TV Reboots to Moot

TV reboots are unpredictable. Some turn out to be far superior to the original. Battlestar Galactica started out as a camp 70’s derivative of Star Wars. The same three special effects shots of model spaceships were used, over and over, in order to keep budgets down. Kids like me would watch them, over and over, because they were spaceships, after all. When rebooted in the 21st Century, Battlestar Galactica became a very different beast. No longer for kids, it was one of the most challenging, philosophical, well-rounded and riveting science fiction shows ever seen on television. And the music was great too. In contrast, other reboots have been stinkier than old boots. The Charlie’s Angels reboot was so bad they only showed four episodes before putting it out of our misery. Knight Rider and Fantasy Island were similarly resurrected for short but unappealing runs. Without the quirky appeal of David Hasselhoff and Ricardo Montalban respectively, the two formats should have been left in peace. And the return of Yes, Minister (see here) raises both hopes and fears – the original writers are on board, but who could possibly replace the original cast? Nevertheless, the most surprising shows can generate successful reboots. Other than the joyous theme tune, nobody remembers what they liked about the original Hawaii Five-O. However, the Hawaii Five-O reboot is set to enter its third season. With that success in mind, here are three more improbable reboots I would like to see on the small screen.

Magnum, P.F.

After Hawaii Five-O, the Aloha State gave us Magnum, P.I. – the show that made Tom Selleck a star. Employed by the never-seen Robin Masters to check security on his estate, Magnum performed his task in the way most guaranteed to annoy Higgins, who was also responsible for security on the Masters estate. In this detective mystery show, the real mystery was why Robin Masters employed two people to test security at his luxurious Hawaiian estate – even though he never visited it. As payment for his duties, Magnum would gallivant around in Master’s beautiful red Ferrari. At other times, Magnum was ferried around the islands in the helicopter of T.C., his Vietnam vet buddy. Despite his moustache and lurid shirts, Magnum’s services were in constant demand. And no matter what situation he found himself in, Magnum always had a relevant anecdote to share with the audience, drawing on his experiences in Vietnam, or when playing American Football, or at high school, or his time as a sushi chef, or the time he was a children’s entertainer, or…

The problem with rebooting Magnum is as plain as the moustache on Tom Selleck’s face – namely, how to recreate that moustache with provoking unintended comic consequences. Magnum without the moustache is as ridiculous as Columbo without the raincoat or Quincy doing an autopsy on a stiff that died of natural causes. The rebooted Magnum cannot work unless you have a ridiculously good-looking hunk with the power to make moustaches look sexy again. And from that simple fact, the rest of the reinvented premise follows, because only one man could play a 21st century Magnum. And that man is… David Beckham.

Sexy Selleck and his super ‘stache Beckham’s beard proves his potential

Think about it. The title role in Magnum demands a star who can convincingly portray a playboy who spends most of his time loafing, driving ridiculously fast and expensive cars, whilst getting away with fashion choices that would normally provoke women to collapse into tears of laughter. Only the world’s top footballers can credibly carry off that combo. And of the world’s top footballers, only Beckham attains Selleck-esque levels of hairy macho hunkiness. Hence the reboot would be Magnum, P.F. – professional footballer.

In the pilot for the rebooted series, Magnum is a veteran footballer relocating to Hawaii at the tail-end of his career. He is tempted there by an offer from old pal, Roman Mastorovich, a billionaire oligarch who owns football teams all over the planet. Magnum’s job is to coach the Honolulu Hornets, Mastorovich’s latest purchase, a team of perennial strugglers but gorgeous beach babes that play in the semi-pro Hawaiian Women’s League. As befits the star player turned coach, Magnum gets free use of Mastorovich’s Jaguar XK convertible, which has been painted a tasteful purple with orange ‘go faster’ stripes. Magnum also regularly helps himself to the ‘team bus’ – a Grumman Gulfstream III personal jet. That jet is piloted by another old pro footballer known as ‘D.C.’ – a character played by John Harkes, former captain of the US national side and D.C. United. Higgins returns in the role of Club Chairman, frequently arguing with Magnum about his transfer policy. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Higgins as a comical fusspot of mixed Hawaiian and English parentage. The Hornets’ star player is Debra Stone, played by Olivia Wilde. Stone dreams of leading the US women’s side to World Cup glory. In the meantime, she earns her keep by helping her father (Robert Forster) run his detective business. Stone’s headstrong nature leads her into early conflict with Magnum, and the new coach benches her. But then Stone’s father is killed in mysterious circumstances, and later Stone’s shinpads are booby-trapped with semtex. Suspecting foul play, Magnum tells Stone a personal story about when he used to play street football with some other kids who later grew up to be Irish Republican terrorists. Having vowed to use his football skills to promote world peace, Magnum offers to help Stone in the hunt for her father’s murderers. A series of thrilling car chases ensue, whilst the team earns a nil-nil draw in a league match with Waipahu Warriors. Then Magnum dons a tux and escorts Stone to a charity ball organized by ‘Numbers’ McMahon (Chow Yun-Fat), a social climber and professional gambler. Apparently this all has something vaguely to do with solving the mystery, but people are too busy enjoying Beckham’s facial hair to care about details like that. After once dance at the ball, Stone leans in as if to kiss Magnum, but he turns away. Upset, Stone storms off to try to solve the crime alone.

