Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weirdest news I've heard all day

And here I thought ABC's resurrection of "Cupid" was a pleasantly surprising one-time oddity. Turns out it could be the start of a trend. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Fox is going to resurrect "The Pitts,"a short-lived mid-season sitcom from 2003 starring Dylan Baker, the late Kelly Waymire and Lizzy Caplan as the world's unluckiest family -- only now it's going to be a cartoon.

It actually makes a weird kind of sense. "The Pitts" was created by former "Simpsons" showrunner Mike Scully and his wife Julie, and it always felt like something that would work better as a cartoon. From my review way back when:

It's a memorable premise, but one that might play better in animation. Scully used to run "The Simpsons," and like other "Simpsons" alums, he's still figuring out what's funny when it happens to a cartoon character versus what's funny when a flesh-and-blood person does it. It's easy to imagine laughing at Homer and Marge turning into frenzied, lustful werewolves, but when it happens to Bob and Liz, it's uncomfortable.
The problem with most remakes is that the new people choose to redo something that was great the first time, where the real way to go is to take something that had a good concept but failed to execute it properly, like Ron Moore has done with "Battlestar Galactica." I'm not saying an animated "Pitts" is going to be a classic -- I was never a big fan of the Scully era of "The Simpsons," in which Jerkass Homer ran amok the most -- but it's not a terrible idea.

("Cupid," on the other hand, was a show with great execution, but was stuck on a network in no position to schedule and promote it properly. I don't know that the remake could be as good as the original, but it'd be a much better fit on this ABC's schedule than the one from 1998.)

So here's today's very open thread question: if you could pick one failed TV show from the past to remake because there was an obvious flaw that could be corrected, or because it had a cool concept that its creators didn't know what to do with, what would it be and how would you change it? To keep this entertaining and surprising, let's try to stick with shows more in the "Pitts" vein than the "Cupid" model, or else it'll just turn into a Brilliant But Canceled roll call. Don't go with "My So-Called Life" or "Undeclared" or whatever; pick something that deserved to fail the first time, but could have been much better with the right creative team behind it.

39 comments:

Andrea said...

I'll go with the obvious - Studio 60 as a newsroom show instead of a SNL clone. Then Sorking could have had all those witty, political dialogues.

Adam said...

I hate to go reality on this, but my first instinct is to fix "The Scholar," whose idea I kinda had first, but I really believe a reality competition involving high school seniors competing for an admissions slot (not a scholarship) to a prestigious school could make for great tv. Just drop the inspirational bullshit and focus on the competitive aspects. Here's my March 2004 treatment.

Also, Treasure Hunters was 3/4 of the way to being a great show, but parts of it just felt way too faked.

Adam said...

(actually, upon reflection, it was April 1 -- I announced it as an April Fools joke, but was totally serious about the concept.)

Toby said...

I was going to say "It's About Time", but the network suits (May they be nibbled to death by ducks!) have already taken the second half of the series and made it even worse as "Cavemen".

"Brimstone" was done better as "Reaper"; "My Mother The Car" as "Knight Rider". (To me anyway, that's a wash.)

Doesn't leave me much to work with.....

With the possibility of a Hillary presidency in the future, how about revamping "Hail To The Chief?" Oh wait - "Commander In Chief"... damn.

Okay, how about "Manimal"? Retool it, give it some hip, ironic humor so that it doesn't take its subject matter too seriously a la "Reaper", and spare no expense on the CGI. Make sure there are more transitional "manimal" forms than full-out animals.

Anonymous said...

Hmm. This is a tough question. I was thinking the other day while watching Gossip Girl that it was pretty much the show Fox was trying to make with the aborted Cruel Intentions spin-off a few years ago. That pilot has since been turned into a tv-movie (Cruel Intentions 2) and it's easy to see why it never aired. The writing and acting were terrible (which makes it amusing that Amy Adams has now become and Oscar nominee) and the production values were equally bad. It's also ironic that a CW show has the budget to film in NYC while the Fox one was stuck filming in Toronto.

I also remember thinking when Popular was on the air that its blend of comedy and drama was a lot closer to what the tv version of Clueless should have been than the lame half hour that ABC tried to put on the air.

Andrew said...

NBC's "Working" was a decent half hour comedy, attempting to be a sort of live action Dilbert, but they lost several of the actors in a retolling between the first and second seasons (there were only two), and it starred Fred Savage, who will simply never be anything but the kid from the Wonder Years. I don't care if he is directing now. He can win an Academy Award and the headline will read "Kevin Arnold wins Oscar." Get a different star and find some great comedians to put around him and you could have a worthwhile half hour of TV comedy (a rarity these days...)

bill said...

