Does this fall’s new genre television programming sound a little … familiar?
It should, because, incredibly, the schedule is made up almost entirely of remakes.
There’s Eastwick, a remake of the movie The Witches of Eastwick. And there’s Alice, a remake of Alice in Wonderland (to go along with the feature film version they’re also currently filming).
Don’t forget about V, a remake of the 1980s miniseries. And while The CW is pretending that The Vampire Diaries isn’t a rip-off of Twilight because it’s based on a series of books from the 1990s, everyone knows they’re lying (and Twilight is, of course, itself a rip-off of Anne Rice and Buffy).
At least Flash Forward is something new — although the network seems to be pushing it as the next Lost.
Things are scarcely any better on movie screens. TheTorchOnline.com has written previously about the slate of movies in development based, ridiculously, on old 80s cartoons, and another group of movies that will be remakes of most of Universal’s horror classics such as Frankenstein and The Wolf Man.
And don’t get me started on our current superhero rut, where were get interchangeable superhero movie after superhero movie (followed by the inevitable, even lamer sequels).
Then when a superhero franchise has been reduced to complete ridiculousness, Hollywood waits a few years, and then relaunches the “brand” with a new “origin” story. Incredibly, we’re on the third Batman franchise and the fifth Superman one in my lifetime.
Even more outrageously, sometimes if a superhero movie doesn’t do as well as expected, as with Ang Lee’s 2003 movie Hulk, Hollywood will simply pretend that the movie never existed, and just immediately remake it again.
Now that’s craven.
But this fall’s television season marks something of a milestone in Hollywood shamelessness.
That’s right: we’ve finally reached a point where Hollywood is making virtually only remakes of previous movies and TV shows, at least with its genre programming. At the gathering of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena last week, The CW president Dawn Ostroff openly crowed that that network is eagerly encouraging more such remakes.
Let me be clear: some of these TV shows and movies are pretty good. Talented writers and directors really have “reimagined” some of these stories in fresh new ways.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong about the retelling of stories. Almost all of William Shakespeare’s oeuvre was, of course, based on stories first told by others — and how many times have the Greek myths been rewritten, not to mention the stories of The Brothers Grimm?
But Hollywood isn’t remaking old properties because they include classic archetypes, or because they’re inspired by the timeless storytelling.
They’re doing it because they think it’ll make them money.
Publicizing any media property is enormously expensive, especially in an era of “media clutter,” where there’s so much information out there that it can be difficult to break through to create audience awareness.
Remakes supposedly have an advantage because most people have already heard of the story in question. “Oh, it’s the story of Little Red Riding Hood — but she’s got a red hoodie instead!”
Audience familiarity may be even more important for genre projects, because elaborate costumes and sets typically require higher budgets.
So are these remakes harmless? Not hardly.
It was bad enough that Hollywood has long insisted that every story have a “high-concept” — a simple, catchphrase-like storyline that the audience immediately understands. Now they’re saying that it literally has to be a storyline that the audience has heard before.
Every time Hollywood greenlights yet another tired vampire story, that means there’s one other, fresher story that won’t be seen. And if Hollywood continues to insist that every TV series have “built-in audience awareness,” that means audiences are never going to see anything truly new or different.
In short, we’re never going to write the next generation of classic stories — we’ll just keep repeating the old ones forever and ever.
Talk about the dumbing down of America. At least there’s HBO, Showtime, and AMC where, it seems, complicated, challenging drama is occasionally still welcome.
For decades, people have been written how Hollywood has become completely soul-less, no longer caring about creativity and inspiration at all, but rather caring solely about money.
But given this fall’s season of genre television, it’s worth writing one more time.
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