by Herbie J Pilato
A reboot of Murphy Brown is headed for the fall on CBS, along with a remake of Magnum P.I. The original Roseanne was recently rebooted then booted off the air and will be replaced with The Connors (a spin-off of a reboot!).
What’s the dealio? What’s with the classic TV craze? Why are the original classic TV shows and their redos so remarkably popular?
A few reasons:
1] A good idea is a good idea, whether it was created and aired in the past or whether it’s reimagined or rerun in the present.
2] The original shows are just as popular as their subsequent new editions (MacGyver, Hawaii Five-O, etc.) because of the quality in storytelling and presentation. All good stories have a beginning, middle and end, no matter how lengthy a time it may take to tell that story. Back in the day, the story for a one-hour drama or a half-hour comedy was told within that given time-frame. Today, it may take five or six episodes of a contemporary series, half-hour or hour, to complete one storyline, or sometimes, even an entire season. So, there’s that: the appeal of a classic TV show’s ability to tell its story in one full scoop.
3] The “look” of classic TV shows, including sixty-minute ‘60s/70s detective/crime-shows like Mannix and The FBI, are nothing but of the highest of quality and caliber regarding production values. If anything, the actual color-settings of these original series were vibrant. For example, none shone so bright as the variant hues presented on The Brady Bunch, certainly in the way of primary colors of the wardrobe or the Bradys’ kitchen counter-tops.
4] The characters of classic TV shows were presented as unique unto themselves, as opposed to contemporary shows, when all of the characters look alike, and everyone is beautiful and physically-toned and fit for beach-wear. But more than that, not all of the characters in classic TV shows talked alike, as do their modern counterparts. Today, mostly, not all, but mostly all characters are sarcastic in tone; mostly all new characters roll their eyes, and speak with quippy, witty words every two seconds, frequently spewing phrases that could easily be spewed by any other character on a given show (their own, or otherwise).
For a remake of an original show to work extremely well, which was the case of Roseanne (before its star went into full-self-destruct mode with her now infamous racist, mentally-disturbed rant) the original mythology of the initial series must somehow be retained.
As with the upcoming new Murphy Brown, the briefly-redone Roseanne and its soon-to-be The Connors spin-off, have been fortunate enough to have retained most of the original actors who portrayed the original characters. As such, Murphy Brown and Roseanne in particular can be classified as direct reboots.
But whether it’s a direct reboot, a remake, a redo or a reimagination, any retro-based new show should retain a timely-twist on the original material, but not so much as to distance itself from the original material.
Long-story, short: Everyone loves classic TV shows because classic TV shows have always been lovable – and likable…and easy to understand and to watch.
There’s no dark lighting…no murmuring characters or dialogue spoken by diction-less actors. There’s no sound quality imbalance, and the story-telling is solid.
Best advice to any network or movie studio for that matter, that is interested in remaking a classic TV show for the small or big-screen (i.e. – Mission: Impossible which made the small-to-big-screen transference successfully, mostly due the big-draw and appealing wide jaw and chiseled chin of Tom Cruise)?
Go back to study what made the original a hit, and if you can’t remake it properly, or if you want to remake it to the point of completely reinventing it, then just come up with your own, brand- new idea and don’t try to ride the classic TV shirt-tails of what countless millions have loved for decades and, in the process, destroy that original concept – and what it’s become in the eyes of those countless millions, to the point of an utter and complete failure.
Herbie J Pilato is the Founder and Executive Director of The Classic TV Preservation Society and author of several classic TV companion books. He has been part of TVWriter™ for almost 20 years and is Contributing Editor Emeritus. Learn more about Herbie J HERE.