The Reboot of the Reboot is Being REBOOTED!

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It’s long been common practice for the movie industry to develop remakes or reboots of franchises (BATAN, BEN-HUR, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) and television development executives are following their lead. It seems as though every day a network is announcing a reboot of an old tv series or an adaptation of an 80s or 90s movie for television. The short list include tv revivals of HART TO HART (with a gay twist); FULL HOUSE (now called FULLER HOUSE); TWIN PEAKS; THE X-FILES; PRISON BREAK; THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR; XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS: THE A-TEAM; MACGYVER; AMAZING STORIES; GILMORE GIRLS (as a limited series on NETFLIX); and this season’s THE MUPPETS and HEROES: REBORN.

In the past, most of these shows would have just returned as television movies, but with the expanded platforms from which viewers have to choose, everyone is looking for content with built-in name and brand recognition.

Among the movies being adapted into tv series are: MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING; LETHAL WEAPON; ALL OF ME (1984 movie starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin); FATAL ATTRACTION; and CRUEL INTENTIONS, which was previously developed as a tv series called MANCHESTER PREP for FOX but the pilot was ultimately released as a movie on home video.

It’s not uncommon to see popular movies in the tv development pipeline. Often times they don’t make it to series but again, they’re a known quantity and it helps networks and other content platforms with their marketing efforts if they don’t have to spend a lot of time introducing the concept to the audience.  In the old days, this was often done with spinoff series, but that practice seems to have lost favor.

Development executives must be having a difficult time getting writers to pitch exciting original ideas.  And, with the myriad of content providers, experienced show runners are in higher demand.  This is both good and bad. It gives new talent an opportunity to shine behind the scenes, but sometimes that lack of experience can show in the execution. On the  other hand, we get new concepts such as BLACK-ISH (ABC), CLUB DE CUEROS (NETFLIX) and TRANSPARENT (AMAZON).

The burning question is just how much do viewers care about revisiting some of the brands being adapted and rebooted. This season has seen mixed results with MINORITY REPORT on FOX finding its episode order reduced after poor ratings results and LIMITLESS on CBS getting a full season pickup this week. My guess is that fans will flock to GILMORE GIRLS since the series didn’t get the satisfactory conclusion it deserved. FULLER HOUSE will probably garner some interest but since the show went off the air series star Candace Cameron Bure has become quite polarizing because of her religious and political leanings.  I still don’t get the PRISON BREAK reboot. The series had such a limited concept to begin with and ran out of creative steam by the end of season 2 of its four year run.

None of the movie adaptations really excite me.  FATAL ATTRACTION could have some soapy fun but seems limited in scope. There are stalking laws that can resolve this story by the end of the pilot.  ALL OF ME seems an odd pick for an adaptation. Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin made for a fun comedic duo, but no one remembers the film.

It will be interesting to see how far some of these projects get in the development process. Hopefully, among all the reboots and adaptations we’ll see original projects as exciting as EMPIRE, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER and BLOODLINE. There are a lot of writers out there with fresh ideas, I hope network heads are encouraging their development executives to seriously consider these projects.

Are you excited for any of the reboots or adaptations? Are there any other shows or movies you’d like to see on the small screen?  Comment below.

Also, check back to read some of my ideas for series I think would be fun reboots or television adaptations. Oh, and bonus points for anyone who can name the inspiration for the title of this article.

QUANTICO Delivers as TV’s Newest Mystery Drama

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Prior to its premiere and based on the ABC promos it was easy to dismiss QUANTICO as nothing more than “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH TERRORISM.” After all, at first glance the setup for the series sounds like a ripoff of HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.  Instead of lawyers, an aspiring group of FBI agent trainees are at the center of a murder mystery that is told in present time and flashbacks, just like the Viola Davis led legal drama.  QUANTICO even has an African American woman as the head of the FBI training program.

But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that after three episodes QUANTICO stands on its own as a solid mystery series with Indian actress Priyanka Chopra at the center of the mystery.  ABC casting gets an A+ for casting Chopra who was unknown to American audiences, but will soon be gracing the covers of every magazine imaginable.  We learn in the pilot that Chopra’s character, FBI agent Alex Parrish is the prime suspect for a bombing at Grand Central Station in NYC. We learn through flashbacks that none of Alex’s FBI classmates are who or what they seem, each carrying multiple secrets and identities.

