Having a Revival

We’ve had the remakes, reboots and reimaginings. The hot “re” trend in entertainment this year is the one making all the buzz over in Television: revivals. And really, it’s funny that it took so long to catch on, because when you look all the other “re” formats, the goal has been the same (trying to capture, capitalize on, or remind people of what made the original such hits),  so what took everyone so long to just forget about trying to build a new one and just bringing back the original instead?

Well, while there has been the occasional revival popping up here or there over the past decade, there needed to be one that was significant enough, successful enough to spur it into the next big trend.

And that something happened in early 2016, when FOX brought back one of its most successful, iconic series ever –  The X-Files – for a 6-episode 10th season. Coming almost 15 years after it ended its 9-season run and nearly 8 years since the last appearance of its co-stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dan Scully (in the second X-Files film, 2008’s Fight the Future), the revival was a ratings bonanza. Plans were made for an 11th season (which will launch in 2018 with 10 episodes), and suddenly nostalgia was big in the network boardrooms. Now, in 2017 we know what made the short list for the first wave of revivals – so let’s take a look at where we are, and just what kind of revivals we’re dealing with, shall we?

The “Be Careful What You Wish For” Revival

Twin Peaks
Original Run: 1990 -1991 (2 Seasons)

The return of Twin Peaks after over 25 years had fans and media alike all abuzz, not only because of the groundbreaking nature of  the David Lynch/Mark Frost series, but  because the original left so many loose ends and had ended on a killer of a cliffhanger, with FBI  Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) seemingly possessed by the malevolent BOB, the entity responsible for the death of teen queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) that kicked off the series proper.

Everyone was eager to return to that serene yet unsettling Pacific Northwest hamlet and revisit the admirable and eager Dale Cooper, catch up with fan fave characters like Audrey Horne and to finally get some answers. Unfortunately…

Praised by many for what it was (ambitious, audacious, engrossing), Twin Peaks Season 3 still disappointed many in what it wasn’t. Specifically, it wasn’t a show mainly set in Twin Peaks and it didn’t showcase star Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper  (which I would think would be the two “givens” in reviving a show such as this – y’know, setting it in the title town and featuring it’s one true lead character). Instead we got:

  • A season that spent a lot of time in Las Vegas and South Dakota (along with New York and various other cities, big and small)  with only the occasional detour back to Twin Peaks – not counting  the regular closing credits run at the most happening music venue in the Pacific Northwest, The Roundhouse.
  • Kyle MacLachlan as bona-fide Dale Cooper for a total of only 3 episodes. Out of 18.  Appearing as his evil doppelganger Mr. C was fine and necessary. But instead of having that turn balanced out with our guy Coop, we had to endure over a dozen episodes of MacLachlan as Cooper’s shuffling, infuriating, barely functioning simpleton doppelganger, Dougie Jones. It’s the kind of thing that can make you turn on a show pretty quick.
  • New characters favoured over old characters. No offense to Naomi Watts, but when Lynch decides that the wife of Dougie Jones deserves substantial screen time and a nice character arc across the whole season but then doesn’t bring in our beloved Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) until episode 13 and then only  gives her a couple of ambiguous scenes that leave us more concerned rather than content, you can’t help but feel Lynch is personally trying to punish us for something.
  • So many drawn-out, lingering shots. Twin Peaks Season 3 got upped to 18 episodes at Lynch’s request early in the game. And this is one time I wish a network would have put their foot down with an auteur, because in those 18 episodes, the amount of time spent on silent lingering shots of inaction or silence (to the point where it felt like Lynch was just trolling the audience) could easily have been edited out to leave a nice, tight dozen eps.

And then, in the end, we got Dale Cooper back, we kinda got Laura Palmer back, but then we were left with even more questions (SO many questions), more loose ends, more cliffhangers and no indication at all when or even if we’ll get a Season 4 to provide any sort of closure…to anything. *SIGH*

The “Sure, Why Not?” Revival (aka The “Why Fix It If It Ain’t Broken?” Revival)

Will & Grace
Original run: 1998-2006 (8 seasons)

After a reunion “get out and vote” mini-episode became a viral hit late last year, the rumour of a revival of everyone’s favourite gays n’ gals sitcom quickly started making the rounds.

