Over the past four week, Lost in Translation theoretically remade TV series from the Eighties. This week, a look into the reasoning behind the choices.
Last week’s look at the Knight Rider franchise was to explain why Lost in Translation wasn’t touching remaking the original. Knight Rider was popular, but has had a number of remakes. The question isn’t how to remake the series but why remake it yet again. The answer is, the remake has a good chance of making money. There’s no real other reason until there’s a new approach to be taken. Knight Rider fell off the list early.
With /Knight Rider/ gone, though, that left the super-vehicle genre empty. Super-vehicles did happen, and included shows like Automan and Viper for ground vehicles and Airwolf and Blue Thunder for helicopters. Airwolf looked to be the best choice. Automan verged on the edge of science fiction and superheroes and Viper was a promotional series for Dodge’s then-new muscle car. With the helicopters, a remake of Blue Thunder would have the baggage of the militarization of police departments. A remake may be possible, but the writing would have to be precise. The original Blue Thunder movie might handle most of the problems, but even then, there are issues to thread.
That left Airwolf, which ran four seasons. The series had its own internal drama, and didn’t have the baggage for a modern remake that Blue Thunder had. A cut-out for an intelligence agency holding a high-tech helicopter in return for finding his brother? There’s always a foreign war, there’s always prisoners-of-war and servicemen missing in action, there’s always someone playing chess at the global level. Updating just means upgrading the electronics in the helicopter. Gender flipping is always a possibility.
Remington Steele was a popular series during the Eighties, introducing an American audience to Pierce Brosnan. The series is timeless, using the esthetics of classic film to frame episodes and sets. Laura needing a masculine boss is, unfortunately, still possible today. The flipping of the classic roles, the tough detective and the figurehead, can be kept fresh. Steele would likely have the least number of changes to be made, just taking account how today’s technology affects private investigators.
With Misfits of Science, the show was ahead of its time. In the Eighties, comics were still seen as being for kids, not adults, despite works like The Watchmen. Today, though, the series would fit in. It’s an original superhero series with the tone of a superhero story. It’s not gritty, not dark, just a group of people making their way in life in spite of their powers. It’s a story that is needed today, not attached to an existing property.
There were a number of series that I ignored. The Eighties saw the sitcom bloom as comedians saw a way to popularize their routines. Cosby, Rosanne, and Night Court are prime examples. Other sitcoms tended to be set at work, a holdover from series like WKRP in Cincinatti and Taxi in the Seventies. And while it is possible to remake Cheers or Wings, it may be easier to just set a new comedy with new characters in a new location to do the same thing, with a wink and a nod to the older shows.
The Eighties had a range of shows for audiences, especially with the VHS boom, the advent of first-run syndication, and the expansion of cable channels producing new content. Choosing even three was difficult. The choices made were representative of what was available, popular or not.