Why do we gravitate to nostalgia? Is it because we find comfort in the familiar? Or is it because we look back on the past as being better than the present and the immediate future? I think it’s most likely a combination of both. In the past 50 years, change has taken place at an exponential rate. As a result, we begin to look back more and more to a time when things seemed less hectic and more stable. Also, with several generations now having grown up with television, the signposts of their (or someone else’s) youth are rarely further away than a flip to Nickelodeon’s TV Land.
Anyway, that’s my theory. Whatever the reason, the frequency and arbitrariness of our nostalgia have only grownjust look at the volume of entertainment that’s defined by a specific past era. We even have a TV sitcom, That ’70s Show, about growing up in a specific decade. What’s even funnier is that it’s really just a rip-off of the ’80s show The Wonder Years, which chronicled growing up in the ’60sand that, of course, was a copycat of the ’70s show Happy Days, about coming of age in the ’50s. Whoa, I think I have vertigo.
The funny thing about all of this is that in the ’50s, when the technological boom set in, trends were centered around anticipation of the future. Now that the future is apparently here, we want to get away from it as often as possible. And where there’s a market, be it for the future or for the past, you can bet that it will get exploited to the hilt. Judging by the spate of projects being talked about in the trade publications lately, you can start expecting a lot more remakes, TV reunions, and big-screen versions of old TV shows.
Remakes of film touchstones from other eras are, I feel, the biggest mistake. By design, a remake should either take good material that feels dated, or was mediocre to start with, and make it a springboard for new ideas, such as Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming Ocean’s Eleven. By comparison, the rumored Smokey & the Bandit remake sounds like a waste of time. The original wasn’t a particularly brilliant concept, but it succeeded on the charisma of Burt Reynolds and the late Jackie Gleason; the same kind of self-effacing celebrities aren’t around today. Or take Will Smith’s idea for an all-black remake of 9 to 5. This is a film defined by its time and place, especially since the role of women in the workplace has drastically changed in the past 20 years. If it has to be done, though, I vote for Vivica A. Fox to fill Dolly’s ample brassierebecause I think she’s got the charm and the bust to pull it off, and after all, she is A. Fox.
Remakes of TV shows have been particularly fruitful, ranging from classy material like The Fugitive to hysterically tongue-in-cheek schlock like The Brady Bunch movies and last year’s big-budget Charlie’s Angels. Ben Stillerhusband of the woman who played Marcia, Marcia, Marcia on the big screensounds like he’s going to take the latter approach with a big-screen Starsky & Hutch starring himself and Vince Vaughn. This has mixed possibilities. Starsky & Hutch was certainly a cliché-ridden display ripe for parody, but how much longer can we laugh at the silly fashions of the ’70s? And as far as the source material goes, it may lean a little too much to the Wild Wild West side of the fence. Why not CHiPs instead? With the Latin boom in recent years, the filmmakers could have a field day with the Erik Estrada role.
Perhaps a more frightening prospect is the ballyhooing David Hasselhoff has been doing about Super Knight Rider 3000. Hasselhoff can’t seem to keep his story straight on this project: Sometimes he says it’s a feature film and other times he says it’s a 12-part miniseries. In any case, he claims that his fan mail attests to the public desire for an updated version of the show, and that he will improve the ultimate driving machine Kitt with Matrix-style special effectsone of which would be to bring back the late actor Edward Mulhare, who played Michael Knight’s boss, as a hologram. Uh, can we say creepy?
Hasselhoff will have to wait, though, since he’s already slated to return for a two-hour Baywatch reunion, which begins shooting in October. Talk about short-term-memory nostalgiathe show just called it quits last spring. Former buxom lifeguards Alexandra Paul, Gena Lee Nolin, Nicole Eggert, Yasmine Bleeth, Donna D’Errico, Traci Bingham, and Carmen Electra will be returning, but Pamela Anderson is reportedly still skeptical. Who needs Anderson? And who needs a Knight Rider remake? With that much silicone on deck, Hasselhoff won’t need a Kitthe can just build his own microchip.
Shouldn’t the Baywatch reunion be making the NC-17 big-screen jump, though? You know, just cut the crap with the running in bathing suits in nipply weather and get everybody naked. Have Joe Esterhasz write the script and Russ Meyer come out of retirement to direct.
Perhaps influenced by recent shows with strong teen female characters such as Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the cast of The Facts of Life have decided to get back together for a special. This corny ’80s sitcom detailed the escapades of schoolmarm Mrs. Garrett and her angsty pubescent girls, who were neatly depicted as two-dimensional caricatures: the insecure chubby one (Natalie), the black one (Tootie), the stuck-up pretty one (Blair), and the lesbian (Jo). Despite its innate, formulaic unfunniness, the show lasted for an inexplicable eight seasons. There’s no word on the plot, but unfortunately it seems certain that George Clooney will be unable to reprise his role as the ’80s hipster dork. Big mistake, Georgie; you should never forget your roots.
Lastly, the aforementioned Brady Bunch gang will be back in a TV movie, in which the annoyingly oblivious, gee-whiz family end up in the White House after the previous president leaves in a haze of scandal. Where’s the joke?
TV shows can indeed be a source of fond memories. You spend your lives sitting in front of the television every week catching your favorite program or whatever’s popular at the time. Unlike films or songs, which tend to define a specific year, TV shows can go on for several years and become associated with a specific decade. In honor of the approaching fall season, beginning Sept. 3, the A&E network is airing a weeklong string of Biography episodes devoted to popular shows of yore. You’ll get to find out fascinating tidbits behind such small-screen sensations as Happy Days, Cheers, Laverne & Shirley, Love Boat, and That Girlall huge hits with the kind of success to which I’m sure the newcomers this September aspire.
“What’s the ugliest part of your body? Some say your nose. Some say your toes. But I think it’s your mind.”
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