Sunday, November 17, 2013

Murder She Wrote Revival A Big Mistake

MEMO TO NBC: Stop talking about rebooting that old CBS hit Murder She Wrote, will ya?
Angela Lansbury herself says the decision to mount a revival and call it by the same name is "a big mistake."
And you know what? Lansbury is right on.
Lansbury just got an honorary Academy Award this week.
I've interviewed her several times --both on the MSW set as well as once in Oshawa when she was making the TV mini-series Little Gloria Happy At Last.
The 88-year old legend confirms it was her stint as Jessica Fletcher that made her into a gigantic super star --this after decades in the flickers including an astonishing turn in The Manchurian Candidate and such Broadway triumphs as Mame.
Lansbury says she knows about Octavia Spencer who'll replace her and wishes her well.
But she's right --there will only be one Jessica Fletcher.
In fact NBC should have learned from its mistakes.
Right now there's NBC's dog awful reboot of Ironside that is languishing at the bottom of the ratings and destined for swift cancellation.
And then there was the 2011 remake of that sparkling British hit than ran on PBS's Masterpiece Theatre
re: it  Prime Suspect  starring iconic Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison.
The American version with Maria Bello went through multiple rewrites and was so different from the original it might have fared better with a different title.
The fact is most TV remakes bomb because the public has strong memories of the first version.
Oh, I know CBS is currently peddling a new version of Hawaii 5-0 but it has only succeeded in a half fashion and may not last much longer.
I know all about Charlie's Angels, the original one I mean which ran 1976 through 1981. I was on the set five times, once to interview the legendary Barbara Stanwyck.
well, in 2011 there predictably rolled out a TV remake starring Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly and Rachael Taylor. Who? Who? Who? That was my first reaction,
Only four episodes ever ran due to negative public opinion.
My old pal Bob Wagner was scheduled to co-star as Charlie but he left early --presumably after reading a few of the rotten scripts.
Then there was 2007's re-imagining of Bionic Woman --a whole eight episodes aired before the Writers Strike rolled around and ABC used it as pretext for cancellation.
I always thought Michelle Ryan was passable as Jaime Sommers but viewers thought otherwise.
As far as remakes of classic sitcoms it just never happens.
I mean a remake of I Love Lucy without Lucy Ball? See what I mean.
I remember once sitting in the living room of producer Gail Patrick who personally produced the Perry Mason series for CBS (1957-66).
Patrick declined to have anything to do with CBS's 1973 remake because her version was still playing in reruns all over the dial.
But later on there was a successful revival --with the original cast headed by Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale --this time in TV movies which successfully preserved the zest of the original.
So that's the way to treat Murder She Wrote --as a new series of TV flicks starring, of course, Angela Lansbury.

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