the four r's




April 10, 2017


Is Hollywood really running out of ideas? Maybe. But why should Hollywood be any different than this year's presidential candidates? (Just kidding. Sort of.)


Or maybe Hollywood is not running out of ideas. At least in terms of repackaging and rebranding.


Maybe it depends on the medium. If we're talking television, many viewers consider this to be a new golden age of the good ol' boob tube. However, if we're talking movies, it seems (especially in summer blockbuster season), that a lot of stuff playing on the silver screen is creatively bankrupt.


Then again, there's a lot of interesting, original cinema out there (at least at Oscar consideration time). And, there's an abundance of "been there, done that" TV.


Okay, I've got a headache already. But let's take a look at some examples.


If at first you succeed, remake, remake again.


Roger Ebert put it best: Don't remake good movies. Remake bad ones, and make them better. Unfortunately, most movie-goers probably won't go to a flick with the same title as a bad one they saw 10 to 20 years ago.


Also ill-advised is to be put a different "spin" on an unnecessary remake by swapping genders. "Ghostbusters" anyone? The shame here is that the 2016 remake was pretty good; had its moments. But everyone seemed to resent the gals trespassing into the guys' territory. This got vicious, which is deplorable. But if this bothers you, coming soon to a multiplex near you: a remake of "Splash", with Channing Tatum taking on the Daryl Hannah role. (I'm not kidding!)


Other unnecessary remakes of late: "Robocop," "A Nightmare on Elm Street," and even a second reboot of "Friday the 13th". And how about "Red Dawn?" The times had changed so much single the original classic, that there were no more "Reds." But even though a title no longer makes any sense, it must be retained for brand recognition.


But we're not satisfied with just one remake. Nosireebob! Many remakes are described as "new vision for a new generation!" But when one remake nips at the heels of another, it becomes a matter of remaking what was decent in the first place (and not dated) not for a new generation, but for the original generation's younger siblings.


However, sometimes a second remake is a good thing. The original "King Kong" was great fun back in the 30's, and can still be enjoyed by those who were born after its release. Then, someone got the great idea to remake the classic big monkey movie in the 70's. The result? A laughable piece of junk. Fortunately, a second remake just a few years back redeemed good ol' Kong. (But now we're getting an ill-advised sequel. But that's another blog posting...)




This syndrome is interesting, because it can cover all media: movies, television, comics, books. It's a nice way of saying that maybe we've gone to the well once (or five times) too often.


For example, my favorite all-time franchise: "Star Trek."


For a long time, all we had were 80 classic episodes from the 60's. A mixed bag, but we chose to glorify the best episodes. Then, the movies. Then, the spin-offs. Lotsa great stuff! People sometimes ask, "which is your favorite series?" Well, I don't have one. To me, it's all one immense series, made up of five sets of regular characters (soon to be six). And it was awesome. And maybe too much. After hundreds of episodes and 10 feature films, "Trek" took a well-deserved break. Four whole years. And what did we get?


A new movie called "Star Trek." What, no subtitle? Nope, because this was ... what? A reboot? Well, not exactly, because it didn't toss out the 40 plus years of continuity that came before, and they got Leonard Nimoy to be in it! A remake? No, for the same reasons. No, unfortunately, we got a rehash (especially with "Star Trek Into Darkness" aka "Star Trek: The Wrath of a Different Khan"). 


Don't get me wrong: I've very much enjoyed the J.J. Abrams Universe "Trek." I've got the all three on Blu-Ray. But this isn't really "Trek." As well-cast as the Abrams films are, it sometimes feels like I'm watching a good high school drama club performance of a Broadway play. Others must agree, as the box office revenue has dramatically slipped over the course of this trilogy. Now, a fourth film is unlikely.


To coin a subtitle of what is arguably the best "Trek" series: What we're getting now at the theatre is for the "next generation." When Franchise Fatigue sets in, we start getting a "fresh take" on a classic to appeal to a "new generation." But is it necessary to dumb it down to excessive action, and make it light on character and plot, to make it appeal to a new generation?


Maybe so. "Star Trek Beyond" was critically acclaimed. It's my favorite of this new trilogy, and at least attempts to provide some sci-fi substance. And, unfortunately, it bombed. When was the last time "Trek" attempted to have a pure sci-fi concept? "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979. And we all know how that went over.


Many feel "Trek" works best on TV. At least, if you get a "Spock's Brain" kinda dud one week, the show can always redeem itself the following week. And it often has.


The next series, after a well-deserved 12-year break from TV, is "Star Trek: Discovery." Some scuttlebutt has promise; some not so much. We'll see. But now, it's been pushed back from January to May 2017. That could be a good or bad thing as well.


Didn't I just binge-watch a marathon of this show on Netflix?


Probably so. Re-runs are a wonderful thing! But what you're seeing now is a (drumroll, please) remake of that classic show!


I can imagine the conference rooms at CBS a few years back:


"So how long has 'Hawaii Five-0' been off the air?"


"Oh, that went off in the early 80's."


"Great! Let's do a new version. It will intrigue the old farts who remember the original, but this will be mainly for (drumroll again, please) a new generation!"


And, more recently:


"We need another remake for this television season. What have we got?"


"Nothing from our network, but we can raid ABC's."


"Cool. See if you get your hands on 'MacGyver'!"


The 25-year-old executive raises his hand.


"What the hell is 'MacGyver'?"


