The production of Walt Disney’s take on The Lone Ranger began about a week ago and now we have our first glimpse of the famous masked man and his Native American sidekick. In case you forgot, the Ranger is played by Armie Hammer (J. Edgar) and the guy under the war paint is Johnny Depp, whose casting as Tonto two years backs helped make this movie a reality.
This is a clear departure from the more traditional blue fabric outfit the Ranger has been depicted in since the radio series began in the 1930s. The Ranger’s outfit has gone largely unchanged in comics, serials, television and tons of merchandise so this will help set it apart from what has come before.
Despite production nearly being derailed because of the inflated budget, it was retooled and finally green lit some months back. The official synopsis reads: Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice-taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.
The movie is being directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the team that worked magic with Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Meantime, Depp will next be seen as Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, coming in May. He has been attached to numerous projects, playing one pop culture icon after another and most recently has been attached to a big screen adaptation of Kolchak the Night Stalker, based on Jeff rice’s novel and the ABC series featuring Darren McGavin.
The medium of television is often a reflection of our times and sometimes an overly idealized, unrealistic portrayal of American life. As radio programming became nationally broadcast series, they reflected the rural lifestyles and Depression-era standards of its time. As a result, many of these shows were transferred with little change from radio to television. Similarly, as prosperity brighten America’s fortunes, so did the images of life shown in living rooms around the country.
On Tuesday, CBS Home Entertainment released seven samplers of six situation comedies and one drama with the contents selected by the fans themselves. In part one of our review, we’ll be looking at the earliest offerings and seeing what they tell us. (more…)
Warner Archive has been doing an excellent job dipping into the vaults and finding films and television shows for all ages, producing them on-demand for the seriously interested fan. What seems baffling, though, is the time between some of their releases. Take The Jetsons, no, not the 1962 gem but the 1980s revival. Warner released season one from this Saturday morning show a while back and then offered up the first 21 episodes from season two in June 2009. Finally, The Jetsons Season 2, Volume 2 has been released, in time for the holiday season.
Originally, this futuristic situation comedy was modeled at the popular Jackie Gleason series The Honeymooners but found its own voice as the space age family of the future lived a life most families dreamed of: push button cooking, self-folding cars, machines to dress you and help with makeup. It was all far from perfect as we used to see during the end credits as the treadmill George Jetson used to walk Astro went haywire.
Despite a single season of prime time, the original show went on to syndication nirvana, appearing weekdays during the afternoons or weekends as part of the Saturday morning lineup throughout the 1960s and 1970s. The revival was purely kid stuff as you can tell from the more juvenile plotting and more outrageous situations the family found itself in. In addition, young Elroy befriended Orbitty, a fuzzy alien as a sidekick – a seemingly mandatory Hanna-Barbera touch and since they already had a dog, an alien was the next best addition. Also joining the extended supporting cast was Mr. Spacely’s brother Orwell whose inventions propelled more than a few plots.
The stories found in these two discs all have their moments of slapstick and warm humor along with moral lessons they all learn, although George seems to be the one most in need of help. We also get heavy doses of stories lifted from other works such as “Elroy in Wonderland” and “The Swiss Family Jetson” which kick off the set and “A Jetson Christmas Carol” which closes out the season. They also parody the popular ABC series Fantasy Island with “Fantasy Planet” although it just made me miss Ricardo Montalban. In “Jetson’s Millions”, George wins a lottery and suddenly is part of the same class as the Spacely’s and an unflattering rivalry ensues.
The characters are true to form with George lazy as ever, Jane occasionally giving in to her wild side with disastrous results, boycrazy Judy, and prototypical good boy Elroy. We see their fortunes rise and fall, success coupled with failure and an enduring optimism that keeps you coming back for more. The family housekeeping robot Rosie is nowhere near seen often enough.
The synthesizer sounds added to the score somewhat date the episodes along with the topical references which viewers today may find puzzling. The computer animation also makes things look a bit different than the original cel animated style. As you would expect, transfers from 1980s material are pretty clean but not perfect. The sound is fine and overall, it’s nice to have these for your home, even if they are inferior to the original series.
Comic Book Resources gets Bill Willingham to talk about the similarities between the long-running Vertigo comic series Fables and Once Upon A Time:
For those of you who just came in, let’s start with some of the basics. “Once Upon a Time” is a weekly TV series showing on the ABC television network. It’s just over a month old now, having aired four episodes by the time of this writing. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis.
“Fables” is a monthly comic book series, published by Bill Willingham, the author of this essay.
Both series explore the notion of popular fable, folklore and fairytale characters, native to a fantasy medieval setting, but still living today in modern day America. Let’s discuss.
As is well-known, the Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Comics a little over two years ago. Marvel joined the Muppets, Pixar, ABC and ESPN as tentacles of that great evil media empire that has done so much to homogenize the American culture. After all the jokes died down, some people wondered why the Mouse wanted the House that Jack Built in the first place.
Disney is a movie company, and Marvel’s shiniest family jewels – Spider-Man and The X-Men – were in the hands of competing studios (Columbia Pictures and 20th Century Fox, respectively) and aren’t likely to revert any time soon. The sundry Avengers characters were in the hands of Paramount Pictures, although Disney was able to purchase a nice reversion deal here. But, still, the motion picture revenue picture was severely compromised by the Spidey and X deals, and made all the more expensive by the Paramount buy-back. So, the question “why” certainly is valid.
Nobody that big buys a publishing venture – certainly not a comic book publishing venture – for the profits it will generate on its own. The phrase “fart in a blizzard” comes to mind. Merchandising and licensing revenues can be fairly attractive and Disney/Marvel/Muppets are a good fit. But… still… why?
I think we’re beginning to see the real reason. Disney owns ABC, which includes ABC Family, the Disney Channel, Disney XD (which already carries many of the Marvel animated shows), Playhouse Disney, Disney Cinemagic, Hungama, Jetix, Radio Disney, SoapNet, WABC-TV New York, KABC-TV Los Angeles, WLS-TV Chicago, WPVI-TV Philadelphia, KGO-TV San Francisco, KTRK-TV Houston, WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, and KFSN-TV Fresno, and as the various ESPN channels – possibly excluding “El Ocho.” Plus all kinda stuff overseas.
One can argue that teevee in general doesn’t have much of a future, and I might agree. But teevee programming has one hell of a great future no matter what platform we’ll be enjoying in the future: cable, satellite, computers, tablets, integrated teevee/computer systems, visors, brain implants, whatever. And that’s where the Mighty Marvel Money Machine will become the Mouse’s cash cow, true believer.
Disney already has The Hulk, Cloak and Dagger and Alias in development. Of course “Alias” has to be renamed – it’s working under the title “a.k.a. Jessica Jones” right now, and the show includes both Luke Cage and Carol Danvers. Mockingbird is also in development as a Miley Cyrus style kids show, possibly as fodder for the ABC Family network.
Step back a pace and take a look at what’s going on here.
Most of these shows are built around female superheroes. As headliners, such characters are anathema to motion picture studios. But Disney is betting heavy, heavy bucks that the distaff side will draw a sufficient audience to warrant the investment.
That’s pretty cool – and very risky. Women heroes haven’t fared much better on the small screen: Nikita was renewed by the skin of her teeth, The Bionic Woman revival flamed out, as did Charlie’s Angels redux. David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman didn’t make it past the pilot stage. Yet Disney is developing no less than three Marvel shows built around women.
So no matter what I might feel about Disney’s predatory influence on our culture, they are showing a great deal of courage here – courage they developed by purchasing Marvel.
This season, fairy tales are the thing with two distinctively different shows springing firm the same familiar tales. This weekend, NBCpremieres GRIMM while ABC had a great premiere for ONCE UPON A TIME just days ago. We speak to the cast & creators of both shows to see just where things differ.
With the imminent return of The Incredible Hulk to television (currently being developed for ABC and spinning out of the Avengers movie next summer) it’s illuminating to go back and take a look at how the original TV series was made. Allan Cole (perhaps better known as the co-author of the [[[Sten]]]novels) was a writer for the series, and he’s been reminiscing…
To understand The Incredible Hulk you have to first know that everybody on the show was nuts. Some were nice nuts. A few, not so nice. And others bounced back and forth like green balls of silly putty with no notice whatsoever.
It also helps to understand that the very premise of the show was schizoid, with this wimpy little doctor-type guy (played by Bill Bixby) transforming into a big green monster (played by Lou Ferrigno) when somebody kicks sand in his face and pisses him off.
Put another way, scripting for the Incredible Hulk was like writing for Kabuki theater. As Chris said, “one frigging thing out of place and everybody and everything goes apeshit.”
The writing experience could be frustrating, agonizing and drive you just plain bonkers. On the other hand, of the hundred and fifty odd shows Chris and I worked on, it was one of the most fun and satisfying. Once you got the formula down pat, you could write just about anything you wanted. More importantly, what you wrote went on the screen, so you didn’t hesitate to open up and address broader themes than one might expect in a show about a comic book character.
Once upon a time I edited a magazine called Comics Scene and early on, I had the opportunity to be in Ireland where I was invited to visit animator Don Bluth and his operation. At the time, he had left Disney and was busily working on The Secret of NIMH but also interactive animated arcade games. In 1983, he was poised to unleash Dragon’s Lair. After explaining the premise, Bluth let me play the latter for a while.
Boy was it fun.
While it and the subsequent Space Ace made a splash, they didn’t ignite a new generation of gaming, largely I suspect because these were expensive to create and manufacture and were limited by the technology of the day. Still, Dragon’s Lair proved popular enough for it to be licensed for Saturday morning television. Rather than use Bluth’s studio, the weekly work was turned over to Ruby-Spears. They produced thirteen half-hour episodes and as we approached each commercial break, a choice had to be made, emulating the arcade version. After the break, we saw what would happen with either choice and then the adventure would continue. Nice idea, even if it wound up flawed, and the show endured for one season on ABC during the 1984-1985 season.
Warner Archive has just released the complete series as a two disc set so those who recall the game and show fondly, can relive the adventures of Dirk the Daring (Bob Sarlatte). Despite being somewhat goofy, he was the best knight in King Ethelred’s (Fred Travalena) kingdom. Such feats earned him the love of Princess Daphne (Ellen Gerstell), who of course needed rescuing from the likes of the Lizard King, the Phantom Knight, the Giddy Goons, and the Mudmen with regularity.
On Tuesday, Fox announced that it was canceling [[[Human Target]]] (starring Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earl Haley and based on the DC Comics character created by Len Wein, Carmine Infantino, and Dick Giordano) after two seasons, and also declined to pick up Locke & Key, the pilot from Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (the minds behind Fringe and the Star Trek reboot) based on the IDW comic from Joe Hill.
Now word has come from Deadline Hollywood that NBC will not be picking up [[[Wonder Woman]]], the series that would have been produced by David E. Kelley and starred Adrianne Palacki as the amazing Amazon.
Between these developments, and Smallville ending its decade long run tonight, we are suddenly going from a lot of comics adaptations in broadcast prime time to none at all for the first time since 1996– and that was when Sabrina the Teenage Witch first aired.
Right now, all eyes are on whether Disney’s fabled corporate synergy will mean sister companies Marvel and ABC will go ahead with a new version of Hulk with Guillermo del Toro and David Eick, and/or AKA Jessica Jones with Melissa Rosenberg– or whether they’ll be shunted to ABC Family or some such solution.