Seldom does anyone from a British soap exit and make a name for themselves. A few success stories spring to mind, but for most a prolonged stint on a soap is a one way ticket to the acting scrapheap. With this in mind it was more than a surprise that EastEnders actress Michelle Ryan was chosen to take the lead role in a major American series.
The Bionic Woman had been a pretty popular slice of kitsch sci-fi on its first release in the 1970s so a revamp didn’t sound totally disastrous on paper. However it was. Despite their best efforts to darken the tone and give it a bit of an edge various elements conspired to make this too clunky and unbelievable to succeed. Surprisingly Ryan acquitted herself pretty well all things considered.
There have been many many Sherlock Holmes interpretations over the years. Most have stayed reasonably true to the source but there have been a number of contemporary interpretations too. One of the most successful of these has been the BBC’s Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Smart, well paced and deliciously British it manages to successfully give us a modern take on the great detective (thank you Steven Moffat).
For no apparent reason CBS have decided to bring us yet another re-imagining of the popular detective. This time Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) will be a washed out addict living in New York with his buddy Dr Watson (Lucy Liu). Change can sometimes be for the better, but none of the ingredients involved in this Americanisation of a British classic add up to anything other than disaster. This isn’t even out yet but if it passes the pilot and lasts longer than a season we’ll be flabbergasted.
The original Hitcher was a fantastically unhinged psychological horror. It centred around a young man picking up the hitchhiker from hell (Rutger Hauer). Rather than degrade into the sort of gore-splattered caper that you’d expect it should be, the Hitcher actually sets us up some pretty tense cat-and-mouse scenarios and ends up being much better than the sum of its parts.
The Michael Bay (yes him) produced revamp isn’t even close to being as suspenseful or shocking. While Sean Bean plays a pretty decent villain his Hitcher is slightly more frantic and unhinged and lacks the calculated nature of Rutger Hauer’s iconic original. Throw into the mix the fact the protagonists are utterly shallow and irritating and you‘ve got a film which unintentionally has you rooting for the psycho (and the final credits).
Lost in Space
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. It is also a powerful thing. Film producers know that certain brands and franchises have an almost irresistible pull when it comes to getting punters into the cinema. When it comes to creative dry times (of which there have been many at the major studios) scavenging the back-catalogues can be highly profitable business.
Some revamps put together like this have actually ended up being ok in terms of revenue if not artistic credibility (Rocky and Rambo for example). Yet some series plucked from obscurity and forced back into the limelight have been hideous both in terms of rekindling interest and critical plaudits. One of the worst is Lost in Space (once an ok TV sci-fi). Starring a never worse, Joey from Friends and an almost at his worst Gary Oldman, this camp space story seemed to be neither aimed at age old fans of the franchise or a younger audience. It was a hideous film full of unnecessary excess and a painful plot. Thankfully it was so poor not even the mega bucks it raked in could convince the studios to risk a second outing.
While we might deride the simple British soap opera as trashy, when compared with their American counterparts the likes of Coronation Street and EastEnders are undeniably superior. Yet UK soaps haven’t always been so far ahead of their transatlantic cousins. Between 1964 and 1988 Crossroads was a major player in the UK soap scene. Famed for its cheap sets, bad acting and incredulous plots, this slightly ridiculous series was bizarrely remembered with great fondness, even cult status.
With this affection in mind ITV took the plunge in 2001 and hoisted the series back onto the TV. They even managed to mix in a selection of characters from the original series to give an extra reason for fans to return. Surprisingly the fans did return, though the murder of original regular Jill Harvey and a dicey plotline did little to keep them interested. As viewing figures declined it sort of rebranded itself mid-season leaving plenty of genuine fans baffled, while also simultaneously failing to conjure up more viewers. It was finally cancelled in 2003 with barely anyone noticing.