"Never mind, junior. It's going to be re-tooled for a (drumroll) new generation!"


Ironically, many of these rehashes do, in fact, put a different spin on it. So why not just rename the show and characters?


Elementary, dear reader: It's also about (final drumroll), brand recognition! (But that's a different blog.)


"It worked as a movie. Let's adapt it for TV!"


Sometimes, this is a result of franchise fatigue for a movie series.


Once "Scream" had run its course at the theatre, you can see a watered-down version in the form of an MTV series. (I think it's still on at least.)


We haven't seen a lot of this on the major networks lately. But before you give up hope: "The Exorcist" on FOX. All new characters (I guess Linda Blair wasn't available). But I have to admit: The brand recognition pulled me in. (And the first episode wasn't bad.)


"It worked as a TV Series. Let's make it into a movie!"


The best example: "Charlie's Angels."

  1. 70s TV series; then,

  2. Two ridiculous movies; then,

  3. Back to TV (on the air for about 15 minutes); now,

  4. Yet another movie reboot, this time with woke sensibilities. Yawn.


I'm speechless. I have no speech.


And I have no better example of a show that was fun 40 years ago, but should rest in peace now. So let's move on.


Tarzan for a new generation? Good luck on video sales.


Did anyone know there was a Tarzan movie this summer? A great way to bastardize a classic literary character is to make a Disney version, and later, a new live-action summer popcorn movie with CGI gorillas. Poor Tarzan has gone through this, and much, much more for about a century.




So-called "reality TV" can be traced back to the formation of the medium. But the current trend (which just will not go away) can be traced back to "Survivor" (now in its 33rd season).


So under which category does reality TV belong? Rehash, of course! And if we like one dish, we'll probably like another very similar to it. And another. And another. Etc.


Case in point:

  • "Survivor" - The glorious original.

  • "Big Brother" - "Survivor" in a house.

  • "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" - "Survivor" Dating Game with roses.

  • "Dancing With the Stars" - "Survivor" in the ballroom.

  • Etc.


Not to mention, the "Non-Survivor" stuff all over cable. "Pawn Stars," "Hoarders," "Swamp People." Very similar slice-of-life stuff we just can't eat up fast enough.


Before I paint a picture of being a TV snob, believe me, I enjoy my "junk food for the mind" as much as anyone. And all of these shows are great for these reasons:

  • They're easy to watch.

  • They're easy to not watch, and have on as background noise as you're taking care of chores around the house.

  • You can sometimes feel superior to someone who allows their dirty laundry to be aired for a stipend (especially if you're watching "Swamp People;" you know who you are!).

  • They're instantly forgettable.


And they're cheap to produce! I suspect we'll have reality TV with us until TV itself goes the way of the dinosaur.


And I wouldn't have it any other way! "Big Brother" just wrapped up its Summer season, and is starting its Fall season this week!


Better stop ranting now, before I ... repeat myself.


There's a lot of entertainment out there. If a remake, reboot or rehash makes you feel good for it's familiarity and nostalgia - or - if it's something brand new that intrigues you with its originality, well ... it's all good!


There is actually a fourth "R" - "Revival."


Unfortunately, all four R's are now loosely referred to as "reboots." Now, it seems, we've even become lazy in referring to different kinds of lazy re-dos in popular entertainment.


So, what exactly is a "revival" and how does it differ from a "reboot?"


Townsel's Unabridged Dictionary defines both terms as follows:


Reboot - Same character(s), different (usually younger) actor(s), do-over from the beginning.


Revival - Same characters(s), almost always same actors as before, continuation from the stopping point of the original series run (sometimes many years later).


Still confused? Not surprising, since the networks and entertainment media continue to use the wrong terminology. Here are a few examples of recent and upcoming "revivals" that have been referred to as "reboots."




The Conners (fka Roseanne) - Same characters and actors as the popular sitcom that wrapped its ninth and (until last year) final season 20 plus years ago. In fact, last year's revival was tagged the 10th season (although iMDB still lists the revival as a separate series. C'mon, iMDB, get it straight!). (Side note: the retitling of the show to The Conners is necessitated by the firing of the former star. This is the same show, not a spinoff. It is a continuation of a revival of an old sitcom. (Geez, that's another blog entry, I think!)


Will & Grace - Same deal. Same characters, same actors, many years later.

Murphy Brown - Ditto.

Last Man Standing - Etc. (However, this one partially breaks one rule of a true revival: extensive recasting. Two of the actors playing the daughters won's be returning, and will be played by others. Same characters, though.)


Now, a few examples of actual "reboots."




Magnum P.I. - Complete re-do, with different cast, and presumably, only a partial retelling of the original story. (I know ... why? Oh well, I'll keep an open mind.)

Hawaii Five-0 - So different from the original, one has to wonder why they didn't just make it a completely new series, in name and execution. What's that? Name and brand recognition? Okay, now I get it.

MacGyver - Same deal. Same character, different actor, presumably updated for hip, contemporary audience. ("Hip" is still a contemporary term, isn't it? Hope so. Otherwise, I've seriously dated myself!)

Of course, the concept of "revivals" and "reboots" aren't limited to TV. Many movies fall in these categories as well. This confuses the concept further: In movies, "revivals" are called "sequels", and "reboots" are called "remakes." 


I'm starting to get a headache again.


Anyway, not everything is a reboot. By the same token, not every reboot is anything.