Stone discovers McMahon is the killer after one of his henchmen admits her father was being ‘lent on’ to drug Stone and hence fix a game for McMahon. In the climatic showdown, Stone calls McMahon and arranges a meeting on a public beach. With little hard evidence, she hopes to dupe McMahon and secretly record his confession. When they meet, however, McMahon pulls a gun on Stone. Magnum arrives in his Jaguar just in time to see McMahon leading Stone away. The mustachioed maestro knows he has to act without delay. He quick-wittedly runs up to a nearby game of beach soccer, intercepts the ball, and hits a pinpoint pass that knocks the gun from McMahon’s hand. With McMahon disarmed, Stone executes a perfect bicycle kick to McMahon’s head, knocking him out cold.

Following the pilot, Stone keeps on running her father’s detective business. Magnum reluctantly finds himself dragged into solving a new mystery each week, despite Higgins’ recurring complaint that Magnum does not spend enough time drilling the team on how to defend corners. Stone’s detective agency quickly gains a reputation as specialists in solving sports-related crimes. Some of the mysteries they solve include the fatal cutting of a rider’s saddle straps at the Kentucky Derby, a weightlifting champion who dies after rubbing his hands in poisoned chalk, a Tour de France rider who rolls off a mountainside after his brakes are cut, and the murder of a diver who jumps into a piranha-infested pool. The show will feature guest appearances from Dan Marino, Pelé, Annika Sörenstam, Usain Bolt, the Williams sisters, Gary Neville, and Katarina Witt (as Magnum’s half-sister who once captained the East German ice hockey team). Victoria Beckham will be hired to design the team strip for the Honolulu Hornets, as well as David’s short shorts and gaudy shirts.

Pros: David Beckham reboots the non-ironic moustache.

Cons: Victoria Beckham’s fashion sensibilities.

Hart to Hart to Hart

Jonathan Hart is a self-made millionaire. Jennifer Hart is one lady who knows how to take care of herself. The butler is called Max and the dog is called Freeway, because they found it on the freeway. Because, in their spare time, millionaires will cruise up and down the highway looking for stray dogs in order to save themselves a few bucks at the pet store. Oh, and when they met, it was murder. Made in the early 80’s, Hart to Hart were the perfect crime-fighting couple for the Reagan era. Violent crime out of control? Slashed taxes and no money to pay for real police? No problem! Millionaires can solve the murders and they will earn a tax break for doing so. That was then, and this is now. What would be appropriate domestic crime-fighting team in Obama’s era? The answer can be found by considering what was missing, but badly needed, in Charlie’s Angels. A Hart to Hart reboot for modern times would serve up three crime-fighting lipstick lesbians who also enjoy a stable, loving, polygamous relationship. And who fight crime. Whilst wearing lipstick. And disguises.

Jennifer Hart (Lindsay Lohan) is the de facto leader of the Harts. An employee of Google since its early days, Jennifer made a fortune from her stock options, and has since quadrupled her wealth by providing seed investment into a range of firms specializing in Facebook games. The most popular of these provide a range of ground-breaking game-playing simulations of activities like quantity surveying, precision lathing and airport luggage handling. Jennifer is a forthright risk-taker and an outrageous flirt who never wears any knickers.

