Danger, Will Robinson! TV and Movie Remakes are Getting Out of Control

On the advice of a friend I began watching the NetFlix remake of the classic TV series Lost in Space.

After watching the first two episodes I will say this…it has one thing the original series (1965-68) didn’t have – a budget.

Money, as we all know, changes everything.

Sometimes for the better…sometimes not.

Having a little bit of do-re-mi to throw behind it, NetFlix has created a show with some great special effects, really good costumes and extremely believable settings. Things blatantly absent from the original series – even though it was considered “lavish” at the time.

But here’s the thing…not having big budget effects (the laser guns were about as high tech as it got back then), costumes (many of the “aliens” encountered by the Space Family Robinson wore costumes borrowed from some of Producer Irwin Allen’s other TV shows of the era) and settings (there was no CGI to create realistic space scenes or planet-scapes in those days, so most of the worlds visited by the Robinson’s had a very familiar look to them) is a big part of what made the original series so much fun to watch.

There was a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor about the original series, which also added to its appeal. In its third, and final season it was up against the ever-so-campy Batman so the big wheels at CBS  must have figured if you can’t beat ‘em – join ‘em. I once saw an interview with Mark Goddard (Major Don West) where he said there were times when he would discretely cover his mouth with his hand, and turn away from the camera in order to hide his laughter.

So what’s the bottom line?

Am I saying the original series is better than the new one?

Actually – no, I’m not.

So, I’m saying the new one is better?

Uhh…no, not saying that either.

Lemee ‘splain…

As I said before – in the world of Hollywood (or in this case NetFlix) it’s all about the Benjamins. I’ve never sat in on a production meeting but I imagine one would sound something like this;

HEAD SUIT: “All right people, we need something new. Who’s got the next big thing?”

GUY-IN-SUIT #1: “Remember that old show My Mother the Car? Why don’t we remake that?”

HEAD SUIT: “Was it popular enough to still have a viable audience?”

GUY-IN-SUIT #1: “Probably not.”

HEAD SUIT: “Next.”

GUY-IN-SUIT #2: “How about Mr. Ed?”

HEAD SUIT: “The talking horse? How would you like to go back to the mail room?”

GUY-IN-SUIT #3: “Hey. How about Lost in Space? It was pretty popular, and with Star Wars refusing to die we should be able to really cash in.”

HEAD SUIT: *nodding* “You might be on to something there.”

 

How does this answer the question of which is better?

It doesn’t.

Because asking which version is the best is like asking “Was the 1965 Corvette better than a 2018 ‘Vette?”

If you asked 20 people this question you’d get 25 different answers.

The same holds true for remaking old TV shows and movies. Whether they are better or worse depends entirely upon who you ask.

For me – the new Lost in Space strayed too far away from the original story for me to form an objective opinion. I’ve enjoyed it so far, but only after I stopped making mental comparisons to the original.

But in all honesty – this post is not really about which show is better. It’s about a question I’ve asked in several other blog posts:

Why, in a time when there are more authors and more original story ideas than ever before, is it necessary to remake a show (or a movie) that has been off the air for 50 years?

I’m not a fan of remakes. I mean, if I said ‘for my next book I’m going to rewrite Moby Dick’ would you buy it?

Probably not…

So why would you pay to see the rehashing of something you’ve probably already seen before (new story lines notwithstanding)?

With all that being said, here is my other point…I have decided to pitch my novel Unfinished Business to all the major (and some of the minor) networks and see what happens.

Who knows? Maybe a guy in a suit will avoid the mail room by suggesting something totally new instead of remaking The Flying Nun.

Wish me luck.

 

As always – thank you for reading

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Danger, Will Robinson! TV and Movie Remakes are Getting Out of Control

  1. I’ve had these same thoughts about remakes for quite some time … it’s as though no one can come up with an original idea any more.

    Best of luck with the pitching! This was the first book I read of yours, and it was its cover that attracted me to you and your writing in the first place (remember, way back when?), so I’ve always had a soft spot for “Unfinished Business” and I wish it well!

  2. juliathorley

    I guess if you’re old enough to remember the original of anything, it’s hard to accept a rewrite/update, even if objectively the second one is pretty good. What bothers me is that while companies are (lazily) going over old coals, new writers aren’t getting a look in.
    I’m also struggling with the re-do of old Disney classics. On BBC Radio 4 this morning (here in the UK), they were talking about this very topic and how the remakes are often grittier than the originals, even in children’s films. I’m not sure I’m ready for ‘Dumbo: The Dark Years’.

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