It seems movies are far from done when it comes to mining old TV shows and somehow finding new angles for a franchise. But Hollywood learned quite a while ago that when you do a remake of an old TV show, it has to be completely reinvented to a point where you hardly notice that it’s a so-called tribute to the original series. When it was first announced that a movie version of “21 Jump Street” would release a number of years back, most people likely envisioned a straight drama. Once announced it was going to be a comedy, it ultimately became the best move mainstream Hollywood ever made in adapting a TV show.
The above is really saying something when the track record for adapting TV shows into movies is a very rocky road. Out of all TV shows adapted for the big screen, you can say that only a quarter of them all became huge to moderate successes. When it could utilize the original cast (as in the “Star Trek” movies and the Muppet movies), it became a richer experience. And when there were at least cameos from the original stars, it assured there was a direct line to the original show to give fans of the said show a better feeling.
When Hollywood first started out adapting TV shows in the 1980s, they were already onto the idea of turning them into comedies. We can probably thank Monty Python for that with their 1970s and ’80s movies becoming monster classics and almost exceeding the memory of the TV show. It was really “Dragnet”, though, that tipped off the idea of taking an old drama series and turning it into a comedy. Released in 1987 (starring Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd), it was far from perfect and hardly remembered now. Yet it inspired a later movie that became the true emblem in how to turn an old TV show into a satire.
“The Brady Bunch Movie”
The biggest breakthrough in turning TV shows into satires for the big screen was “The Brady Bunch Movie” in 1995. They wisely reinvented the entire concept of the original show into having the Bradys thinking they’re still living in the 1970s while really living in the 1990s. As a perfect setup for a scathing satire on 1970s culture, having most of the original cast participating in cameos added a whole other surreal layer that made it one of the best satirical TV retreads ever. In fact, there hasn’t been much to match it other than the “21/22 Jump Street” franchise.
Not that there hasn’t been numerous attempts to bring satire to other big screen adaptations of TV shows. The Brady movie set off a new wave of going that direction, even if it didn’t always work. When some failed, it perhaps threw Hollywood for a loop in realizing satire still isn’t a surefire concept loved by all. Those who’ve always loved satire already know how satire can either sizzle or fizzle depending on the approach and even what the source material is.
The Failure of Satire in Other TV Show Adaptations
There’s still something to be said about those who’ve watched a show so many times that even a big screen satire can ultimately ruin the experience for them. It’s possible “The Brady Bunch Movie” only succeeded because the original cast members poked fun at themselves, making it a better experience for those who grew up with the original show originally or in reruns. When none of the original cast members are aboard, some might think Hollywood is trying to fry the legacy of the original show, no matter how cheesy the show might have been originally.
When even Will Ferrell can’t manage to save satires like “Land of the Lost” or “Bewitched”, you know TV show adaptations are still on a tenuous path. With so many still having good memories of the above shows, using satire without participation of any original cast members seems to give a foul taste. One of the most egregious examples of this was “Dark Shadows” and giving it a wild satiric streak from the mind of Tim Burton. Because an older generation grew up with the original show and took it very seriously, going with satire was brilliant in the abstract, yet ultimately a colossal mistake.
Based on “Dark Shadows” bombing at the box office, you have to wonder how Hollywood reacted to a “22 Jump Street” proposal. What separates that from the others is it’s a TV show from a more recent era. Shows from the 1960s and ’70s might seem too sacred now for Baby Boomers and Generation X as they become older. Those who grew up later are probably ready now to take on the shows of the 1980s and ’90s, which are decades we’re already starting to mock in fiction.
Get ready for more satires of TV shows, though probably mining the 1980s and ’90s TV vaults. Producers should probably check with the fans first, however, to see just how seriously they took the show before deciding to run it through a satiric ringer with a comedy team-up.