Soon, all four stars (Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes) announced they were game to come back, and it was on. An unofficial mission statement also let it be known that this was going to be exactly the Will & Grace you remember, just 11 years later (even going so far as to brush off the original finale’s downer of a flash-forward as just a bad dream of Karen’s). Buzz was so positive it was already renewed for a 10th season before season 9 even had it’s premiere.  But no worries there, because the return of Will & Grace was exactly what had been promised and they were rewarded for it by giving NBC it’s highest rating for a Thursday night comedy in 10 years.

The “Unsure How To Feel About This” Revival

Roseanne
Original run: 1988-1997 (9 seasons)

Almost three decades ago, Roseanne brought new life to the sitcom family genre by depicting a more realistic tv family than was currently popular (see: The Cosby Show). Everyone remembers how the show introduced us to Roseanne and Dan Conner (Roseanne Barr and John Goodman), their three kids, their perpetually messy house and how even though they struggled to make ends meet, they still found time to love and laugh (and insult and tease and torment).

But what many people fail to remember (or have blocked from their mind) was how off-the-rails it went in its later seasons, culminating in a truly bonkers 9th season where the Conners won the Megaball lottery and then went on to have all sorts of surreal adventures. Then, in the series finale, the whole season, and plenty of the whole series in general just got brushed away in a voice over, with Roseanne narrating that everything we had witnessesd over the years was her retelling of her family history for a book she was writing – but it was a history she had twisted and skewed as a way for her to “deal” with it.  So, now, in a voice over, she casually mentions that certain characters’ relationships, professions and even sexual orientations were actually different from what we had come to know all these years. And also, Dan was dead due to the heart attack he was depicted as surviving in season 8.

So yeah, I’m not getting my hopes up too high for this one – but they have managed to wrangle the majority of the cast back, so it looks like we might get another bad dream explanation coming up to explain the resurrection of Dan Conner.

The “No Way, You Are NOT  A Revival” Revival

American Idol
Original Run: doesn’t matter

AI, you do NOT get to call yourself a revival. You are a network shuffle series – a series that shopped itself out to other networks after being cancelled by its former network. You “went dark” for a ONE season – current shows have gone on hiatus for longer – so, I’m sorry (not sorry) but you do not get to jump on the buzzy revival bandwagon.

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The Battle of the Network Stars 2017 Breakdown: Part 2

So, as we return to my “Battle” breakdown, I have some problems involving the teams.

Actually, I can deal with the problem I have with the team size (five just isn’t enough for the “marquee events” – even just one more person on each team would’ve made a huge difference) and I can put aside my issues with the team set-ups and how there’s no way to get invested with a team made up of random TV stars from across four decades, loosely grouped together as “TV Kids” or “TV Sitcoms”; especially after seeing how ABC squandered the potential of making teams based around one or two shows (I mean, they got 4 Pretty Little Liars castmates – they couldn’t have found just one more? And they unearthed both Jeremey Miller and Tracey Gold of 80s Growing Pains fame, yet Tracey was on Team TV Sitcoms in episode 1 and Jeremy was Team TV Kids, episode 6). But here’s my other team-related issue – and this ties into a big problem for the new BOTNS from a competition standpoint: the number of teams per battle and how they’re scored.

The original BOTNS had 3 teams, and each event was worth 100, 75, and 50 points for 1st 2nd and 3rd. The first 7 events were basically done to determine which two teams would advance to final event worth 100 points to the winner only – the Tug of War. This worked with three teams because the standard point system generally ensured that the top two teams would be less than 100 points apart. Only one occasion, though ABC had such a commanding lead that after the winning running relay they were 125 points ahead, so even if the lost the Tug of War, they would still win overall. So in that case, the Tug of War still went on, but it became a battle for 2nd place between NBC and CBS (remember as I mentioned previously, each celeb was playing for prize money and though the payout fluctuated at times, the difference between places at this time was a cool $5,000 per celeb).