QUANTICO reminds me of the first season of LOST.  It has richly multilayered characters, a compelling plot and unpredictable twists at every turn.  I just hope that the writers and producers figure out a way to resolve this initial mystery without dragging it on for six or seven seasons.  I suggest they learn a lesson from THE KILLING which decided to play out  its initial murder mystery over the course of two seasons, losing most of its viewers along the way.  HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER has expertly wrapped up its original murder mystery, and set up new stories while allowing the characters to still be affected by the events of season one.

It seems as though the producers have mapped out enough of the QUANTICO story so that it doesn’t feel like they’re making it up from week to week (yes BLOOD & OIL I’m looking at you!). The show has a quick pace and edge of your seat storytelling that keeps me engaged throughout the hour.

With a cast of mostly unknowns (Priyanka Chopra is a huge star in India), QUANTICO has been able to quickly give you characters to love and love to hate.  Aside from Chopra, other cast standouts include resident hunk Jake McLaughlin as Agent Ryan Booth, Tate Ellington as the “is he really gay” Simon Asher and Aunjanue Ellis as Quantico Training Director Miranda Shaw.

Strong writing, sharp directing and solid acting from the ensemble gives me hope that QUANTICO will deliver an exciting freshman season.  It’s fun to follow the story and wonder where it will go next.

QUANTICO airs Sunday nights at 10pm EST on ABC.

UNDATEABLE LIVE Debuts its First Half Hour Episode!

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This week UNDATEABLE LIVE premiered its first half hour episode. Its previous live episodes were one-hour.  Last week I mentioned that I thought the plot for the season premiere was a little thin to sustain a full hour, but expected that once the show returned to its normal half hour format it would find its groove, and it was a successful outing.

This week there were fewer technical issues, but there were some. I can be forgiving because even the most seasoned theatre professionals make mistakes during live performances.  That’s the beauty of watching live performances, sometimes they’re flawless, while sometime the most memorable moments come from an unrehearsed moment.

This week’s cameo was from former SCRUBS star Sarah Chalke and it was cute.  i like the guest stars and the fact that the cast openly embraces the fact that they’re live and often acknowledges it throughout the show.  There’s not another sitcom cast having as much fun as the cast of UNDATEABLE.

This week’s musical guest was Irish rock band Kodaline. They were a little low-key for my taste, especially for a show with so much energy. I’d still think they should put the musical act on the stage on the bar set to help their presence feel more organic.

The pacing of the half hour live format was much better than the season premiere while still keeping all the elements of the show that makes it special. The beauty of doing the show live is that the writers and producers can figure out what works and what doesn’t in real time and can address it for the next week’s episode.

Since the show is scheduled on Friday nights, I think NBC should have a marketing campaign that reminds viewers to set their DVRs and that the show is available on other platforms.  If you’re home on Friday nights and you’re debating between watching LAST MAN STANDING on ABC or UNDATEABLE LIVE on NBC, you have to go with UNDATEABLE because it will actually make you laugh.

UNDATEABLE LIVE Premieres and Other Broadcast Sitcoms Should Take Notice!

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This past spring UNDATEABLE aired a one hour live episode which was a creative success leading to NBC picking up the show for the 2015 season as television’s only live sitcom.  The show used the one hour format for this week’s season premiere, and while it wasn’t at the same level as this past spring’s one hour episode, it still gets major points for daring to be different.  One of the reason’s the spring edition of the live episode held up so well creatively is because the hour was jam packed with surprises ranging from guest stars, including SCANDAL’S Scott Foley as himself to musical performances from British pop star Ed Sheeran.

The season premiere was more business as usual, which was fine, because the things I love most about UNDATEABLE are the simplicity of the setup and the amazing chemistry among the cast.  I think the overall plot of whether Justin (Brent Morin) and Candace (Bridgit Mendler) dating would eventually impact their relationships within their group of friends was a bit thin for an hourlong episode.  There were a couple of funny subplots but, again, I think the hour format with fewer guest stars slowed down the pacing this time around. But, I did laugh at a lot of the jokes and that;s what matters.  It’s quite evident that the cast thrives on the energy of the live performance, and given that a number of them are standup comics, it makes since.  I think once the show goes back to its half hour format, the pacing will be quicker and sharper.

It seems that having the actors break the fourth wall and watching them break character and laugh at each other will be a part of the DNA of these live episodes and that’s great.  However, I do wonder if the directing could be a little tighter when it comes to cutting to commercial breaks and throwing to the musical acts.  The show plans on having live musical guests each week and this week it was duo Nico and Vinz who performed as part of the opening credits and again at the end of the show.  The live show last spring did such an amazing job of incorporating live music into the plot that my expectation was that it would continue into this season.  I know it’s probably difficult to weave musicians into the plots of every episode, but I hope the writers figure out a way to do it more often than not.