In contrast, Jonathanelle Hart (Queen Latifah) is a hard-nosed cynic who keeps Jennifer grounded. Jonathanelle is Jennifer’s first wife, since divorced. Despite their many fights, they retain a close and sometimes intimate relationship. Jonathanelle was named after her abusive father, a violent drunkard and Head of Compliance for the Securities Division at Goldman Sachs Tokyo. Because of her upbringing overseas, Jonathanelle is fluent in Japanese and is a seventh dan black belt in karate. As a youth, Jonathanelle spent long hours at the dōjō to avoid her father, who often returned home stinking drunk and talking about gambling a fortune on credit default swaps. As a consequence, she learned how to kill a man with her little finger. She can also kill with all her other fingers and with three of her toes. Though their marriage was often tense, Jennifer and Jonathanelle continue to share a strong bond of loyalty to one another, with Jonathanelle protecting Jennifer whenever she gets herself into trouble. Despite their divorce, Jonathanelle continues to live in the guest wing of Jennifer’s California mansion.

Maxine ‘Max’ Hart (Saffron Burrows) is Jennifer’s second wife and a natural homemaker. She was Professor of Forensic Psychopathology at Oxford University, but gave up her career in order to care for her dying mother, who is now dead. Jennifer and Max met at the after party to the funeral. The two of them have spent every night together since. Max’s scientific and observational skills often prove vital when examining the scene of a murder. Also she bakes cookies, has advanced computer hacking skills, and is an expert with explosives.

After the three Hart women, the household is completed by a teenage boy – called Freeway. Freeway used to be a homeless squeegee boy before he was adopted by the Harts. The three Hart women met Freeway when he cleaned the windscreen of their Jeep Wrangler during a road trip to the Yucatán Peninsula. Taking pity on the boy, they abducted him against his will, tied him up, put him in a sack and smuggled him back into the USA. The Harts named him Freeway because none of them could pronounce his real name properly. Finally, the Hart entourage is completed by Jennifer’s Aunt Agatha (Ellen DeGeneres), a whodunit novelist, godmother to Freeway and a regular source of new mysteries to solve. Aunt Agatha likes to slap attractive men and women on the behind, though she is routinely lectured by Jonathanelle about the evils of physical harassment.

In the pilot episode, the Harts hold a charity fundraiser for President Obama’s re-election. Obama makes a guest appearance, eating Max’s cookies and having his backside slapped by Aunt Agatha – who comments how firm it is. At the end of the party, the Harts are devastated when they realize they cannot find Freeway. They instantly suspect their neighbour, Dean Cain, the avowed Republican and former star of Superman. Dean Cain is played by himself. Barging into Cain’s house, they catch him playing Trivial Pursuit with his son. In a fit of rage, Jennifer throws the board over and nobody can remember who had won which pieces of pie. Cain squares off against Jennifer, but Jonathanelle karate chops him from behind. Hurt but not beaten, Cain squares off against Jonathanelle. In the process, they smash up Cain’s rumpus room. Max finally intervenes to calm everyone down, when she points out that Freeway is not actually there and there is no real reason to suspect Cain. She then gives Cain some of the left-over cookies from the Obama fundraiser whilst Jennifer offers to pay for any damage caused. With no hard feelings, Cain reveals he did see Freeway walking down the street, away from the Hart mansion. They all go together to look for him.

Whilst looking for Freeway around the local neighbourhood, Cain first flirts with Jennifer, then with Max, and has no success. He has better luck with Aunt Agatha, who is somewhat bisexual and frequently slaps him on the backside. Meanwhile, Jonathanelle has headed downtown to bust heads amongst her drug-dealing snitches. They reveal that runaway kids sometimes escape by Greyhound bus. Showing photos of Freeway around the bus station, Jonathanelle discovers that Freeway has indeed caught a bus which will take him back to Mexico. The others arrive, but feel there is no hope of stopping Freeway before he crosses the border. Then Cain comes up with a plan – he calls up his buddy Rick Perry, Governor of Texas. Governor Perry agrees sends a Predator drone to hunt down and immobilize Freeway as he tries to cross the border. The plan is a complete success – Freeway is shot in the leg by the Predator drone but the wound is superficial as the bullet passes clean through. Nevertheless, Jennifer Hart is outraged at this callous act of child abuse, and promises to make Perry pay, even as she is tying up Freeway and putting him in the boot of her car. Jennifer calls her lawyer and instigates court proceedings against Governor Perry. For the court case, Jennifer hires an ass-kicking rebooted version of Ally McBeal, played by Vanessa Hudgens.

Pros: Future episodes can feature guest appearances by Stephanie Powers, the original Jennifer Hart, playing dotty Grandma Hart. Endless fantasy potential for men who want to imagine themselves as Freeway, bound and gagged by the three Hart women.

