American Remakes of British Television
By comparison, 53 such projects were developed throughout the previous season2. Lenham: Lexington Books, Making Sense of the Reboot on Television Yet, just like its movie counterpart, the notion of a TV remake is a complex and challenging one, perhaps even more so than in the cinema, and is inevitably tied to the issue of and the opprobrium reserved to sequels and other derivative material.
As the number and the nature of remakes on television has significantly increased since the early s, the phenomenon has attained new dimensions and nuances. Even less attention has been granted to the reboot, even though the word and the phenomenon have been seemingly omnipresent for the past few years. A major difference between film and TV remakes is historical: whereas remakes have been present in cinema since almost day one, updates are in fact a relatively new phenomenon on television, contrary to transnational remakes, with U. Spin-offs and remediations have also always been present on TV, with radio shows, movie and movie serials, books or comics adapted for television as early as the s Superman, Flash Gordon.
The traditional difficulty when talking about the remake in cinema is defining the very notion of remaking, an apparently easy endeavor which quickly reveals itself to be an intractable task.
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Watching one of those unaired pilots and the remade one is one of the most fascinating and instructive experiences to understand the dynamic behind the production of TV series on television. Textual, paratextual and legal factors are all useful factors to help define TV remakes, as Verevis so amply demonstrates, yet they often contradict each other.
In fact, beyond the terminological confusion encouraged by carefree commentators, the rebooting notion proves useful to offer valuable insights into the complexity of the remaking enterprise and of adaptations in general7. This article will thus first try to outline the complex relationship between continuations and the various forms remakes can adopt on television. In each of the instances studied in the first part, the relationship will be a dyadic, traditional one between one series and its remake, while the notions of continuations, disguised and straight remakes will be discussed based on their handling of narrative continuity.
Finally, the intertextual web will be enlarged even more by considering the relationship between TV remakes and genres themselves by taking as a case study the example of the science fiction TV show remake Battlestar Galactica, itself a reboot. Making Sense of the Reboot on Television recently the prequel. Given that many episodic series tell different stories on a weekly basis, how could any TV remake ever give audiences more than a similar premise?
To qualify as a remake on a textual level, a new iteration must cancel any form of narrative continuity with its predecessor. See also Carroll, These shows were then, in the parlance of tvtropes. Many new versions of episodic series will follow the same strategy and will acknowledge and incorporate the decades that have passed in the real world into the intradiegetic world of the new show.
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The former actors will then play older versions of their characters, sometimes with their intradiegetic children if the show wants to carry on as a proper series Sometimes, they will only appear in the pilot episode, like David Hasselhoff, who appears in the final minutes of the backdoor pilot of the new Knight Rider , time enough to shake hands with his adult son and convince him to take over for him, before departing again — thus bringing legitimacy to a show which can then be seen as joining the canon of the franchise, while hopefully boosting ratings.
This is then a continuation. Various references and nods will thus tellingly be made to the original in the course of the remade version, aligning the new production with the original as closely as possible while still offering fresh weekly scripts. UnCancelled, last access on December 23, The actors reprised older versions of their original characters, thus making it a sequel or continuation Verevis, Yet it provides its viewers with much more than inspiration from the original characters and with everything they would expect from a series called The Knight Rider: the talking car, edgy onboard gadgets, the playful banter between Michael and KITT, car chases, etc.
Thus disguised remakes will differ very little from the actual, straight remakes, where the familiar characters have not aged and are thus now played by new actors, and where they go through the familiar origin story in the pilot — where in short continuity has been rebooted. Thus a show like The Fugitive is a straight remake, as the new version restages the very same origin story: Doctor Richard Kimble played by a new actor and who has not aged in the meantime is again framed for the murder of his wife in the pilot episode and on the run from the authorities.
Other recent revivals have offered isolated remakes of some of the most famous and emblematic episodes from their originals: the version of The Twilight Zone offered a new version of the now-classic Eye of the Beholder 1. More recently, Psych USA Network, even offered its viewers a remake of one of its own earlier episodes: the episode entitled "Cloudy with a Chance of As these counter-examples show, fully fledged remakes do not exist on television.
Even transnational remakes of serialized shows will typically only faithfully remake the pilot episode of their original to then progressively explore fresh narrative directions, as the U. Because of the ongoing nature of the story being told in these shows, then, these remakes will not be able to simply propose weekly variations on their premise, a fundamental difference with episodic shows which will force them to innovate if they want to still put forward enough novelty and thus get legitimacy.
Whether disguised or straight remakes, then, these various shows all try, like sequels or prequels, to capitalize on and offer their own variation on and reinterpretation of a familiar formula, regardless of narrative continuity, minimal to begin with in an episodic TV show. Indeed, as will be seen below, TV storytelling traditionally consists, in the case of episodic series, of episodes offering a new variation on their premise, that is to say, in essence, remaking their pilot episodes. This is all the more logical, from a commercial standpoint, as TV series are increasingly being co-opted in cross-media franchises, or brands, which increasingly blur the narrative, economic lines between cinema, television and other media.
This is why another, more complex kind of remake has seen the light of day: the reboot, whose handling of narrative continuity is far more consequential and which does concentrate on — reinvented — characters. Remakes vs.
Reboots Some remakes do not indeed merely remake an actual show but a whole cross- or transmedia franchise, or selected parts of them, and thus recreate discrete elements of various hypotexts at the same time — not just a former TV show or even a common original property. Reboots are the clearest manifestation of the current efforts by studios and networks to build and capitalize on franchises and brands as they try to rebrand their current properties and relaunch and reinvent them to realize their full commercial potential.