Random teams at its finest. Seeing grandpa Jimmie Walker on a “TV Kids” team just seems all kinds of wrong

The new BTONS has a more complicated system in play, and it doesn’t hold up at all. Events range from awarding 1 point to 5 points, but without any consistency. Some events will give 1 point to the overall winner, but then other events will give both teams the opportunity to earn points – making it possible to have both teams earn the same number of points, therefore not changing the standing at all. Case in point: in the original Obstacle Course event, there was one overall winner, based on which team had the fastest combined time of their top male and top female competitors. The new Obstacle Course awards 5 points to a men’s winner and 5 to a women’s winner, meaning the teams can easily end up winning 5 points each and thereby not affect the overall standing of each team at all.

And then from nowhere the Tug of War rears its head with a 10 point pay-off. Now here’s the thing: I don’t think the producers noticed until things were underway just how poorly the score system was thought out – and were so intent on bringing back the classic Tug of War, that they didn’t realize that when you have a Tug of War as the final, all-deciding event in a competition between two teams, you’ve just rendered everything up to that point as meaningless. There’s no qualifying or eliminating done during the previous Battle events, and the Tug’s point total all but ensures that no matter how much a team is lagging throughout the day, if they can win the Tug they’ll win the Battle – unless one team is just so phenomenally better than the other that they will have 10+ lead if they win the Obstacle Course – and if that’s about to happen, you might just have to rig it so the Tug of War remains relevant.

Man, if it wasn’t for that flat, obstruction-free surface, he totally would’ve made it to the finish line first

And I think that may have already happened, because FAR too many celebs from the leading team have forgotten how their legs work in the final stretch of the Obstacle Course and inexplicably stumble, trip, fall and crawl until the other team passes them and wins the event, leaving it up to a Tug-Off to decide the winner.

And this leads into our next problem. In the original, the teams of 8 had to pick a 5-person Tug team who had a combined weight not exceeding 800lbs. This kept it as balanced a match up as it could be.

Now, with only 5 people on each team, everyone is in the Tug regardless of how unbalanced the weight ratio is. So what happens then is you get a team with Bronson Pinchot, Dave Coulier and Tom Arnold, all hovering around 200lbs each, tugging against a team with male lean machines like Joey Lawrence and Corbin Bleu who probably weigh less than their female teammates (in this case, Lisa Whelchel and Kim Fields) and it’s game over. Forget athletic ability, because a team that loses the majority of events can still win the whole Battle if they can just sit on their collective fat asses and wait for the other team to exhaust themselves trying to move them. *SIGH*

Team Tootie never stood a chance tugging against Team Tubby

So to sum up, we’ve got no spectators, random teams, screwed up scoring, pointless events and a very lopsided finale where weight can trump ability. *DOUBLE SIGH*

BUT, disgruntled as I was about all this, something happened during episode 6 that sparked some hope in me. The announcers let two little things drop, almost as asides, as if to acknowledge the shortcomings we have all witnessed: 1) they posted a montage of all the celebs tripping and falling at the end of the Obstacle Course. Calling it out, but not outright saying anything – but definitely done with a wink. And 2) They casually mentioned that if one team didn’t win the Obstacle Course, they would be out of the running IF they didn’t take a handicap in the Tug of War. Aha! It’s not much, but it does give you a little hope that there may be a possibility of a real challenge awaiting if one team is so far behind, and that we won’t see them miraculously win the Obstacle Course, but instead see them drop a member from the Tug of War in exchange for a points bonus if they manage to win.

And again, I do not want to end on a bitter note, so let me just add that it has been really great seeing BOTNS alum come back to compete. And even if no one was there to watch, they still showed that they had it. Like 62-year old Shari Belafonte, paddling her way to a win in the Kayak Relay; former CBS team captain Lorenzo Lamas, guiding his new team to a BOTNS win; or, best of all, 76-year old Donna Mills, former BOTNS athlete AND cohost  (who even brought her original BOTNS trophy – awarded for her 1980 Team CBS win) not only winning, but slaying her event – Tennis – wherein she returned a record-setting 16 out of 20 serves. Way to go Ms. Mills – the spirit of the original BOTNS truly endures.