But these are minor issues. Overall, kudos goes to everyone involved with UNDATEABLE LIVE for being daring enough to produce a weekly live, multi camera sitcom. They embrace the tightrope that is live television and it’s quite clear that if any cast can succeed at it, it is this one.  The universe did something right when leads Chris D’Elia and Brent Morin were cast as the most contemporary and funniest odd couple on television.  They play off each other as if they’ve been a comedy duo for a decade.  You can see the sparkle in their eyes as they try to take each other down during their bits, often improvising and making each other break character. The rest of the cast is equally gifted and I hope we get to see them showcased more in upcoming episodes.

I haven’t been happy with a number of returning broadcast sitcoms this season. A few episodes in and a number of them have fallen creatively flat.  They should look to UNDATEABLE LIVE for inspiration. I’m not suggesting they go live, but they should look for ways to reenergize the characters, stories and execution of their shows.  With so many new viewing platforms and options, no show should take their viewers for granted. They should be willing to take some risks and if executed well, the audience will come along for the ride.

UNDATEABLE LIVE is the ONLY returning sitcom I’m excited about this season. Although the setting is familiar, the execution by the writers, producers and actors makes the show exciting and there’s an anticipation not knowing what can possibly happen in each episode.  So, other sitcoms, take notice. It’s a new day and it’s time to raise your game because UNDATEABLE has thrown down the gauntlet.

UNDATEABLE LIVE airs Fridays at 8pm EST on NBC.

Here’s a clip from the season premiere of UNDATEABLE LIVE:

GOTHAM is the MOST IMPROVED SHOW of the NEW SEASON!

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When GOTHAM premiered last year I was reluctant to watch the story of Gotham City before the Dark Knight rises.  The early episodes of the first season gave us the origin stories of some of the most popular Batman villains (The Riddler, The Penguin, The Joker, Catwoman) started their journeys as sociopathic criminals. The prequel also introduced us to Detective Jim Gordon who in earnest tries to put the bad guys away.  The only problem with this premise for me was that we all know the reason Batman exists is because Gordon and the other members of the Gotham Police force are incapable of cleaning up the streets of Gotham City. Each week there the show would give us a crime/mystery often taken from the comic book series with some resolution by the end of the episode. These weren’t the most compelling mysteries and I soon found myself easily deleted the recorded episodes from my dvr.  I just didn’t care about crime sprees in Gotham City without Batman. The show’s stories seemed less focused than rival CW series ARROW and THE FLASH.  The two bright spots were performances by Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, an original character created specially for the show and Robin Lord Taylor as The Penguin. Unfortunately, Fish Mooney didn’t make it to season two.

I heard that there would be major creative changes for the second season of GOTHAM and decided I would check out the first few episodes and if I wasn’t immediately gripped, the series would be permanently deleted from my dvr and my mind. I’m happy to report that the season premiere reset the series with focus on a collection of criminals who found themselves locked up at the Arkam Asylum at the end of season one. The episode also set up real stakes and jeopardy for hero Detective Gordon and made movement towards young Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming the Dark Knight. But, what sealed GOTHAM’S “Most Improved Series” status was the second episode which saw the afore mentioned criminals wreaking havoc on the citizens of Gotham City all culminating in a shootout resulting the deaths of a number of characters. Real stakes; real jeopardy.

The show seems to have done away with the “case of the week” stories and will focus solely on the rise of Gotham’s most infamous villians. Viewers no longer have suffer through the origin stories and can just sit back and enjoy their dastardly and often deadly impact on Gotham City.  Of particular note this season is the performance of Cameron Monaghan as Jerome Valeska, soon to be known as The Joker.  His take on the iconic sociopath steals every scene he’s in and could become regarded as one of the most memorable versions of The Joker in the history of the franchise. Jim Gordon now holds a dark secret that makes his vulnerable to The Penguin and allows for his ultimate failure to bring down Gotham’s criminal underworld to make more sense. Season 2 of GOTHAM has a clear purpose now and is now much more interesting.  I’m looking forward to going along on the wild ride the writers have set up.

GOTHAM airs on FOX, Monday at 8pm EST.

Check out a promo for season 2 of GOTHAM below.