Dave on Demand: TV-show remakes need a grittier, reality-show treatments

In NBC's "Mockingbird Lane," now a special: (from left) Charity Wakefield (Marilyn), Eddie Izzard (Grandpa), Mason Cook (Eddie), Portia De Rossi (Lily), and Jerry O'Connell (Herman).
In NBC's "Mockingbird Lane," now a special: (from left) Charity Wakefield (Marilyn), Eddie Izzard (Grandpa), Mason Cook (Eddie), Portia De Rossi (Lily), and Jerry O'Connell (Herman).
Posted: October 28, 2012

NBC had a spectacular Halloween bonfire Friday night, burning off what was to have been the pilot for its remake of The Munsters, M ockingbird Lane, as a one-time special.

It's a shame, really, because Mockingbird Lane was a sumptuous, spooky, and far more graphic reimagining of Herman, Lily, and their postnuclear family. And Eddie Izzard gave a wildly different spin to the character of Grandpa than Al Lewis did.

But I could have told NBC this would not work as a TV show. The networks are still trying to recycle the same old outdated entertainment model. They need to wake up and smell what Honey Boo Boo's Mama June is cookin' before they become roadkill themselves.

This is the age of wince-while-you-watch reality TV, of My Strange Addiction, Duck Dynasty, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Hoarders, Bayou Billionaires, Toddlers & Tiaras, and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant.

You can still revive old shows. You'll just have to be more selective, picking the programs that will lend themselves to a grittier, reality-show treatment. A few examples:

Gilligan's Island. The premise still works, but it needs a little Lord of the Flies savagery thrown in. Which means Thurston Howell III is not long for the atoll. The tension between Ginger and Mary Ann results in a weekly catfight in the sand.

My Mother the Car. The sitcom starring Jerry Van Dyke was considered idiotic even by TV standards. But a man who is convinced his late mother's spirit inhabits an old jalopy and speaks to him in the garage? Today's TV audience would have no problem buying into that concept.

Green Acres. Oliver would move Lisa to Hooterville only after going bankrupt in the big city. Within weeks they'd be filthy and bedraggled, their clothes in tatters, trying to subsistence-farm. Arnold would turn out to be a klepto-pig, stealing all their food, and Mr. Haney would swindle them out of their land.

Daktari. When the animal refuge falls on hard times, Dr. Tracy is forced to turn it into a hunting preserve. Week after week, Clarence the cross-eyed lion is stalked as young Paula cries her eyes out.

The Brady Bunch. The blended family confronts genuine issues: Carol comes out, Mike is clinically depressed, Marcia starts cutting, Jan and Peter are playing house, and Family Services is called in because Alice has been secretly abusing the kids.

The Beverly Hillbillies. Granny is getting senile. No one knows what's in that stew, but it sure don't look like squirrel. Elly May is partying with Lindsay Lohan and has been blowing through Jed's money like a tornado. Jethro seems to be suffering from 'roid rage, and Miss Hathaway has been accused of embezzlement. See ya' next week.

Take out an ad. On this week's episode of The New Girl, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) filled in for her girlfriend Cece (Hannah Simone) as the spokesmodel at a car show.

OK, it's a job that is distinctly out of character for the awkward, self-conscious Jess, but of such unsuitability comedy is made.

Only, Jess' tortured stumbling on stage wasn't funny. Nor was it the point. Because throughout this excruciating scene, the narrator went on loudly extolling all the remarkable features you get in the new Ford Fusion.

Soft comedy and a hard sell are not a good mix, Fox.

Everybody's a comedian. At the end of this week's The Big Bang Theory, Howard (Simon Elberg) is watching a video of Buzz Aldrin handing out Halloween candy to little trick-or-treaters.

When Aldrin first opened his front door, I swear I thought it was Joe Biden. Hey, if John McCain could do a comedy bit on Parks and Recreation, everyone is game.


Contact David Hiltbrand

at 215-854-4552, dhiltbrand@ phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv.

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