Action! was about 5 years too early. Do it again and put it on FX and it's a hit.

Anonymous said...

Alan to what extent (if any) is this 'second chance' trend possibly prompted by the looming strike?

Gish said...

Speaking of Cupid, how's this for creepy/great casting? Enrico Colantoni as Trevor and Kristen Bell as Claire. Don't say they don't have chemistry...

BigTed said...

"Love Monkey" was a show that kept growing on me, right up until its cancellation. But the B-stories about the lead character's friends (like the one played by Jason Priestley) really dragged. If they had done away with those -- and had more cameos by actual music stars playing themselves -- I think the show could have survived for several years.

nathan said...

I have always been obsessed with a sitcom called "The Secret Lives of Men" that was on ABC for about five minutes back in the day. It starred Peter Gallagher and Bradley Whitford as yuppie scum, essentially, and I thought it was perhaps one of the funniest shows I'd ever seen. Not everyone agreed, I suppose.

I don't know how, or how it should be retooled (sorry), but I would love to see it back.

Do you remember it by chance, Alan?

Lizbeth said...

I was also thinking that the looming writer's strike has sparked this "recycling" of old material.

Dan Coyle said...

With Family Guy asserting a frightening amount of dominance over the airwaves, doing The Pitts as a cartoon seems a logical yet horrific miscalculation. The show's gags were very much of the FG variety.

People won't accept FG clones unless they're by Seth MacFarlane himself.

But to do it live action again would be without Miss Waymire, which just makes me sad. I had this huge crush on her when she appeared in the XF epsiode "Surekill" (one of the stronger episodes of the Doggett era).

As for show I'd "fix"? Studio 60. Keep the pilot as is, yet go in a completely different direction from there. Harriet leaves after episode six. Jordan is busted down to recurring status, but Jack Rudolph, Action Executive, takes a stronger role.

All the elements were there for a great show. Just didn't have a great showrunner.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan to what extent (if any) is this 'second chance' trend possibly prompted by the looming strike?

First, even though I used the word "trend" in my post, it occurs to me that technically, you need three for a trend.

Either way, I don't see this as being particularly useful strike insurance. Rob Thomas still has to go and rewrite the original series, and presumably the Scullys will have to do new scripts, too. This isn't like when the new "Mission: Impossible" just remade old '60s "M:I" scripts in the late '80s.

Alan Sepinwall said...

People won't accept FG clones unless they're by Seth MacFarlane himself.

Well, they accepted a Simpsons clone that wasn't by Groening and company. :)

Tom said...

Going back a ways here, but I thought "The Famous Teddy Z" was totally a missed opportunity. Any show that has Alex Rocco in his prime as a sharkish Hollywood agent and yet still manages to flame out after a single season had to be doing a lot of things wrong.

Anyway, the basic premise -- decent kid from the mailroom gets made full agent after catching the eye of a big star -- still has merit. I'd redo it as a single-camera laugh-track free show. Make the star not a Marlon Brando clone, but a Lindsay Lohan/Britney Spears party girl in and out of rehab. Put it on cable, so you can have sex. drugs, etc. And for god's sake, drop the sitcom schtick.

Anonymous said...

I think Pasadena was just a couple of years ahead of its time. I don't think I'd necessarily change anything about it other than not dumping it on Fridays on Fox immediately after 9/11.

Toby said...

"This isn't like when the new "Mission: Impossible" just remade old '60s "M:I" scripts in the late '80s."

I remember during that same time, the producers of 'Sonny Spoon' were ready to recycle old 'Rockford Files' scripts for their show!

Scary to think what they might resort to....

Alan Sepinwall said...

"Action" and "Pasadena" both fit the "Cupid," ahead-of-its-time model. Good shows, but I'm looking more for something like "The Pitts" or "Galactica," something that would need more than a new era and network to work.

Dave said...

I was one of the few who thought that "That 80s Show" had promise, but I don't know that I'd redo it since a lot of my good will toward it was due to good casting.

I'd argue that the team behind "Wonder Showzen" could do wonders with the rights to "Lidsville", but it'd almost seem kind of redundant considering what they already do on "Showzen".

