Sunday, March 25, 2018

Show, Show, Show Your (Re)boot… Gently Down the Stream(ing)!

Yeah, I know!  It’s a pretty lame title, if I need a Robot to help explain it! 

But, this post stems from an e-mail exchange with the members of the Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society that I attend each Thursday night.  One of the members, our friend Marc Whinston, was lamenting a new version of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, which is scheduled to begin streaming on CBS’ All Access streaming platform.  You can see the article Marc sent HERE!

My response to this was something I felt I could turn into a Blog post - not unlike THIS RECENT POST.  So, never one to let anything go to waste, here it is…

That's just the trend now - and everyone wants to get in on it!  Reboot a classic show concept for some streaming platform, in an attempt to better compete with mainstream broadcasting.  
We've come SO FAR, haven't we? 

Star Trek, Lost in Space, and now Twilight Zone.  I have no great hopes for any of these, despite their "originals" all being classic-era favorites of mine.   Maybe, if someone decides to do Space 1999, it might actually be good by comparison!  :-)   "Space 2099", anyone?  

When you think about it, unlike Star Trek or Lost in Space, where there is a firm memory of both characters and concept that is bound to disappoint a segment of the audience... you can just tell any weird era-appropriate mystery with a kicker of irony and slap the name "Twilight Zone" on it, and it *could* work!  No actual "ghosts" of existing and beloved characters to live up to... as long as the host comes across as acceptably "Serling-esque". 

Remember, Twilight Zone HAS been rebooted TWICE before for broadcast TV, with Charles Aidman, and later Forest Whitaker as host.  While neither of those incarnations stood up to comparison with the original (WHAT COULD?!), neither of them were particularly bad - just "different era-appropriate".  I can say that because I *have* watched some of both later versions over the last two years, and they are EXACTLY as I say...  "weird era-appropriate mysteries with kickers of irony that had the name 'Twilight Zone' slapped on them"!  

...And think about it... Wouldn't a segment of the audience look in JUST BECAUSE the name "Twilight Zone" was slapped on it, rather than if it did exactly the same thing, but called itself something else?  Licensing that NAME automatically brings curiosity and NOTICE value that it would not otherwise have!  

The first and STILL the BEST! 

Indeed, you could say the same for licensing the names "Star Trek" and "Lost in Space" for any similarly themed new properties.  

Star Trek's various TV reboots were wise enough to NOT "recreate" the original series, but offer NEW adventures with NEW characters set in that "same universe"!  Three of them in the future of that universe ("Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine", and "Voyager") and one in it's past ("Enterprise").  So, as long as the FEEL of Star Trek was reasonably recreated (and I believe it was), these shows were successful - and were enjoyed by me.  Maybe this holds true for the new series... maybe it does not.  We will know soon enough.  

As for Lost in Space, I don't think it will EVER be "successfully recreated" because... ever since "2001 A Space Odyssey", and its very talented but misguided director, decided that space sci-fi should be "cold, sterile, and humorless", the spirit of lighthearted FUN that was the hallmark of Lost in Space (or certain Star Trek episodes like "The Trouble with Tribbles", or "A Piece of the Action") was never seen again!  

Look no further than Space 1999 for proof.  Even the later Star Trek series reflected that to some degree, when compared with the original.  Far more "tight" than "light".  You can "lose" ANY old family "in space", but it will not be "Lost in Space" without that sense of overt humor and outright weirdness!  And that's what will probably happen with THAT new series - and its "female Doctor Smith"!  

...At least that's my "writer's perspective" on all of this.  

Also, this trend of "rebooting a classic show concept for some streaming platform" will eventually pass - especially if these shows fail to be successful.  

...Thoughts, anyone?  


Achille Talon said...

My thoughts are that you are using an unusual sense of the word reboot, to start with. "Reboot" as I understand it is essentially a continuity affair; something like DuckTales 2017 is definitely a reboot because it's remaking the universe, with both the comics and the 1987 series now null and void to the characters' biography, whereas the new Star Wars films would not constitute a reboot, as they are loose sequels to the originals. The various Star Trek revivals you mention would, by this logic, be sequels as opposed to reboots, if only nominally.

And as for The Twillight Zone, since it has no big universe/timeline to be torn down and replaced with the new material, I wouldn't say it's even possible to do a reboot of it. This new series I would simply call a continuation.

Of course, all these semantics are rather hollow; for sure, the Hollywood executives don't really care whether Moneymaking Franchise XXXIV: The Revenge is a continuity reboot or a sequel or a remake, since the effect on the public will largely be the same: drawing in fans of the original, providing them with a guaranteed minimum profit at no cost to them.

It's, I suppose, a rather silly trend, but the "Nostalgia Reboot Craze" of the 2010's has produced some good stuff. Though the original may not by far be golden-age stuff, it has led, for instance, to the new Lemony Snicket series by Netflix, which is a much better and funnier adaptation of the books than the earlier theatrical film; and even should the products themselves be lacking, it does create new interest in the originals as a result. I imagine a new Twillight Zone will be a fine excuse to rerelease the originals in beautiful DVD editions, no? That's always a good thing. And I can vouch that think of it what we may, DuckTales 2017 has brought over scores of people to duck fandom at large.

Joe Torcivia said...


Naturally, it’s all “semantics”, but what isn’t, these days?

My use of the word “reboot” stems from the use of the same word in the title of the linked article on this (more accurately, perhaps?) “continuation” or “sequel” to the original TWILIGHT ZONE – just as had been done twice before.

Perhaps, while we were otherwise occupied, the word “reboot” came to mean “The-Return-Of-Anything-That’s-Been-Away-For-A-While”. Because that’s what this new TWILIGHT ZONE seems most likely to be.

In THAT sense of the word, I’d view STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION as a “reboot” because (at least on television, as opposed to feature films) STAR TREK had been “Away-For-A-While”. It is ALSO a “reboot” in the more conventional sense of the word because the franchise was reimagined with new characters (Picard, Riker, LaForge, etc.) new species (Betazoid, Ferengi, etc.) and fundamental changes in concept (Klingons being Federation allies, etc.)!

The TREK series that followed STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION would be “sequels”, except for ENTERPRISE.

Whatever it is they’re going to do with LOST IN SPACE will be (all together now) a “reboot” in this “alternate sense of the word” because LOST IN SPACE has been “Away-For-A-While”. It is ALSO a “reboot” in the more conventional sense because of the clearly differing approach vs. Irwin Allen’s original 1960s series, for which it is named!

If it is successful, and followed by a series about an “adult Will Robinson” exploring new horizons in space, that would be a “sequel”.

TWILIGHT ZONE, as you rightly suggest, should NOT be considered a “reboot”, despite the way in which the linked article was titled. Other than the host, it cannot be reimagined with new characters or fundamentally changed in concept! Then again… it, too, HAS been “Away-For-A-While”, qualifying it in that “alternate sense”!

Let’s see where all of this goes…