Herbie J Pilato on the !@#*ing Craziness of Reboots & Rebooters

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.

Everything You Need to Know About the Best Show on TV this Season

This article from New Yorker perfectly encapsulates the wonder that is The Good Fight. You’re gonna love ’em both!

The Incendiary Verve of “The Good Fight”
by Emily Nussbaum

A few weeks ago, on “The Good Fight,” some Chicago litigators found the pee tape. Initially, they suspected that it was a hoax—entrapment by Project Veritas, perhaps, designed to embarrass the D.N.C. Their firm investigated, and in the process they discovered an entire genre of pee-tape fakes. The F.B.I. weighed in. There was a granular comparison of bathrobe screen grabs. (“Enhance!”) Finally, they had confirmation: it was the real thing.

And then they buried it—all of them, conspiring together, with varying motives. Releasing a video of Russian prostitutes peeing on a bed that the Obamas slept in, the group understood, would lead to nothing but another shockeroo news cycle. There would be outrage, then distraction, and on to the next round. To survive in an era of numb unreality, they needed a better strategy.

“The Good Fight,” like “The Good Wife,” its predecessor, is a cockeyed love letter to just this kind of strategic life, as lived by a set of educated, hypercompetent professionals: a liberal élite, if you will. It’s a dark comedy about the limits of savvy, about whether it’s possible to maintain detachment and pragmatism, not to mention respect for the law, in the face of chaos—including internal chaos. Both shows were co-created by Robert and Michelle King, married showrunners who have learned, during their years of making network television, to camouflage their freak flag as a pocket square. (Their brand might be summarized as “Looks like ‘L.A. Law,’ tastes like ‘The Wire.’ ”) But the sequel, whose opening scenes take place on Inauguration Day, is an angrier product than the original. It features an unforgettable credits sequence, in which fancy purses blow up like Molotov cocktails, punctuated by shots of Putin fishing and of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Sometimes I watch those credits twice.

With their French Revolutionary air, they’re a nifty metaphor for the show’s incendiary mind-set, as exemplified by its heroine, the litigator Diane Lockhart, an emily’s List Democrat whose plans to retire with her hot Republican gun-expert husband dissolved when, in a triple whammy, her man cheated on her, she lost her money to a Madoff-like grifter, and Wisconsin swung red. Lockhart joined a new firm, though she held on to her statement necklaces and her air of hauteur. But, alone in her spacious office, she’s losing her cool, watching cable news, gawking at clips that feel maybe ten per cent removed from the real thing: “When asked about the tweet, White House officials insisted that the President was joking, saying, ‘Mermaids do not exist, therefore Trump’s reference to talking with one—’ ” Lockhart now owns a gun; she has a fling with an Antifa activist. When, in the second season, she starts to microdose hallucinogens, it seems less like a breakdown than like an attempt to match her insides to her outsides….

Read it all at newyorker.com

Forking hell! Is The Good Place the ultimate TV show for our times?

Thoughtful commentary from The Guardian. No, for reals…we forking mean it!

by Ellen E Jones

f there’s one thing that hit Netflix show The Good Place is absolutely, definitely not about, it’s The State of the World Today. Intentionally, anyway. For one thing, this feelgood sitcom isn’t even set in our world, but in a non-denominational afterlife you might call “Heaven”. This is the Good Place of the title, where Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself in the show’s opening episode and soon concludes she’s been sent in error.

The Good Place is for the likes of beautiful philanthropist Tahani (Jameela Jamil), silent Buddhist monk Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) and earnest ethics professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Eleanor, on the other hand, is the kind of garbage person who reads Celebrity Baby Plastic Surgery Disasters magazine and sells fake medicine to the elderly for a living. Still, understandably, she wants to stay, so spends most of season one trying to keep her secret from Michael (Ted Danson), the angel-architect overseeing the Good Place neighbourhood.

The other point is that The Good Place was midway through its first season on NBC when the 2016 US presidential election took place. Even after the world entered into its Trumpian twilight zone, The Good Place’s showrunner, Michael Schur, was keen to ensure his writing team did not get sidetracked: “We talked a lot in the room about, this is not a show about Donald Trump,” he told New York magazine before the season two premiere last year. “These characters are dead. These characters don’t even know that Donald Trump is president.”

Most importantly, though, The Good Place couldn’t be about Trump, Brexit, Windrush#MeToo or any other contemporary talking point, because that’s exactly the sort of thing that fans watched the show to escape. While for some, The Handmaid’s Tale was a perfectly timed misery-watch, this show offered the opposite sort of distraction. By 2017, political drama and comedy were on the wane in TV generally, with once-popular shows such as Veep, Scandal and House of Cards all either cancelled or embarking on final seasons. Schur, meanwhile, was known and loved as the creator of optimistic, easy-watching sitcoms that found silliness and fundamental decency in the lives of local government officials (Parks and Recreation) and police officers (Brooklyn Nine-Nine). The Good Place, with its pastel hues and twee, euphemistic cursing was his most whimsically escapist yet.

