Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Oh no! Another TV rant from me

I guess original ideas are now out. For years networks have been “claiming” that want new ideas, fresh voices. They’re done with tired hackneyed sitcom premises. They have no use for old style rhythms. It’s time to reinvent the form. Be daring. “This is not your parents sitcom.”

Well, they're past that. This year practically everything they’re buying is either adaptations of old movies or adaptations of old TV shows. Gee, that worked so well for NBC with IRONSIDE and THE BIONIC WOMAN.

NBC is rebooting BEWITCHED. Like we need to see that bastardized again. Anyone remember the Nora Ephron film version with Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell? Probably not because no one went to see it. Could it just possibly be, and I know this is a crazy notion, that the charm and appeal of BEWITCHED was Elizabeth Montgomery? Brooklyn Decker might not measure up. Or Sarah Chalke. Or “fill in blank of blonde actress who bombed in three previous romantic sitcoms.” By the way, there was a bidding war for this project.

Every day I read that another chestnut is being dusted off. The movie HITCHED recently. ABC is remaking THE BACHELOR PARTY. FOX just bought THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER (that one is a real head scratcher).

NBC tried to reboot SAY ANYTHING, but Cameron Crowe (God bless him) made a stink and they dropped the project.

For every adaptation that works (like MASH) there are twenty that don’t.

And that goes the other way too. Movies based on TV series rarely connect. Without Denzel Washington I don’t think anyone would go to see THE EQUALIZER. And there weren’t long lines to see THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, THE HONEYMOONERS, CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU, DRAGNET, CHARLIE’S ANGELS, DUKES OF HAZZARD, GET SMART, THE GONG SHOW MOVIE, I SPY, LOST IN SPACE, MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, SGT. BILKO, THE ADVENTURES OF ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE, STARSKY & HUTCH, and S.W.A.T. Before you race to the comments section to list STAR TREK and the other franchises that were hits, I know there have been some but way more have missed.

My point is that Hollywood (and the networks in particular) is once again playing it safe.  Waaaay safe.  Trading on a name or concept. It worked once before, why not again? And if a network should also own the property then they get to double-dip in success. I’m not planning on pitching anything this season, meaning I’m not going out with VOLUNTEERS. But if you are, don’t waste your time coming up with something you’ve never seen before; go to ME-TV and attach yourself to GIDGET.


Jim S said...

Actually The Courtship of Eddie's Father tv show is an adaptation of the Glenn Ford movie in which Bill Mumy played Eddia. It's scary that I know these things.

But what really confuses me is that who remembers that show. God bless the late Bill Bixby who was charming in the role, but does anyone under the age of 50 remember it? It was a great theme song, but my 22 year old nephew would hear it and think "where did that come from?"

If TV execs are going for the nostalgia, they're, at best, going to get aging baby boomers who might sample it. If they think that show has "brand" recognition, they're nuts. Again, who under the age of 50 remembers that show. It's not like it's been on Nick at Nite.

Scott Cason said...

I give the Bewitched reboot six episodes before they pull the plug on it.

Carol said...

I have to admit I liked the Bewitched movie. I didn't go in expecting much, mind, but I enjoyed it. Michael Caine was in it. He makes everything better.

That said, I couldn't agree more with today's rant. In addition to movies and televison 'rebooting' things every five minutes, there's also the trend of attempting to turn British shows into American ones. I think it's worked maybe a handful of times. Do we really need an American version of The IT Crowd? No. for the love of all that's wonderful, no.

Hamid said...

The Knight Rider reboot reeked big time. I have fond memories of the original show in the 80s. And even today as an adult it's fun to revisit from time to time and see William Daniels act David Hasselhoff off the screen, which I admit isn't hard to do.

I'm amazed no network's tried to reboot/reimagine Cheers. Now the cast would all be 20-somethings and there'd be celebrity cameos every week and characters randomly talking in ebonics, because, of course, as we've seen in many so-called "comedy" films in recent years, there's nothing more hilarious than a character suddenly breaking into "Yeah boyeee" or "Peep dis" to get a cheap laugh from the audience. Why go to the effort of writing actual funny dialogue when you can just rely on lazy stereotypes?

MikeK.Pa. said...

I think the network suits are at a loss. They know that cable has taken the lead on edgy (premium) and quirky (basic cable) dramas (Homeland, Ray Donovan) and comedies (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Shameless). So they are stuck with homogenized and regurgitated material. Would be curious to see an executive with a writing background ascend to network head and see what his/her choices would be. Never got the Car 54 movie and why the Hiken estate would agree to it, especially with David Johansen in the lead. Ditto a bland Steve Martin trying to fill the big shoes of Phil Silvers in Bilko. Just didn't make sense. Only demonstrates how much better the originals were. Anybody up for a reboot of Mr. Ed? Alan Young is still around, but Rocky Lane (the voice of Mr. Ed) made the show.

Anonymous said...

Blonde Doctor as Samantha? As long as JD is Darrin!

Bob Gassel said...

And despite agreeing with you,, I still would be intrigued by a cable "re-imagining" (not a reboot) of M*A*S*H...one that was faithful to the original movie and was written by Aaron Sorkin.