The Battle of The Network Stars 2017 Breakdown: Part 1

**UPDATE – glitches have been banished, and pics have now been added. Yay!**

So, I knew better than to expect that ABC’s reboot of its illustrious celebrity athletic competition series Battle of The Network Stars would come anywhere close to recapturing the magic, infectious energy of the original. Especially since there have been some major changes to the state of network television from the 70s and 80s. Back then ABC, NBC and CBS were the only major players in the network game who were duking it out for tv audience shares every night of the week, so making them battle network against network in athletic competition seemed wholly natural.

But still. ABC seemed to be coming at it from the right angle. They were honouring the original – evident by the vintage clips in the opening credits, they were opening up the players eligibility to current and former network stars, they were bringing back classic events, like the Kayak Relay, Obstacle Course and Baseball Dunk, they got real sportscasters to announce (although nowhere near as iconic as Howard Cosell) and they even secured Pepperdine University, home to almost every previous Battle, for the current  Battleground! I will say though, I was a little wary on how the new team concept was going to be executed – making teams based on themes like “TV Kids”, “Sex Symbols” and…”TV Sitcoms” (whoa, don’t get too creative there, guys) – but more on that later.

The first problem however, became apparent right from the start, and it remained there over the course of the next hour, through every event, dragging the spirit of everything down into depths of sadness and despair (I may be slightly exaggerating) and leaving me with one simple question. Where is everyone?

Bronson Pinchot is the blue speck on the far left, Kim Fields is the tiny red dot on the far right — and there’s noooo one else, anywhere.

Spectators abound in the orginal BOTNS, with Howard Cosell announcing (top) William R. Moses kayaking (middle) and Geoffrey Scott and Heather Locklear relaying (bottom)

One of the reasons the original BOTNS was such a success is that it was treated as an actual major sporting event, complete with spectators, cheerleaders and teammates on the sidelines cheering on the participants to victory. In the new BTONS, there is no one there. And I mean No.One.There. And let me tell you, it’s very disheartening to see Pepperdine’s massive outdoor track, shrouded in fog and completely empty…save for Lisa Welchel from The Facts of Life struggling in the distance to catch up to Dave Coulier from Full House as they run their leg of the relay race – supported by just a smattering of claps and hoots from their various demi-celebrities/teammates.

Ditto when the action shifts to Pepperdine’s Olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s been blocked off for just two sets of two swimmers, leaving only four teammates apiece clumped along one edge of this massive pool, cheering them on along with their two coaches.

And there’s another problem. The original BOTNS had 3 teams of 8 in each battle, so at any given time, you would have at least 18 celebs not actively participating, but cheering and supporting. The new BOTNS has only 2 teams of 5, which is problematic even outside of the lack of visual representation it causes – because this choice has warranted a restructuring of some of the events – making them much shorter. The swimming and  kayak relays have gone from 4-5 participants to 2. And as any BOTNS fan will attest, these events were always the most thrilling to watch because of the unpredictability of the match-ups, where the teams could go from first to third or vice versa with every new leg, tension building up as we all watched to see if each new celeb diving into the water would display some formerly hidden athletic prowess and surge ahead like a torpedo (Billy Moses!) or just sink like an anchor (Pamela Bellwood!). But now, with just 2 participants from 2 teams, the new relays are hardly relays at all, and over before tension can even get built up.

BUT before I get too gloomy about BOTNS redux,  there are some things that do get the thumbs up from me:

Improved Baseball Dunk – making the swimming pool double as the dunk tank AND placing the dunk platform 15 ft above it? Genius.

New Mini Events – the inclusion of smaller events (Soccer, Tennis, Basketball, Golf and Archery) and presenting them all “re-cap style” provides a nice tempo shift in the show and is very welcome addition.

Announcers – Joe Tessitori and Mike Greenberg do an admirable job of treating the BOTNS tradition with dignity, but are not above having a good laugh at the expense of the participants, whether it be at Olivia D’Abo managing to belly flop her way into the dunk pool or when regarding her Wonder Years costar Jason Hervey’s diva drama after he refuses to wear a red shirt (which is a part of his required uniform since he is on the red team) (he eventually switched to red).

Jodi-Lyn O’Keefe about to get dunked by Todd Bridges in the new and improved (yet still desolate-looking) baseball dunk

Coming Up in Part 2 – a closer look at the team structure and a deep dive into the BIG problem, competiton-wise, that’s plaguing the new BOTNS!

