood the appeal. The name MacGyver has become a verb. Anytime you need to improvise your way out of a situation, you MacGyver it. Lucas Till will star as MacGyver. Now, George Eads comes over from CSI. CBS is off their nut if they think this going to work.
The other attempt is Lethal Weapon. I don’t know about you, but Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are Riggs and Murtaugh. Damon Wayans will play Murtaugh in the TV adaption. Clayne Crawford will play Riggs (who the hell is Clayne Crawford? A quick internet search reveals he has appeared in a whole lot of crap I’ve never seen). Lethal Weapon 4 hit theaters in 1998. So 18 years later, FOX thinks we need Lethal Weapon the TV series? In the immortal words of the late John Pinette, I say nay nay. Now, I like Damon Wayans, a lot. But this has about as much chance of success as Fox Force Five (if I have to explain that reference, there isn’t much hope for you).
There is so much great source material our there for good TV. Look at what Netflix is doing with House of Cards, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, et al. How many times were the creators of Stranger Things rejected before Netflix picked it up? Fifteen? Yet, we keep getting the same tripe on network TV. Gotham is a notable exception. Scandal seems to have quite the following. Shows like The Blacklist seem to have sustainable legs, but are all too infrequent. I won’t even bring up reality TV.
The fringe, or affiliates of existing networks seem to be where the chances are taken. The Strain returns to FX tonight and I am hoping the get interested in it again. TBS is bringing back memories with its fresh Police Squad homage, Angie Tribeca.
Network TV used to be “Must See TV.” The old Thursday night NBC lineup was epic. TV used to be appointment viewing because you couldn’t stand to miss what MacGyver was going to use next to get out of a jam, or what those god ole Duke boys hadn’t gotten themselves into now.
Now, services like Netflix are taking chances and scoring big, especially with the binge-watching crowd. AMC, and premium channels are enjoying success plucking material from comic books and graphic novels.
The networks should stop worrying about nostalgia and consider what we need before we need it, not what they think we remember.
PS. Where the hell is my Six Million Dollar Man reboot?