Richard J. Marcej said...

If history teaches us anything, it's that the suits that make decisions NEVER learn. Remember in 2000 when CBS had two "new" hour crime drama's debuting.
One was a new type of procedural, that dealt with forensics, called "C.S.I.". They barely advertised it, especially compared to their other hour drama, a reboot of the TV show then movie "The Fugitive that they pushed EVERYWHERE! Everywhere you looked it was another plug for the Tim Daly reboot.
"The Fugitive barely made it through 13 episodes before getting the axe. "C.S.I." has lasted 15 years (and counting) with various spin-offs.

RockGolf said...

@Richard: Cleverly, CBS put the first episode of CSI on right after the debut of The Fugitive. I tuned in for the first, then stuck around for the second even though I'd heard nothing about it. The Who's theme drew me in and the episode was unlike anything I'd seen on TV to that point.

Rick said...

CHARLIE'S ANGELS film franchise total world-wide grosses:
--CHARLIE'S ANGELS (2000): $259, 736.90
-- " FULL THROTTLE ('03) $227,200.00

Total Worldwide Gross: $486,936.90 for both.
There were long lines for them, Ken.

I do agree with your premise though. In general film remakes are concepts presold only to boomers, and their reimaginings are pretty much guaranteed to produce withering word-of-mouth from boomers.

Graham Powell said...

Hmmm, I think a VOLUNTEERS series would actually be pretty decent.

Igor said...

Ken, if you do pitch "Volunteers", just be sure not to pitch it in NY, else Gov Cuomo might volunteer you for 3 weeks of quarantine at Bellevue.

Mike Barer said...

Maybe it's time that Hollywood ends the speculation and just does the Gilligan's Island movie.

Igor said...

Maybe the reboot of Bewitched could be done a la The Vagina Monologues - same setting each week, but with different actors, in different neighborhoods. Even different countries.

"'Bewitched' - This week in Mumbai!", and the episode could be called "My Mother the Cow".

Don Barksdale said...

Thank you for the picture of Sally Field/Gidget! Love catching those reruns!

Curt Alliaume said...

Remember, a lot of these properties already belong to the networks (for example Murder, She Wrote was a Universal property, so of course NBC/Universal was interested). Saves money over coming up with a new idea. And, of course, network executives always prefer the tried and true to the new and unknown.

The Courtship of Eddie's Father was kind of a unique case. As Jim noted, it was an adaptation of a previous movie (actually, Ron Howard played Eddie, not Bill Mumy). The TV show didn't quite make it into rerun heaven because it was cancelled after three years (thus only 73 episodes to rerun, which in the '70s wasn't quite enough), but it was much beloved by those who grew up in that era (and, yes, I'm over 50). At this point, enough time has passed so that the connection isn't necessary for younger viewers.

Bewitched could be a problem because there just aren't enough ideas before the fallback option ("Endora turns Darrin into a mule fritter"). The original reused a lot of story ideas after Dick Sargent replaced Dick York.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Thankfully (or maybe not) AntennaTV is rebroadcasting shows like "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun" as well as the usual chumbucket of 80s shows like "Too Close For Comfort".
The strategy of execs seems to be "let's do one of those old 60s/70s shows without the stink of the 60s/70s". How they define stink explains why the shows fail.

Bugdun said...

I agree with your rant, Ken. I do, however, think that a Seinfeld movie with original cast would be a box office smash.
The proliferation of cell phones, however, might interfere with some of the old standard misunderstanding/miscommunication themes, no?

Carol said...

I just read that Neil Patrick Harris is going to be hosting an American version of an ITV varity show. Now I realise I just ranted about how I hate American remakes of British shows, but I've been wanting NPH to do a variety show for ages, so I'm really happy he listened to me. (yes, I'm taking full credit, because why not).

What do you think of the idea, Ken? I know you've said before variety shows probably can't last these days, but in light of such a dearth of decent programming, do you think that it's a wacky idea that zany and just might work? (If anyone can pull it off, it's NPH, I think.)

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

they are Trying to capture lightning in a bottle with similar ideas.

Truth is, even with the great Larry Gelbart and staff, and a great cast, it took MASH many years to find an audience.
And that was in the days without as many distractions.

However, CBS stuck with it (moving the airing day and time almost every season)

Every so often the sTudios will create a Mission:Impossible franchise (which i think are confusing and sensory-hurting) that makes hundreds of millions.

Covarr said...

BEWITCHED was a mess of a movie, but virtually every problem with it stemmed from places where it deviated from the source material. Will Ferrel was too goofy for the part of Darren, Nicole Kidman was both not a good fit for the character and unable to do the nose thing... but all the supporting characters were really good. Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine, Steve Carell, and Carole Shelley were all really good, and when the movie was actually adapting the show rather than mocking it, the writing worked too.

I'm not against reboots and remakes on the whole. After SABRINA turned out much better than the original (which was already stellar in the first place), I'm willing to give 'em all a shot. The trick is the writers have to care and take it seriously, and the studio has to trust the writers. I mean, if GIRL MEETS WORLD can manage not to suck, anything can.

Stephen Robinson said...

