Friday, 29 August 2008


To Michael SLOAN

Everybody knows that Hollywoodland can't keep an old tv show dead... in peace. Like Bernie Lomax (remember the fabulous Terry Kiser) in Weekend at Bernie's and its follow up, remakes of cult tv series regularly take a ride from where pigeons go to die to the schedules of the US networks or, more frequently, to their dusty shelves.


Without remakes the only on-screen Batman ever would be Lewis Wilson in the 1943 serial (cf. Heroes & Villains Movie serial classics by Michael Bifulco, Bifulco Books, Woodland Hills, California, 1989). Remakes allow new generations to discover a character or a concept. The contemporary Doctor Who is probably the best show in the History of Television (at least for its first three seasons). But each season, tv executives seem to compete for the award of the most unnecessary remake of an old cult show, think of the 2003 Dragnet version by Dick Wolf (Law & Order), with Ed O'Neill as Joe Friday.

Don't get your humble french servant wrong, Dick Wolf is one of the most brilliant producer in the Pantheon of US television, and Ed O'Neill is a magnificent actor whose talent go far beyond Al Bundy in Married with children. But Dragnet and Friday are so anchored in their times (the fifties and sixties) and so linked to the personality of one man, actor-producer Jack Webb, that the only proper way to remake this classic was to make fun of it (Dragnet, 1987, with Dan Aykroyd).

As the always wise and excellent Furious D remarks in his blog: « [Since] the remakes of old hits usually sink into oblivion faster than you can say "Bionic Woman" » ( but the fact that the concept got cremated with the syndicated 1989 New Dragnet should have drawn the network's attention.


The demises of Dick Wolf's Dragnet or of Kojak (2005, with Ving Rhames) apparently don't discourage CBS-Paramount, as the studio announced this summer new versions of The Streets of San Francisco and... Hawaii Five-O. The second, based of course on the 1968-1980 mega hit with Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett (1968-1980), is particularly astonishing, as an unaired previous revival attempt, shot in 1997 with Mr Gary Busey (your french fans salute you) in the main role, didn't leave the shelf.

« Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it » wrote George Santayana. In 1992, tv czar Aaron Spelling tried to revive The Streets of a Francisco (1972-1977), the Quinn Martin cop show starring Karl Malden and a pre-Basic Instinct Michael Douglas, with Back to the Streets of San Francisco, a tv movie with Malden but of course sans Douglas.

The success of Streets was totally the result of the alchemy between Malden and Douglas to the point that when Douglas left the show for a movie career, his replacement by Richard Hatch, a rather honourable actor, led to cancellation. In both cases (Five-O and Streets), remaking series so characterized by the charisma and the talent of their stars is more than a risqué venture. And McGarrett, the hawaiian Joe Friday, the quintessential conservative with a badge (, would now probably look pale compared to Jack Bauer. What about a new version of The F.B.I. (1965-1974)? But who will be the next Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. ?


Writer, author and producer Lee Goldberg, perhaps one of the last men in Hollywood able to make a television series entertaining, and one of the finest connaisseur of tv business, co-wrote in 1997 an hilarious episode of his Diagnosis Murder show (1993-2001), a wonderful piece of wit and causticity called Must Kill TV (season 5, episode 9), with Doug E. Doug (Cosby), Reginald VelJohnson and Jaleel White (Family Matters), Erik Estrada, Jane Seymour and Peter Graves appearing as themselves.

In this Kind Hearts and Coronets meets TV Guide ( where a female tv exec, Rachel Woodrall, is killed by a pilot, the great Stephen J. Cannell plays Jackson Burleigh, a television producer: « But Rachel wouldn't let Burley out of his exclusive contract to write the last three episodes of "The Young Barnaby Jones Chronicles"... And when he was done, she canceled it ».

Police procedural is not the only genre to benefit of the attention of US television networks: a new 90210 is coming from CW, with Shannen Doherty and Jennie Garth (,,20221152_20221173_20221579,00.html) but without Tori Spelling ( And ABC launches a resuscitation of Cupid, the romantic comedy with Jeremy Piven (Entourage) cancelled after only one season in 1998-1999. Somewhere in the Spelling catalog there's a forgotten show called Finder of Lost loves (1984), with Tony Franciosa and Deborah Adair. Maybe someone remembers an old show from Rick Rosner, the man behind CHiPs, called Lottery! (1983). The possibilities are infinite.

« I'm waiting for the revival of My Mother The Car, as a police drama » writes Furious D. No, D, My Mother the Car - The Movie. The movie...

1 comment:

Lee Goldberg said...

Thank you for the kind words. For what it's worth, Brian Grazer developed a new version of THE FBI for ABC this season but it didn't get picked up.

But look at all the remakes/sequels on American TV now...LIFE ON MARS, UGLY BETTY, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE OFFICE, DR. WHO and KNIGHT RIDER to name just a few (and a lousy movie version of GET SMART just did big business at the box office). Is it any wonder they are still trolling through old issues of TV Guide for more?