Cons: Reduces the chances of a lesbian reboot of Charlie’s Angels. Increases the chances of an Ally McBeal reboot.

The Why Files

There are many shows about fighting crime. In quite a few, the FBI fights crime. But only one show was dedicated to the FBI fighting paranormal crime. The X-Files teamed David Duchovny as the believer, Fox Mulder, with Gillian Anderson as his sceptic partner, Dr. Dana Scully. Over the course of nine seasons they investigated everything from aliens to vampires to sea monsters – whilst teasing the audience about whether their relationship would develop in a romantic direction. Could such a perfect format be rebooted? Possibly not, but this would be one way to try…

To reboot any science fiction serious, you must start with the greatest science fiction cliche of all: reverse the polarity. For The X-Files, this means turning the male character into the sceptic and having the woman as the believer in all things paranormal and/or alien and/or silly. This reboot needs some heavy star power to fill the shoes of the original duo. I would start by recruiting Timothy Olyphant to be Fox Mulder, and turning the character into a world-weary nuclear physicist, a former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency, and a trained black ops sharpshooter. The son of a four-star general, Mulder was set for a career as a military assassin, but turned away from it after his closest friend and colleague murdered an Uzbek diplomant’s entire family, including his twin babies, as part of a double-cross to smuggle Pakistani plutonium. After that, Mulder trained as a physicist and dedicated his life to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but left on a point of principle about their travel allowances. Other than that, the audience knows nothing about Mulder. He has flashbacks which reveal more of his identity as the series goes on.

For Mulder’s partner, I would cast Anna Paquin as Dana Scully. Whilst still a baby, Scully was orphaned when her hippie parents disappeared mysteriously whilst backpacking in Haiti. The conventional theory was that Scully’s parents were engaged in drug smuggling, and were killed by henchmen of Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier. Scully, on the other hand, believes her parents took drugs whilst taking part in voodoo rituals to speak to the dead, and that they were sacrificed when a plan to turn them into zombie slaves went horribly wrong – turning them into the kinds of zombies that ravenously eat flesh, and not the kind willing to be slaves. Raised by her grandparents, Scully looked set for a prestigious academic career, but she became increasingly disinterested and she dropped out during her first year of postgraduate study. Scully then secured a low-paid job as a reporter for the Weekly World News, a tabloid with a penchant for supernatural stories. During this period she also became addicted to marijuana, though her grandparents later had her taken to rehab against her will, with the justification that she was suffering schizoid fantasies. After leaving rehab, Scully threw herself into a daily program of physical exercise and habitual study of paranormal subjects of the type she had previously written about. Meanwhile, she also applied and succeeded in becoming a top-notch FBI field agent.

In the pilot episode, Scully and Mulder first meet when they are assigned to investigate the assassination of several Haitian refugees living in the US. They fly to New Orleans, where they hire a new model Ford Fusion hybrid and start driving around, doing investigative-type stuff. As they drive, they talk, sometimes to each other, but most often on their mobile phones. From the talk it is clear that each agent has developed different theories. Mulder suspects a political conspiracy, and he looks for various activist organizations that link all of the dead. Scully dismisses this, and she hires her own new model Ford Edge, taking it out to bayou country. Once there she starts knocking on people’s doors, and begins networking with the local witchdoctors she finds living in various wooden huts and trailer homes. Mulder heads to Baton Rouge, where he visits the historic state capital building, and encounters a mysterious ‘deep throat’ contact, who reveals that the Haitians were all part of the underground resistance to Baby Doc Duvalier. The contact, is never fully seen, but he becomes known as the ‘Chupa Chups’ man, because of his habit on sucking on a lollipop (and because the program is sponsored by Chupa Chups). When Mulder challenges the Chupa Chups man to show some evidence to back up his assertions, the Chupa Chups man counters by calling Mulder a ‘wally’ and a ‘berk’. From these insults, Mulder correctly guesses that the Chupa Chups man was formerly a British Secret Service agent. They part company after Mulder realizes that the Chupa Chups man does not have any actual information to share, and is just a lonely old man who wants to get back into the conspiracy game. Scully has had more luck, and by this time has been stripped naked and had her body rubbed all over with the entrails of a poisonous frog. Unfortunately for Scully, essence of frog also proves to be a strong laxative, and she finds herself needing to run off into the bushes before she soils herself. When there, she fails to hear that the witchdoctors talking about Monday Night Football, and revealing themselves to be pretty ordinary people (apart from their leftfield hobbies).