The original BEWITCHED worked, I believe, because it despite the nose-twitching magic, it was a story about a woman from a different culture who attempted to assimilate into her husband's world, and he in turn attempted -- often to disastrous effect -- to cope with her (let's say "flamboyant") relatives.

Fifty years later, of course, it's not that big a deal to produce a series that is overtly about this subject (an interracial or interfaith marriage).

Now, it's certainly possible that the original BEWITCHED creators thought no further than "guy marries a witch who looks like Elizabeth Montgomery" and her charm carried the show. However, it certainly feels like all remakes are thought through no more than "guy marries a witch" or "BEWITCHED with (insert blonde actress)."

Also, sometimes a series only works within its original cultural context. You remove what is viewed today as a major sexist foundation (wife willing to sacrifice her heritage for boring normal guy, who forbids her to even "practice" her heritage in her own house all so he can successfully be a n advertising executive) and, well, you don't have BEWITCHED.

Samantha would probably have a job now, and her husband would have to fully accept her witch heritage. And so on and on.

C. A. Bridges said...

The only TV show reboots I thought worked were the first two Addams Family movies, and even then they were consciously going back to the original cartoons the show was based on as much or more than to the show itself.

The third Addams Family movie was an abomination (Daryl Hannah as Morticia? Seriously?) that returned things back to the status quo.

Cap'n Bob said...

The way these suits think, if they did a reboot of Mr. Ed he'd be a pinto.

blinky said...

Where is the movie based on the seminal work of dog-on-dog action: Ruff and Ready? It had everything: dogs...a tall one and a short one, outer space adventure: visits to the all Aluminum robot planet: Munimula (Pronounced Moon EE Moo La).
If not Ruff and Ready then what about the original barely-animated buck-toothed rodent: Crusade Rabbit? Studios have yet to scratch the surface of the comedy gold in them thar hills.

Terrence Moss said...

They're not at a loss. They're developmentally lazy.

RG said...

Nostalgia is an interesting thing. I really came of age in the 1980's and back then the 60's were the big influence -- Perry Mason movies of the week on NBC, the Monkees even released a new album and toured. The 1960's were only 20 years before the 1980's and yet it seemed like a totally different planet. Today 20 years ago is only the 1990's!!

What is interesting is that in the 1980's the ORIGINAL actors/musicians were coming back. Today we are getting second hand knockoffs (other than perhaps Girl Meets World which brings back the much sought after and widely known Ben Savage).

Overall, I just think the leaps in our lives over 20 years is just not as great as it from the 60's to 70's. Other than the internet and smart-phones, the 1990's were not a drastically different time culturally. So to bring back shows from the 50's and 60's is really not new, but what is new is doing it with totally different actors. In the end the networks don't even have nostalgia going for it -- just the name and basic premise. It is like buying a Ferrari on the outside and inside is plastic seats and a Pinto engine -- and the last analogy is not a call to bring back Magnum PI.

benson said...


It's not a gimmick show, but an American version of "As Time Goes By" might work, if...and this is a major big if, if it had the two right leads. (And strangely, I could see Kelsey Grammer as Lionel)
But...the appeal of that show would place it on TVLand)

If networks are hell bent on remaking gimmick fantasy shows from the 60's, why not My Mother the Car. Or is it no actor wants to commit career suicide?

BetterYeti said...

Memory and nostalgia is a weird thing. Just old enough to have vivid memories of the theme song, opening visuals, stock Asian housekeeper who called Bill Bixby "Mr. Eddie Father." Heck, I could even recall Eddie was played by a kid named Brandon Cruz without checking imdb. ... Yet I have no memory of a single episode. Let's just say I won't be rushing back to relive my childhood.

Given we're in the land of 80's nostalgia, I'm frankly shocked there hasn't been any talk of a "Quantum Leap" reboot. "We'll find a young Scott Bakula, grit it up and lay on the CGI!"

Anonymous said...

The demographic target audience for Network TV is sub-moron. So I think they are doing a pretty good job servicing their customers

Scooter Schechtman said...

BetterYeti: "Quantum Leap" is rerun on the Esquire channel (?) as well as "Miami Vice", the "A Team" and "Airwolf", and that's not even touching all the 80s sitcoms out there. What I don't get is the mysterious Bermuda Triangle of the early 70s. Where is "Banacek", "Harry-O" and "The Name of the Game"? And we have the Retro Movie Channel that glibly jumps between 50s and 80s without showing anything from the Bell Epoque (unless they're westerns or war movies). There's something going on here but my paranoia won't answer it.

Zack Bennett said...

More egregiously, they're making the witch's name "Daphne". In both "Bewitched" and "Tabitha" (and on "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch" as a tribute"), all of the witches' names ended with the letter a. (Samantha, Endora, Serena, Hagatha, Tabitha, Clara, Esmerelda, etc.)

Todd Everett said...

"Courtship of Eddie's Father" may be a way of attempt to capitaliz on the relative success of the similarly-themed series "About a Boy" (another movie adaptation that works) and the current Bill Murray/Melissa McCarthy film "St. Vincent."

gottacook said...