The notion of rebooting an ongoing series stems from comic books, when D. Comics rebooted the storylines of its major characters in the s. The volume limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths rebooted the D. This allowed the company to start anew, simply abolishing the multiple contradictions and complexities which had accumulated over the decades and confused readers and writers alike Proctor, Anatomy, 6.
Making Sense of the Reboot on Television had already been partially used in the past in the cinema 19, was later embraced by Hollywood when a D. Hollywood had thus given itself a new form of remake, which would redo not simply one film but an entire film series and cancel their narrative continuity. Most importantly, the new movie series would not in fact remake the various films but would completely reimagine the whole intradiegetic universe, offering new storylines.
Going back to square one thus allowed them, like D. This means that a reboot a continuity reboot will also typically be a reimagining: the franchise is reset and reinvented according to new parameters. Finally, these reboots will typically reach farther back in time than the previous film series to draw their inspiration from older hypotexts, thus allowing them to rejuvenate their respective franchises by going back to the source or some later milestone: the rebooted comics of the s Batman, Superman , the original TV series of the s Star Trek , or the original Ian Fleming novel in the case of James Bond Casino Royale.
The same issue as in films thus arises, with the palimpsestic relationship between numerous hypo- and hypertexts blurring the straight, linear relationship between a film or TV show not adapted from any previous material and its remake, a dyadic pattern which in an age of franchises and cross- or transmedia storytelling is increasingly becoming obsolete. Even the triangular relationship Thomas Leitch examines between the remake, the original film and the common literary property 19 Highlander III for example simply acted as though the second film had never happened, and conveniently forgot some of the plot elements established in the first one.
We should then talk about a partial continuity reboot. James Bond is different, as the absence of almost any continuity among the films means the movie series simply carried on with different actors.
It would thus be difficult to deem the new Flash CW, - a remake of the previous TV series of the same name NBC, , but rather the latest take on the character and his universe. It would even be difficult to call it a new adaptation of a common literary property since the series can draw its inspiration from any of the hypotexts produced since the first comic book was published in for instance, the character reprised in both TV shows, Barry Allen, was not created until in the first revival of the Flash comic book series Linearity is thus abolished in the sense that discrete elements from the hyper- narrative, originating in various media and eras, can be brought together in the reboot.
What ultimately links the original texts and their reboots, then, are again the characters. The same main protagonists and often their most popular antagonists are present in all these iterations, but played by different actors, which again marks the reboot as belonging to the realm of the remake.
The same phenomenon has been recently occurring on television, in the wake again of the contemporary popularity of superheroes and comic book adaptations. And again, D.
Transformations and Mistranslations
C Comics is at the center of the wave of rebootings. None of the recent or current TV shows based on comic books which had already inspired previous TV shows, virtually all of them from D.
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The Flash, Gotham, Supergirl , can be called remakes of those previous shows. Gotham FOX, - , which recounts the adventures of a young Jim Gordon in Gotham City and tells the genesis of the various characters populating the Batman universe Batman himself, then only a child; the future Penguin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, etc. The show shares the same universe as Batman, yet is decidedly not a Batman TV series in the sense that it does not feature Batman as its main protagonist.
The same can be said of Smallville WB, , the first TV prequel to recount the youthful adventures of Clark Kent, before he became Superman, thus revising the Superman canon e. Making Sense of the Reboot on Television now resides in Smallville. The Superman mythos is thus again remade and reimagined, with the show going one step farther than Smallville it is not just a teenage version of Clark Kent we will follow, but his female cousin , but no specific previous TV show is the object of the remake nor is any specific film being adapted to the small screen.
What would a female Superman be like? Even a character from the Superman universe, Jimmy Olsen, is part of the cast, thus possibly establishing some form of shared universe with the ongoing movie series if the actor is glimpsed in the future Man of Steel movies reprising his role or, possibly, with at least some of the other D. Crucially, what Supergirl also does is remake discrete narrative elements from previous hypotexts: peripheral characters, plot elements, emblematic scenes.
Actor Mehcad Brooks offers yet another remaking of Jimmy Olsen this time a black man , while Supergirl herself had already been portrayed on television at least once, in a few episodes of Smallville as well as on the big screen. Many autonomous elements scenes, costumes, lines can thus be remade within a particular show, establishing a giant and complex network of references, allusions and quotations among dozens of productions, which only the most expert of fans will comprehend fully. While not being remakes in the usual sense, therefore, and often technically being prequels, these shows have everything to do with the remaking enterprise.
Finally, a reboot can be understood outside of its comic-book, multiverse origins. Like in cinema, partial reboots had already been employed in the past to opportunely erase some inconvenient story lines. The rebooted version also took over where the original series had ended, ignoring the two reunion television movies that had been produced in the meantime But the term can also be used by the media to designate any kind of significant shakeup in an ongoing show.
The midseason cast and concept shakeup of the rebooted Knight Rider, for example, with several actors dismissed and the concept of the show tweaked to more closely resemble the original series chance encounters with strangers in need rather than government-sponsored operations , was thus itself sometimes called a reboot of the rebooted show Afterword: rethinking remakes. Play it again, Sam: retakes on remakes, Cascajosa Virino, C. El espejo deformado. Versiones, secuelas y adaptaciones en Hollywood. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla. Chicharro Merayo, M. Cunningham, S.
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Raiders of the lost text: Remaking as contested homage in Always. Play it Again, Sam: Retakes on Remakes, Heinze, R. Remakes and Remaking: Concepts, Media, Practices. Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag. Horton, A. Play it again, Sam: retakes on remakes. University of California Press. Jensen, P. Jensen, I. Knox, S.