Or so it seemed, right up until the season one finale, which first aired on 19 January 2017, the night before Trump’s inauguration. This was the episode in which – plot twist! – Eleanor discovered that Michael (Danson) wasn’t an angel-architect, but a demon-bureaucrat who’d been messing with them all along. It wasn’t just Eleanor who belonged in the Bad Place (AKA Hell), but Tahani, Chidi and Jianyu (actually another imposter called Jason) too. And, what’s more, they were already there. They had been obligingly torturing each other as part of Michael’s reality TV-meets-Sartre experiment since episode one. As Eleanor’s catchphrase-coining moment of realisation had it: “This is the Bad Place!”…

Read it all at theguardian.com

Diana Vacc sees “Cobra Kai: Season One”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

May 2, 2018, YouTube Red released the first season of Cobra Kai, a TV sequel (well, YouTube is sort of TV) to the classic Karate Kid films.  I’ve binge-watch Season One and was surprised and delighted by what I viewed.

The series begins thirty years after the last Karate Kid film that ended with the very satisfying All Valley Tournament between Cobra Kai dojo leader, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). Daniel (Macchio) was the victor, defeating the bully, Johnny.

As this series opens, Johnny is a drunk and at rock bottom when he witnesses Miguel Diaz (Xolo Mariduena) being bullied and decides to take him under his wing and reopen the Cobra Kai dojo.  This reignites his feud with Daniel and brings changes into both their lives.

THE GOOD:

  • The team of writers led by co-creators and showrunners John Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossberg and Josh Heald nailed the characters and came up with an unexpectedly sharp storyline.  Johnny’s drive  to change the image of Cobra Kai dojo into something positive and his mentoring of those he once would have called nerds is believable and exciting.
  • The change in Daniel  to the successful arrogant businessman was a big surprise, as was how hard he tries to stop keep Johnny’s new Cobra Kai dojo out of the Ally Valley Tournament. I really wanted to know,  “Why, Daniel, Why!” (And shouted it out a few times, I admit.)
  • What a relief when Daniel redeems himself when by mentoring loner Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan) in karate.  It turns out Robby is none other then the son of Johnny (Zabka) and wants to get back at him at all costs.  Daniel decides to coach him the way Mr. Miyagi did for him.
  • I appreciated the twist in the story arc in which the nerds turn into the bullies of the school at the end of the season, much to dismay of Johnny.
  • All this conflict makes this show one to watch and keeps you clued to the screen.

THE BAD:

  • I wasn’t disappointed at all in this series and am glad to learn at the writing of the review that is has been renewed for another season.

THE REST:

If you’re a fan of the Karate Kid films and/or a lover of martial arts and insightful TV writing, you won’t want to miss out on Cobra Kai.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc finally sees “Pitch Perfect 3”

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

The final film in the Pitch Perfect Series, Pitch Perfect 3 is out on DVD and on on-demand.  On a rainy Saturday night I snuggled up in my blanket and decided to watch this film.  It follows the choral group the Bellas after their win at the accapella world championships.

The Bellas have moved on and living separate lives.  But they all decide to reunite for one last performance at an overseas singing competition on the USO Tour.

THE GOOD:

  • I was a fan of the first two movies and could not wait to watch and enjoy.  However, in spite of not only my expectations but my great desire to enjoy this one, I have to tell you right here and now: I didn’t like Pitch Perfect 3 in the slightest.

THE BAD:

  • The script was absolutely terrible. I’m not a “formula writing” lover by any means, but that formula worked in the first two films in the series, and without it this one had absolutely none of the magic of its predecessors. All three movies are credited to Kay Cannon, so why I don’t absolutely know why they switched up the story structure I suspect it had something to do with the change in director from Elizabeth Banks to Trish Sie. Poor Ms. Cannon had a whole new boss to please!
  • The film starts off as an acapella group competition and quickly veers into a hostage situation. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, how about this: Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) becomes a virtrual action hero, using gadgets and tools Tom Cruise would use in Mission Impossible to save her fellow Bellas. In other words, WTF?
  • Compounding things further is the fact that the chemistry between the actors, which more often than not is the reason a film is a hit, is totally lacking this time. Especially damaging was the loss of Skylar Astin as Jesse. Previously, he and Anna Kendrick as Beca had fantastic chemistry, creating a relationship that was the very essence of lifelong soul mates.

THE REST:

As unhappy as I was in my last review – of The Alienist – my heart is even heavier now because I have to once again recommend that readers not go anywhere near Pitch Perfect 3. Sorry, but every single note it hits is wrong, wrong, wrong.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE