When news broke that Sony was looking to do a big screen reboot of Manimal – NBC’s 1983 show about a guy who fights crime by turning into animals – I too probably flipped a table at how creatively bankrupt Hollywood is these days. The show was a flop (only lasted like 8 episodes) and is legendarily panned as one of the stupidest ideas a coked out 80s studio exec could conjure up. Why is Manimal getting sent to the big screen when there are so many other great shows borne out of the minds of skinny tie wearing, nose candy loving, execs.
Go get your Duran Duran casstte tape and go pop some fresh batteries into the Walkman, because after the jump we’re going over (our by no means definitive) list of six TV shows that would make better movies than Manimal.
The Greatest American Hero
Let’s face it, superheroes are hot again, and as the studios scramble to snatch up the rights for the next cape and tights property to make it big on the big screen, The Greatest American Hero is a sure fire hit. The TV show ran from 1981 to 1983 starred William Katt as a hapless high school teacher turned bumbling superhero and Robert Culp as his FBI Agent companion. Entrusted with a super suit with a seemingly endless array of super powers (that he knows little about because he lost the instruction manual) by some do-gooder aliens, Katt is set on the road to adventure. The aforementioned loss of instructions is the key to the comedy as a large amount of screen time spent is with him fumbling to learn how to use this extremely powerful suit and maintain the altruistic intentions those aliens set out for him.
Why should it be remade? Two words: Nathan Fillion. Back in ‘09 he told MTV News that he’d love to be the Greatest American Hero:
“I just finished watching the DVD collection of it and thought it had some really great direction and I think it kind of slipped and slid around a little bit, they changed the main character’s name a couple times … It seemed to be suffering from the same kind of mistreatment that ‘Firefly’ suffered from—episodes being shown out of order, never for more than two weeks consecutively, [and] being preempted for different things.
It’s too bad they just didn’t just let it continue in this very strong direction and just let it become its own thing and let it grow and let it be incredibly strong, What better way to pay homage to something I enjoyed as a younger man than to do it again”
Nerds love him, ladies love him, and he won’t be Ant-Man or the Green Lantern ever, so let’s give him this. (Yes, I just said we should bank roll an entire movie because Captain Reynolds/Castle said he’d like to do it. I stand by that. It’s better than the reasoning behinds most of Hollywood’s decisions.)
Ok, tell me Airwolf isn’t totally badass. As one of the more memorable 80s super vehicle TV shows (yes, that was a sub-genre once), millions can recall turning into CBS from week to week to watch Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine) blow up tanks and cars and trucks and an inexplicably high amount of bad guys who were polite enough to show up in a helicopter as well. Filled with international espionage, intrigue and of course explosion, Airwolf is often sent to exotic and domestic locations to blow them up. Our heroes are in a two way deal with the devil, the mysterious FIRM, which was the source of endless action and excitement on the show. This is, of course, all prior to the dismal attempt to keep the show going post cancelation on the USA Network that was made in Canada. Canadians should not be allowed to make TV shows (Danger Bay is excluded of course) I should know as I am one.
A modern take is a complete no brainer. Airwolf was kicking terrorist ass way before it was the cool thing to do. Up the ante a little on the technology, keep blowing s#!t up and it is money in the bank. Cast any of the new breed of possible action stars as Stringfellow Hawke. Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway, hell if you want to get really nutty put Jason Statham in the seat (oi!) The difficult recasting would be that of Dominic, originally played by the late great Ernest Borgnine. How do you replace a legend like that? Easy, give him the good old sexy gender swap routine like they did with Starbuck. Jessica Beil or Mila Kunis would both make a damn fine co-pilot, so take your pick.
While its run was short, its foot print on the soul of 80’s TV was huge. Wizard developed a fanatical fan base over its 19 episode run in 1986-87. The enigmatic David Rappaport stared as Simon McKay, a philanthropist/inventor/toymaker whose sole purpose in life was the preservation of imagination and innocence. A family friendly action/adventure hour set around the evils of the world trying to twist the Wizards creations to suit their own nefarious ways. If you’ve ever seen an episode, you’d know why it had garnered such love. The plots were extremely optimistic, often centred on themes of diversity, respect and the power of friendship.
Wait, on second thought. You’ve have this one Hollywood. You’d just muck it up and cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the Wizard and probably shoe horn in a car chase and Rob Schneider in too. Move along now. You can’t have this one.
Automan – The Automatic Man.
Running for just one season — 13 episodes of solid 80’s gold — Automan was the tale of a computer programmer/cop who creates a hologram crime fighter that can do and create anything with the power of computers! It’s like Tron had a baby with the Green Lantern!
The computer cop was played by the offspring of Desi and Lucy Arnaz, Desi Arnaz Junior, while the cop computer role went to the feather haired slice of 80s man-meat known as Chuck Wagner. Cursor, Automan’s side kick and source of his digital creations, was handled by some of the cheesiest special effects the time had to offer.
A modern retelling is a sure hit if you think about it. For one, kids LOVE computers and hate crime, am I right? Plus, the original was inspired by Tron (and even produced by some of the same people.) The new Tron movie was successful, and like I said he’s a cross between Tron and Green Lantern and the Green Lantern movie… oh, never mind…
Another 80’s high tech cop drama that also didn’t need more than one season to be completely awesome. Street Hawk starred 70’s teen heart throb Rex Smith as Jesse Mach, dirt bike racer turned cop that was chosen to pilot the titular super-secret super bike that could cruise at over 300 mph and also inexplicably jump 50 feet in the air without the aid of a ramp. Joe Regalbuto played the engineer who designed The Street Hawk and also assisted who would also assist Mach in his crime fighting from their hidden base doing wondrous things with the magic of, you guessed it, computers.
Now I will admit a Street Hawk remake is a bit riskier. The original was made in an era where computers and their programmers were the new wizards. If I am not mistaken some people were burned as witches in the lower states for being able to make their VCRs stop flashing 12:00. Modern Audiences will not be fooled by the guy from Murphy Brown mashing a keyboard and making a motorcycle defy the laws of physics. That is why you hinge on repeating what made the original so damn successful; you cast a teen singing sensation! Justin Beiber can ride a motorcycle, right? Either way, strap the little fellow in, and lets make movie magic!
The Highway Man
The simple recipe of one part Knight Rider, one part Mad Max, and one part dude who was in Flash Gordon gave rise to The Highway Man. One pilot movie and nine episodes exploring that murky crime filled world of the highways. Sam Jones played the mysterious character who fought highway crime with a black super semi-truck that not only concealed a helicopter (suck it, Air Wolf) but also a sleek high-tech sports car (you too Knight Rider.) Oh and yes it was also packed with computers, naturally.
Joining the former Flash Gordon in his quest to keep the blacktop safe was Australian football superstar/Energizer battery shill Mark “Jacko” Jackson. Oi! Not enough for you? How about the mechanic of the team, D.C. Montana, as played by Tim “Tuvok” Russ.
The Highway Man was the pinnacle of the 80’s high tech action series. Set in the far flung future of 1992 where a simple trip between cities would lead to solving crimes, dealing with organ thieves, or helping clear the name of one our Native American brothers. If Hollywood is intent on mining the TV of the 80s for ideas, then why not make the one that used them all. It has High-tech vehicles, improbable crimes, magical computers, and an Australian. What more do you need? As for recasting The Highway Man, that is even easier. You don’t. We saw Sam Jones in Ted, we know he still has it. Hell Tim Russ hasn’t been doing much since Voyager wrapped. While I am not completely sure about the current whereabouts of Jacko, I am certain he’s run out all that battery money by now.