 

Prepare for “Battle”

This is just a brief post – more of a PSA in fact – about an event happening TONIGHT. In an already reboot-heavy year, the Most Important Reboot Ever is upon us. No, not Twin Peaks…or Will & Grace (and definitely not The Gong Show). Forget all of those – for tonight, Battle of the Network Stars is Back!

For the unaware, BOTNS was a series of specials aired by ABC twice a year (more or less) from the mid-70s to late-80s wherein teams of current television stars from the Big Three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) were pitted against one another in fierce, athletic competition, with the victors getting bragging rights and some cold, hard cash ($20,000 to each member of the winning network’s team).

Treated with all the seriousness of a professional sporting event (and by my younger tv-addicted self as the pop culture equivalent of the Olympic Games) and hosted by the sensational, albeit slightly sexist, Howard Cosell,  BOTNS was the only place viewers in a pre-Dancing With The Stars/reality tv/Instagram era could go to for candid and competitive celebrities (Robert Conrad always seemed ready to face-punch anyone, for any reason at all) and surprising displays of athleticism (like Heather Locklear – former Junior Olympian (who knew?) and BOTNS running relay MVP).

I won’t go in to much more detail for now, because I’ve decided to wait until the first few episodes of the reboot to air so I can then do a deeper comparison analysis. So until then, enjoy this classic BOTNS clip featuring two stars who will be appearing in the reboot: from The Facts of Life, Kim Fields and Lisa Welchel.

It’s Dynamite – For Kids!

0dyna2As I was going through the never-ending boxes of stuff in my storage, I stumbled across a lost pop culture treasure – my collection of Dynamite magazines!

Published from 1974 to 1992, Dynamite was a kid’s magazine that was mainly available through subscription or through Scholastic’s school-based Arrow Book Club. It could probably best be described today as a kid-focused mashup of Entertainment Weekly, People, MAD Magazine and children’s activity books.

And I unequivocally LOVED it – and it definitely helped spark my obsession with all things pop culture. I mean, not only did this mag cover EVERYTHING  (celebrities, movies, television, music, fads & trends) – it also featured human interest stories, advice, puzzles and games, comics (and how to draw them!), short stories, jokes & humour, contests & freebies and more.

And as if that wasn’t enough, occasional issues from the early-mid 80s, would be run as a “flip mag”, where the first half of the magazine would be Dynamite but if you flipped over to the back cover, it would be another magazine – Arcade, which consisted of “Fun and Games for the Computer-Age Kid” and was in response that era’s growing popularity of video games and computers.

I would be in a pop culture nirvana whenever my new issue arrived and I read each one cover to cover, over and over and over.

So to give the magazine its due, I thought I would just post a brief sample of some of the goodies found within (and on!) the covers of my collection, which spans from 1982 – 1985 (yep, pure 80s kid here!).

Enjoy!

 

 

Off the Record was Dynamite's 2-page round-up of "facts, faces, news and notes" from the rock music scene"

Off the Record was Dynamite’s 2-page round-up of “facts, faces, news and notes” from the rock music scene”

Artist Joe Kuburt had his own How-To-Draw feature, and his School of Cartoon Art provided the art for Dynamite's original comic strip - The Dynamite Duo (which was written by a pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stein!)

Artist Joe Kubert had his own How-To-Draw feature, and his School of Cartoon Art provided the art for Dynamite’s original comic strip – The Dynamite Duo (which was written by a pre-Goosebumps R.L. Stein!)

 And Now A Word From Our Sponsor was a regular feature that poked fun at current and popular commercials

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor was a regular feature that poked fun at current and popular commercials

 A typical Dynamite celebrity interview - this one with the star of my favourite show at the time (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), the lovely Kate Jackson

A typical Dynamite celebrity interview – this one with the star of my favourite show at the time (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), Kate Jackson

dynamite06

And to wrap up my short jaunt down memory lane, here’s a glimpse of one the aforementioned “flip” issues with Arcade magazine, featuring that hot “new” video game star, Pac-Man!

dynamite09dynaarcade