Wait, I know! "Push, Nevada"! Was really cool (if derivative), so I'd say bring it back but nix the play-along-at-home aspect of it. Granted, that kind of game stuff goes over well nowadays (what seemed intrusive and weird at the time would fit in with all the "text in your entry" type commercials we're subjected to at every commercial break now). But I think it would stand more of a chance now, especially since there's been more serialized mysteries on the market (aka Lost); "Push, Nevada" was a little drawn out but it still managed to give more satisfying answers in 6 episodes than "Lost" has in, well, ever.

Anonymous said...

Actually, this question has me wondering about an upcoming show: The Return of Jezebel James.

Pretty much every critic has said that filming it multi-camera was a mistake. Is there any word on whether or not they're going to switch to single camera before it airs? There's so much great talent involved in the show that it would be a real waste if they blew it because they made a poor choice about how to film it.

Homertojeebus said...

I love this thread idea. I thought "Raines" had a great show inside itself somewhere. Jeff Goldblum has always been an interesting actor. I loved him as a kid in "Tenspeed and Brownshoe".
Raines would have been great on Showtime or Fx, where they wouldn't have to spoonfeed the audience or throw in lots of cop show cliches.

Donlee said...

I'd say "Windfall" or "Reunion," shows with great concepts but terrible showrunners.

Devin McCullen said...

I don't know about a remake, but while I enjoyed Committed, what I really thought they should do was just take Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finigan and build a new show around them that wasn't trying quite so hard.

Carl said...

Can reality shows be retooled as part of this experiment? I was a big fan of The Mole (Anderson Cooper, non-celebrity version), and every time I see Amazing Race win an Emmy, I think: The Mole would have given it a run for its money.

Make the host a little less visible, put the individuals into a little less comfortable environs and make it a world-wide stage and I think it would be a great fit in prime time.

Matty said...

I'd love to see an update of Misfits of Science, but I'm guessing the time is past with all the superhero/superpower shows coming out all at once. I anticipate a backlash. But how can you go wrong with a group of people with superpowers driving around in an ice cream truck helping solve mysteries. This would be much better than trying to keep up a mythology that makes viewers lose patience, a la Heroes.

R.A. Porter said...

I've got two similar sitcoms that might work. The first probably more as a drama - The Charmings. I think a darker, less tongue-in-cheek version could work really well with a nice blend of fantasy and reality - a lot like the Vertigo title Fables.

The other show, which I think would work best as a revamped single-camera is Hi Honey, I'm Home.

TuckPendleton said...

Not part of this discussion, but could be filed under "Happiest news (clip?) I've seen today":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFQVSvG5x54

Anonymous said...

I would go with V. If the series was done more like the original miniseries, with its heavy fascist overtones, and less like the comic book the second mini series was, it could have been some great TV instead of a cheeze-fest

R.A. Porter said...

Is it too soon to remake the crappy Flash Gordon SciFi is airing?

Andrew said...

Your Reaper/House post reminded me: Bring back the Joe Schmo Show!!! Put it on a network people actually watch, and that's about it. Maybe do a performance reality show parody where all of the contestants live in a house as well as perform. Maybe "Live Your Dream" so they can parody American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Americas Got Talent, American Inventor, Top Chef and all of those shows. And bring back Matt Kennedy Gould! I don't care how. He was six kinds of awesome.

Dave said...

Short lived FOX sitcom "Cracking Up" had a killer cast but needed new writers badly.

BF said...

Playmakers - this time, put it on a network with no affiliation to the NFL.

Skin - This could work on a HBO/Showtime, as long as "His father is the DISTRICT ATTORNEY!!!" isn't played one bazillion times.

The Benefactor - Mark Cuban just needs to find the right reality show and he'll be a star!

Woops! - that old FOX sitcom about a post-apocalyptic world. Galactica-ize it.

Lindy said...

I thought "Drive" could have worked if they had ditched the ensemble element and chosen to focus on Nathan Fillion.

Brian said...

"Mister Sterling" from NBC back around 2000 or so. I don't think it really deserved to fail, at least not as much as others, but I think it could be a helluva show with Aaron Sorkin writing it now.

dez said...

"Harsh Realm" would be great revamped. Hell, they could even CGI the whole thing (that way, D. B. Sweeney could still be involved, doing voice work) :-)

cgeye said...

PROFIT, with less reticence.

It seems tame, now.

PastaQueen said...

I always wished "Birds of Prey" had been done better. Oracle and Black Canary are awesome superheroines who are written so well in the comics by Gail Simone. It would have been great to have a cool, ass-kicking female team of superheroes on TV.

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