Actually, the full title of this article is, “Is Television Sacrificing Its Golden Age to the Closed Loop of Pop Culture?” And know what? It’s a question that needs to be asked. So, appropos of our oh-so-recent previous post:
by Jason Bailey
Let us begin with three seemingly unrelated entertainment news items.
1. Starz Television has announced a new, ten-episode series titled Ash vs. Evil Dead. Director/producer Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell will reunite for the series, which is a spin-off/continuation of their long-dormant original iteration of the Evil Dead movie series.
2. The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Films will re-team director Peter Berg with his Lone Survivor star Mark Wahlberg for a feature film adaptation of the ‘70s television series The Six Million Dollar Man — retitled The Six Billion Dollar Man, because inflation.
3. Showtime has ordered a nine-episode continuation of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s influential Twin Peaks, a full 25 years after the series finale aired on ABC.
Armed with these facts (and related forthcoming films and television shows, of which there are many), we can come to three increasingly alarming and generally depressing conclusions about film, television, and pop culture in general:
Conclusion #1: Pop culture is a closed loop.
Movies based on comic books. Movies based on other movies. Movies based on Broadway musicals. Broadway musicals based on movies. Movies based on television shows. Television shows based on movies. Television shows based on other television shows. Popular culture has always, to some extent, existed within its own echo chamber, but in the current climate, it’s hard to find anything that’s genuinely original, that’s not based, to some extent, on some other thing.
It’s particularly bad in movies; the list of the top ten highest-grossing movies of the year thus far includes one sequel, two new installments of long-running movie series, a film based on a fairy tale, a film based on a toy line, a sequel to a film based on a toy line, a movie based on a comic book, and three sequels to movies based on comic books.
Next year promises more of the same, with sequels to Taken, Hot Tub Time Machine, Divergent, Paranormal Activity, The Fast and the Furious, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, The Avengers, Pitch Perfect, Insidious, The Terminator, Ted, Magic Mike, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Maze Runner, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Hotel Transylvania, The Hunger Games, Sinister, Kung Fu Panda, Mission: Impossible, Bond, and (of course) Star Wars. There will be remake/reboots of The Jungle Book, Frankenstein, The Fantastic Four, Point Break, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park, and Mad Max.
And aside from the aforementioned Six Billion Dollar Man, we’ll have big-screen versions of television shows like Entourage, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Jem and the Holograms. But the loop also flows from film back to television, with the surprise success of Fargo, Hannibal,and About a Boy prompting a new rash of movie-based TV shows, including the Ash vs. Evil Dead, 12 Monkeys, Uncle Buck (again),Marley & Me (what?), and Big (noooooo).
Everything is based on another thing, in other words, which prompts the pessimist in me to wonder when we’ll reach “peak pop culture,” and simply run out of preexisting things to adapt and remake. I guess we’ll just have to start re-adapting and re-remaking.
So, how did we end up here?