Scooter Schechtman: One of our local over-the-air digital channels, Cozi, plays only old Universal shows including the NBC Mystery Movie (McCloud, Banacek, etc.). I've even seen a Name of the Game episode or two, for the first time since 1971. (That's what we need: not only a return to theme music for series, but theme music in 7/4 time.)

Igor said...

In the 80s, was "Knight Rider" a reboot of "My Mother the Car"?

Jeremy Cullen said...

It's ridiculous to moan about the current level of creativity in television, because television has ALWAYS sucked. The TV industry loves to pat itself on the back when they tackle "cutting edge" and "controversial" issues, ignoring the fact that novelists were exploring these same issues a half century or more ago, in a much more thorough and thoughtful manner. Television is the worst form of art; it's art by committee, where cliches and sophomoric humor are tossed by a roomful of writers into a blender to create an easily digested smoothie for the minds of people who want their entertainment to be soft and easy to digest, without any of those annoying spices like creativity, or thought. Hearing Hawkeye bleating for episode after episode that "War Is Hell" and "He can't be more than 18" may seem like the sharp end of the spear of drama to some, but those themes were explored a lot better by writers like Crane, or Remarque, or a host of others, and they did so a long time before TV was even a theory. When TV rises to the level where it stops walking a tightrope between pandering to the lowest common denominator and bending over backwards to avoid offending this mythical "Middle America" that Hollywood claims exists, and when it finally begins to realize that drama and melodrama are two different things, then it might ascend to something more than the steaming cauldron of bullshit that it is now and has always been.

VP81955 said...

From what I understand, the new "Bewitched" is not a reboot, but a continuation of sorts, with Daphne as Samantha's granddaughter (I'm presuming Tabitha is her mother). That in itself could enable the show to find its own space. (And naming the witch "Daphne," not ending in "a," reminds me of the early days of "Frasier," when Daphne Moon's character was said to have psychic powers.)

The key, of course, will be the writing. Ken has often said what made the early episodes of "Bewitched" so good was the presence of Danny Arnold, later of "Barney Miller" fame. It was a pretty sophisticated series, much of which disappeared after Arnold moved on to other projects. (The same thing happened to "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," whose first season was wonderful thanks to Nell Scovell as showrunner. She was eased out, and the series became more predictable, eventually running out of gas.)

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Jeremy: So, not a fan?

Ken, imagine how Charles Dickens feels, if he wasn't very very dead. A perfectly good premise in A CHRISTMAS CAROL and everybody has ripped it off. Think of the lawsuits he could file.

God, Jesus and William Shakespeare should also hire some entertainment lawyers.

I'll watch the BEWITCHED reboot but only if Samantha Stevens is the U.S. President. Or a deep cover Soviet spy. Or both.

alkali said...

I understand the motivation for reboots, but rebooting a property that no living person wants to see rebooted seems like a ticket to failure. The audience that saw Bewitched on television, even as reruns in syndication, is overwhelmingly 45+: most of those people don't go to movies, and those who do go to movies would not pay to see a reboot of Bewitched.

chalmers said...

I can remember '80s reboots that both included ("The Bradys," "Still the Beaver") and replaced ("The New Gidget," "The Munsters Today") original cast members.

Instead of Don Porter, William Schallert played the father of grown-up Gidget (Caryn Richman). It's a pity they didn't work Patty and Cathy Lane into an episode.

Ralph C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ralph C. said...

Mr Cullen, I know you're entitled to your opinion.... but you are wrong. Yes, very, very wrong.

Nelly Wilson said...

In fairness to Dick York, he was as much the star of the original bewitched as Elizabeth Montgomery.

Hank Gillette said...

Where is the movie based on the seminal work of dog-on-dog action: Ruff and Ready[sic]? It had everything: dogs...a tall one and a short one, outer space adventure: visits to the all Aluminum robot planet: Munimula (Pronounced Moon EE Moo La).

Ruff was a cat. Reddy, the dog, was voiced by Daws Butler, and sounded somewhat like the later Huckleberry Hound.

BigTed said...

As others have mentioned, the premise of "Bewitched" could never go over today: A woman tries to suppress her natural power because she agrees with her husband that it isn't right for a married woman to be anything but a simple housewife. But I think there's a case to be made for rebooting the movie it drew from, "Bell, Book & Candle." A witch falls for a lesser mortal against her better judgment, and he's simultaneously drawn to her and terrified of the power she has over him. In other words, it's basically a supernatural version of "The King of Queens."

Anonymous said...

Maybe those who grew up with the old shows
are now in positions of power within the industry.

BUT... ORIGINALITY seems to be expected of
all specialists in the film business, except the

Writers are told to prepare their scripts using
the same format & font as generations of
writers have always done. They are warned
that if they dare deviate from this, then
their script will not be read.

Imagine if CINEMATOGRAPHERS were told:
use only film cameras from 50 years ago,
and use only the film stock, lenses, filters,
and lighting arrangements that were used
50 years ago, or else... :)

As a writer, a new writer, I plan to challenge
this resistance towards INNOVATION. Not
to be difficult, but to be ORIGINAL. :)

Anonymous said...

Maybe those who grew up with the old shows
are now in positions of power within the industry.

BUT... ORIGINALITY seems to be expected of
all specialists in the film business, except the

Writers are told to prepare their scripts using
the same format & font as generations of
writers have always done. They are warned
that if they dare deviate from this, then
their script will not be read.

Imagine if CINEMATOGRAPHERS were told:
use only film cameras from 50 years ago,
and use only the film stock, lenses, filters,
and lighting arrangements that were used
50 years ago, or else... :)

As a writer, a new writer, I plan to challenge
this resistance towards INNOVATION. Not
to be difficult, but to be ORIGINAL. :)

Jeremy Cullen said...

Which part am I wrong about, Ralph? The part where TV writers are "breaking new ground and exploring new ideas and themes" that were actually written about (in a far more honest and insightful manner) by authors like Faulkner, or Conrad, or Dick, 50 or more years ago? Or the part where TV panders to the lowest common denominator by creating yet another CSI spinoff because, if three cliche ridden formulaic cop shows are good, then four must be better? For every "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" that someone trots out as an example of quality TV, there are 20 other shows that are written to appeal to people who think it's the apotheosis of comedy writing to hear a woman say "vagina" six times in a half hour.

Television celebrates and rewards mediocrity more than any other medium.

Chris said...

Mike Barer,
1978 rescue from Gilligans island, how'd you miss that?
Could we have an Archie Bunker or Maude today? Maybe if their roles were reversed?

Anonymous said...

Jan said...

I just want to see the British--and other European--shows in the original uncut versions. Even BBC America chops things up. Very frustrating. I have NO desire to see an American remake of most of them. (However, I have never seen the original version of Shameless, and I do like that show.)

As far as The Equalizer goes: Edward Woodward will always be The Equalizer to me. I have no desire to see the movie with Denzel Washington, and I have even less desire to see a remake. But that's just me, I guess.

John said...

As noted above, the original "Bewitched" was really two different shows -- the black & white seasons, helmed by Danny Arnold, Jerry Davis and Bernard Slade, hold up extremely well today as a comedy study in character where the witchcraft is mainly used as a way to explore the characters. The color seasons of "Bewitched" were far more directed towards younger audiences, focusing mainly on the magic aspects and the 'what can we do to Darrin this week' plot lines (which were occasionally there in Seasons 1-2, but not on a weekly basis).

So if they want to reboot the show and focus on the characters, they need to look at those first two seasons worth of episodes (and probably look really closely at Liz and William Asher's favorite episode "A is for Aardvark" from Season 1 if they really want to understand what made the original "Bewitched" work). If they want to just make a show that's about the special effects more than the characters, reboot it based on the later seasons.

James said...

C'mon, Ken: here's your chance to sell the rights to remake Open All Night. They want you to take their money! Always be closing. Always be closing. ALWAYS BE CLOSING!

jbryant said...

Better Yeti: I would bet my life savings, my eye teeth, and my immortal soul that there will eventually be a QUANTUM LEAP reboot, whether big screen or small.

Pat Reeder said...

To Jeremy Cullen:

Your condescending diatribe reminds me of a maiden aunt looking down her nose and past her lorgnette at the riffraff and sniffing that she wouldn't allow "a television box" in her abode.

Yes, 95% of what's on TV is crap. Know what else is 95% crap? EVERYTHING!!! That includes books. Yes, there are many great books written decades ago that we still read because they stood the test of time. Just as we still watch "Star Trek" and "Twilight Zone" and don't remember the rest of the dreck they shared the dial with. But for every one of those great books, publishers released thousands of genre paperbacks, cliched potboilers and boring novels that nobody reads anymore. Simply because you write for dead trees rather than pixels doesn't mean you're a superior artiste. Being "paid by the word" was a concept invented by the publishing industry.

Pat Reeder said...

PS - No other medium celebrates mediocrity like TV, which is why I stick to the superior medium of books, like these:


Diane D. said...

To: Jeremy Cullen

"Television is the worst form of art" That is the silliest statement in your diatribe, and Pat Reeder just explained why in very few words.

404 said...

Pat Reeder -- next time, warn people with a link like that! Yikes! That's going to throw my Amazon history off!

Wait a minute . . . there was a THIRD Addams' Family movie?

Pseudonym said...

Thank you for not mentioning THUNDERBIRDS.

Oh, crap, I just did. Aaargh!

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Ugh... can you just imagine the kind of filth a remake of BEWITCHED would have for situations and plots? Samantha spying on Darrin and Larry at a strip club? Serena ends up working in the porn industry? Endora becomes a cougar and stars sleeping around with younger warlocks? I can just hear Lizzie Montgomery, Dick York and Sargent, Aggie Moorehead, and David White all rolling in their graves.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

But, for another possible Friday question:

I see that occasionally, shows will do episodes where one of the characters actually has some kind of a connection with a real life celebrity (i.e. Felix Unger apparently was the one who discovered Richard Dawson, or Aunt Esther turns out to be B.B. King's old flame, etc.) What's the process for scripts like that? Do the writers just come up with these ideas? Are they mandated by the networks as rating boosters? Do the celebrity guest stars get any kind of say in how they're used in the script?

mmryan314 said...

Pat Reeder- Curiosity sent me to your link ow.my/DuEuW. Literature at it`s proudest moment (:: I`m certain excerpts will be quoted for centuries.

RCP said...

Hollywood did get it right with the first Brady Bunch movie, which poked affectionate fun at the sillier aspects of the TV series without stooping to putting it - or its fans - down. It was also very funny.

Jeremy Cullen said...

To Pat Reeder:

There's a huge difference between the genre paperback industry and the television industry.

The publication of drivel like the Twilight novels or Fifty Shades of Gray in no way prevents the publication of a book by Michael Chabon, or Neil Gaiman, or Chuck Palahniuk, or a thousand other authors with something to say. The latest Gaiman novel isn't going to be bumped off Amazon because six new Star Trek novels debuted in the same week. Regardless of how many awful romance or thriller or SF novels there are, there will always be just as many works by authors like Harlan Ellison, because they can all exist simultaneously; there's room for everyone. Television is limiting; there are only so many hours of programming time available, and every network is going to fill that time with whatever programming they feel will generate the most revenue by attracting the most viewers. And what will attract the most viewers? Simple stories, two dimensional characters, stuff that doesn't demand any more from the viewer than that they laugh when the laugh track tells them to. You know, the stuff that is commercially viable, that draws in the most viewers without alienating them, that present titillation masquerading as controversial ideas.

People like crap. I like crap. There's nothing wrong with junk food for the mind. The danger is when someone can no longer recognize crap when they see it, or worse yet, they use a lesser standard to judge its quality because of the medium where it's presented (“hey, come on, it's just a TV show”).

You're right; for every one of those great books, there were thousands written that were nothing more than landfill fodder. And yet, great writers continued to be published, because there was room for both. When a network decides to add yet another NCIS: Peoria to their lineup, or a cutting edge show about hot sexy lawyers working on cases “ripped from the headlines”, it's just that many fewer hours in a limited pool of hours that are no longer available for a show that might actually have something to say beyond which intern is getting boinked in the supply closet by that sexy but brooding Doctor.

It's not condescending, Pat, to look at a medium that, until the advent of the internet, was the most powerful tool for communication of ideas in the history of mankind, and say “My God, you can do better than Knight Rider (or Love Boat, or Two Broke Girls, or Family Guy, or a thousand other shows).

Hemingway got paid by the word; so did Jack London, and Chandler, and Philip Dick, and innumerable other writers who did their work during the magazine heyday . Their words and ideas weren't any less valuable because they were writing them for a penny each.

Albert Giesbrecht said...

Bewitched may work if it was about a gay Muslim couple.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

In Nicole Kidman's case it was probably also because she couldn't wiggle her nose without flapping her ears.

VP81955 said...

All I know about this new "Bewitched" (perhaps they should call it "Still Bewitched"?) is that it apparently will have entirely new characters and be in a new environment. We've been told the main character, Daphne, is Samantha's granddaughter -- but she may be a single woman, not a housewife, with all sorts of different personal and professional problems than her grandma faced. (This is, after all, 2014 -- not 1964.)

I hope the series has some depth and complexity to it, and isn't like the short-lived Lisa Hartman "Tabitha" of the late '70s (whose sole, silly premise essentially was "what if Mary Richards had magic powers?"). Done correctly, there's no reason a next-generation "Bewitched" can't be entertaining.

ScottyB said...

I sneer at reboots -- regardless whether it's TV or movie -- for exactly the same reason Ken voiced in his blog post.

But here's a question: TV is full of "failed" shows that last like maybe 2 seasons and were quite a bit ahead of their time (or just great on their own) in terms of solid, great writing and production that maybe the networks might think about brushing off.

For some reason while reading Ken's blog post and some of the comments here, the 1980s TV series 'Amazing Stories' popped into my head. It was an amazing TV series; not quite anywhere near a reboot of 'Twilight Zone', but pretty fucking awesome. And the whole run had stuff written and/or directed by some pretty big names even today.

Steven Speilberg being attached helped a buttload, but even there, every episode pretty much stood on its own very, very respectably on its own.

I guess if I was a netwoork exec, I'd be sitting there going, "Reboot? Fine. Reboot the really good shit."

ScottyB said...

Reboot of anything?? I will to my dying day only point to 'The Stepford Wives', 'Scooby-Doo' and 'The Flintstones'.

ScottyB said...

And before anyone starts giving me shit over my post where I said "I guess if I was a netwoork exec, I'd be sitting there going, "Reboot? Fine. Reboot the really good shit." -- I realize this is why I'm not a network exec.

Or why I maybe should be. Beyond me putting one too many Os in my spelling of network". There's no edit function here.

Johnny Walker said...

I have to say that I agree with Jeremy Cullen, although thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Yahoo Movies, etc. the issue of "space" no longer exists. No it's simply down to the number of projects a budget allows per year, much like publishers.

Unfortunately shows are still often designed, and smothered, by committee. Worried TV execs have to green light everything from the script, to the cast, to the colour of the props. When TV succeeds, genuinely rising above these limitations, as with THE WIRE or MAD MEN, it's usually because the creators were given a rare freedom -- sometimes not even by choice.

TV is truly must be the most difficult medium to produce anything worthwhile... but only because of the business restraints that come along with it.

Johnny Walker said...

"No it's" should be "Now it's".

Johnny Walker said...

With regard to reboots, I was just thinking that surely Hollywood has had enough... My generation at least isn't interested. RoboCop and Total Recall were both huge movies from our childhood, but thankfully flopped at the box office.

Barry Traylor said...

My wife and I tried to watch the Bewitched movie on video and I wondered who the numbskull was that thought Kidman and Ferrell had any screen chemistry.
Lately I have been watching a few episodes of Mash for the 20th or more time and they still make me laugh, the new stuff on tv not so much. I liked The Big Bang Theory for awhile but it seems to have become so repetitious.

Hamid said...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Ugh... can you just imagine the kind of filth a remake of BEWITCHED would have for situations and plots?

Joseph, I've noticed in this and some previous comments that you have a preoccupation with what you regard as filth. I'm assuming you're here because you're a fan of Ken's, so I have to wonder how you ever watched a single episode of Cheers or Frasier given that many episodes had themes and jokes about sex and relationships. Didn't Sam's exploits with women make you switch off in disgust?

Everyone's entitled to their views, of course, but I think it's sad that in the 21st century some people still regard one of the most basic and normal human needs as filthy. Here's something that might shock you: you wouldn't be here if it wasn't for two people engaging in an act you seem to find so repulsive and immoral.

gottacook said...

Jeremy Cullen: I have at least 30 Phil Dick novels and story collections, including more than half of his posthumously published non-SF novels of the 1950s, but even I wouldn't care to own Dr. Futurity or The Crack in Space.

Jeremy Cullen said...

LOL, gottacook, you've got me on that one. Even a generally recognized master in his field can't hit the bullseye every time.

Jeremy Cullen said...

@ Johnny Walker:

I agree. Singular vision is what produces great art. It can also produce spectacular failures, but even when it does, at least the honesty of the effort can be appreciated.

If there is any point in the artistic process where a studio executive with a degree in marketing has a say in the finished work, then that's not art; it's a commodity, being packaged and sold like a car or a bar of soap.

VP81955 said...

If there is any point in the artistic process where a studio executive with a degree in marketing has a say in the finished work, then that's not art; it's a commodity, being packaged and sold like a car or a bar of soap.

But if it's an Ivy League degree in marketing, it will of course be justified.

CRL said...

I own The Crack In Space. Hey, it was the Kindle Daily Deal!

Stephen Robinson said...

If someone doesn't like TV, then what's the point of posting on a TV writer's blog? Mr. Cullen doesn't even seem to exclude Ken's work from his contempt given his comments about M*A*S*H.

I don't like sports, so I don't spend time on (INSERT SPORTS FIGURE HERE)'s web site. That would just seem counterproductive and rude.

Lisa said...

I wondered the same thing, Stephen. Why is a guy so contemptuous of television hanging out here, of all places.

Lou H. said...

Charlie's Angels was a decent action movie that did well at the box office, and it could just as well have been based on She Spies for all the effect the TV show had on the plot. But claiming to be part of a legendary franchise helps get people to come see it, just like hiring a star does, and who can begrudge the producers for doing that? It's mindless action movies like these which pay for the movies that are better creatively but get fewer viewers.

cadavra said...

One other correction: GET SMART (I assume you mean the Steve Carell version) grossed over $130 million here and $230 million worldwide; there was a direct-to-video spin-off, and a true sequel is awaiting Carell's availability. Not really a flop, then.

Lou H. said...

I lived in Boston when Cheers started, and noticed that the show really underrepresented the percentage of the populace who speak with the distinctive Boston accent. Similarly for 30something and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. (At least Sunny frequently shoots around the city). When setting a show in a specific city, what determines how much effort is put into making it seem authentic? What did you do when casting and setting up the stories for Cheers?

Liggie said...

BetterYeti, "Quantum Leap" fans are pushing for a sequel series where Sam's daughter (long story short, he fathered a child in a last-season "leap") looks for him, and ends up bouncing around time herself. Ideally, Al's daughter (he was reunited with his sweetheart in the finale and became a devoted hubby and dad) would take over his job of helping out via hologram. Donald Bellisario has been said to be working on some follow-up, but it hasn't happened yet.

If it happens, I'd like to see who the actress would be, ideally someone with broad range (thinking a mid-30s Naomi Watts or Mira Sorvino), and what they'd leap her into. Valley Girl, Catholic priest, dot-com programmer, NASCAR driver ...?

Charles H. Bryan said...

Y'know, in defense of reboots: Ron Moore's BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. How the hell did I forget that? I love that show. Hated the original series.

I will accept all of the other crappy reboots, if it means I get BATTLESTAR.

Johnny Walker said...

@Jeremy Cullen I'm not sure if "singular vision" is the thing that's needed. There's plenty of great music out there created by in-fighting bands. I also don't really agree that input from an exec is always bad. (I guess a "singular vision" can be shared, and still produce something special.)

But I do think that when TV manages to elevate itself to something worthwhile that it's *in spite* of the business, instead of *because of*.

Everything seems against you when you're making TV -- from what I can gather, anyway. Not only are you trying to win over your audience, but you're also trying to win over your bosses and your colleagues -- while still somehow trying to satisfy your own creative spirit. It seems like a miracle that good shows are EVER made.

Anonymous said...

Bewitched was lifted from "I Married a Witch." I Dream of Jeannie was a ripoff of Bewitched.

Beverly Hillbillies from "Ma & Pa Kettle." Green Acres was the flip side of that.

Sitcoms of the sixties and seventies were mostly hack. If they weren't hack writers, they wouldn't be writing sitcoms. They're sketch writers who tend to be uppity, but sketch writers just the same. They haven't changed. It's the audience, who is more sophisticated and better informed, who have changed.

They're not as easy to fool, so sitcoms have the winds against them from the start.

Anonymous said...

As another "over 50" person here, I have to say I loved Eddie's father also. Bill Bixby was so dreamy, and he was in so many different series during those years. I remember he had a tragic life, his son dying in childhood and then his wife committing suicide. He went on to direct but died way too young. He was a big part of my childhood. Did you know him Ken?

Janice B.

Anonymous said...

Are they going to do a remake of American Idol?

VP81955 said...

Sitcoms of the sixties and seventies were mostly hack. If they weren't hack writers, they wouldn't be writing sitcoms. They're sketch writers who tend to be uppity, but sketch writers just the same. They haven't changed. It's the audience, who is more sophisticated and better informed, who have changed.

They're not as easy to fool, so sitcoms have the winds against them from the start.

The writers of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "All In The Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "M*A*S*H" and "Barney Miller" were hacks? Nonsense. They came up with many superb episodes (the "Chuckles Bites The Dust" episode from "MTM" in 1975 is considered by many the greatest comedic episode ever written for TV, perhaps the greatest in any genre). You're simply revealing your snobbery. Sophistication can be funny, as "Frasier" proved for more than a decade and Ernst Lubitsch proved throughout the 1930s and much of the '40s.

Anonymous said...

When's BJ and The Bear coming back???

Anonymous said...

hope Lancelot Link:secret chimp remake comes out soon. A talking chimp, who would have thought?

Cristina said...

Would you like to see a reboot of your favorite show with a new cast? When Dick Sargent replaced Dick York due to health issue, I was dissapointed because Dick York was more likeable than Dick Sargent on Bewitched. Likewise I don't want to see a reboot of my favorite sitcom Wings. Maybe shows with no major characters will work out like The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, Alfred Hithcock etc.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I agree with a lot of these posts, in that to carry off BEWITCHED, Sam would have to have a job (that would work) and the casting of Darrin is just as important.

Nora Ephron was very popular with her peers and had several major successes, but I listened to her commentary on the BEWITCHED DVD and she really didn't "get" the series. She said she felt the series was about a woman with power and a man who had trouble handling it. That was Darrin's relationship to Endora, not Sam (for a new Endora type, watch the first half hour of MALEFICENT).

Today's primetime, to compete with movies and cable, will surely have to dial up the sex, even if the show is aimed at families. We'll see.

I'm waiting for the Vatican to approve THE FLYING POPE (it could happen) and for a remake of SNAGGLEPUSS starring Nathan Lane.

Anonymous said...

VP8195 Said:

"The writers of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "All In The Family," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "M*A*S*H" and "Barney Miller" were hacks? Nonsense."

Since I said "mostly," not "all," you are arguing with yourself in this case. To avoid looking silly in the future, next time, read more carefully. Good luck.

Kaleberg said...

Isn't there an old quote about the past not being dead, and that it's not even past? That's a big problem for reboots these days. You can catch so many of the old shows on cable, on streaming, on downloads and so on. They aren't even past.

The success of a lot of the old shows depended on having a stuffed shirt (or a straight arrow) like Darren in Bewitched. Nowadays, we don't have old fashioned stuffed shirts. We have anything goes types and mutant elites who just don't give a crap. Neither gets you comedy gold.

Pamela Jaye said...

Super! I want to see the reboot of Julia.

and maybe Room 222

And All In The Family.

I dare them! :-)

VP81955 said...

Greg Ehrbar said...
I agree with a lot of these posts, in that to carry off BEWITCHED, Sam would have to have a job (that would work) and the casting of Darrin is just as important.

How many times do I have to write that the proposed "Bewitched" series is not a reboot, but a "next-generation" (or rather a "next-next-generation," since the main character will be Samantha's granddaughter)? I doubt any of the original 1964 characters will be revived for this new version. In a way, that's unfortunate, because on "Bewitched" (and also on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch"), Samantha, Endora, Hilda and Zelda were all said to be several hundred years old; on "Sabrina," there were occasional "flashbacks" with Beth Broderick and Caroline Rhea in medieval, colonial or roaring '20s dress.

Some years ago, I came up with a premise for a series about a young male witch screenwriter who, on behalf of a witch anti-defamation league of sorts, secretly was hired on staff of a new sitcom about a (young female) witch. My twist on the witch age angle was to give all witches 25 lifetimes (the writer was on his seventh lifetime, the receptionist at the sitcom's production company in her 19th).