In the midst of Mulder’s investigation, he receives an unexpected call on his fancy new cellphone. The call is from Assistant Director Warren, a high-ranking member of the FBI. AD Warren tells Mulder to ‘quit wasting time on voodoo-hoodoo scare stories’ before abruptly hanging up. Mulder wonders if the call was meant for him or his gullible partner Scully. Was the aim to put them off investigating the voodoo connection, or is it a bluff to make him think there really is some truth to Scully’s voodoo theories, with the aim of diverting attention away from the political intrigue? Mulder decides the bluff is also a double-bluff, and decides to keep on investigating the links between the victims and the Campaign for Haitian Independence and Liberation (CHIL). CHIL is a shadowy organization that receives large donations from anonymous sources and has a section 527 tax exemption. To find out more, Mulder browses Wikipedia on his smartphone, and arranges to meet a reporter called Douglas Wrangler, played by Jack Black. Wrangler has previously written stories about CHIL’s offshore bank accounts, claiming it is secretly funded by the Environmental Protection Agency and Planned Parenthood. Mulder suggests they meet in a car park but Wrangler says that is stupid and insists they meet in a Starbucks instead. At the Starbucks, Wrangler is initially aloof, but he lowers his guard when it becomes clear that both men served in the Army. Wrangler then claims to have evidence of a high-level conspiracy involving the CIA and the Department of Defense. According to Wrangler, unnamed forces in the US Government plan to take control of Haiti by installing a new pro-American and pro-military Primeminister, whilst controlling a figurehead President by turning him into a zombie puppet slave. This would only be a preliminary step towards a full-scale sea-borne invasion of Cuba, which is just 100 miles from the coast of Haiti. Because of the limited military capabilities of the Haitian military, the CIA will also provide the Haitians with advanced energy ray weapons of alien origin. Wrangler also starts talking about his award-winning work concerning Dr. David Bannerman, a scientist who overdosed on gamma radiation, causing Bannerman to turn into a giant green monster every time he gets angry. Mulder dismisses Wrangler as a crackpot, finishes his gingerbread latte, and leaves.

That evening Mulder drives his new model Ford Mustang rental to meet with Scully at a seedy transvestite strip bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Swapping notes on their work so far, they conclude neither has discovered anything useful, and they are no closer to solving the case. After plenty of drinks, some of the transvestites mistake the pair for a couple. Scully and Mulder are reluctantly dragged into joining the ‘second line’ – the supporting dancers – for the cajun-themed band. Drunker than they realize, and having removed a lot of their clothing, Scully and Mulder eventually stumble off the dance floor, and take a long look into each other’s eyes, hinting at future romantic possibilities. Then Scully violently throws up, making her think she was poisoned whilst participating in the earlier voodoo ceremonies. The next day, Scully takes her new model Ford Fiesta rental and visits a doctor. The doctor concludes that Scully is pregnant. Scully wonders if the pregnancy was caused by the voodoo ceremony, or whether it might be an immaculate conception or even if she had been impregnated by an alien visitation. Then she remembers she and other FBI agents had taken part in a peyote-fueled orgy just a month earlier. She does not reveal this to Mulder for fear the revelation might compromise her career.

Meanwhile, Mulder starts to believe there might be some merit to Scully’s voodoo theories, and he arranges for the duo to take a trip to a five star Haitian beach resort, with the hopes of making a breakthrough in their investigation. When they arrive, they hire a new model Ford Explorer and spend a week touring the island. This reveals nothing. They nevertheless enjoy themselves greatly. They swap romantic eye glances on their final evening, whilst chatting casually about what it would be like to be turned into a zombie. As Scully has stopped drinking, the eye glances lead to nothing, and they each return to their suites alone. Scully spends the rest of the evening listening to the ocean and staring at the stars, whilst Mulder completes his expense claims.

Mulder and Scully arrive back at New Orleans International airport the next morning. They are stopped and subjected to a demeaning body search by staff working for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Based on her experience from Weekly World News, Scully judges that the TSA staff look exactly like voodoo zombies. Mulder and Scully both treat their harassment as evidence they really have stumbled on to a voodoo-related conspiracy, and that government forces are trying to stop their work. In fact, the TSA staff are not zombies, and they treated the FBI duo just the same as every other passenger arriving that day. In the arrivals hall, Wrangler is unexpectedly waiting for Mulder and Scully. He says he has something to tell them, but cannot talk in public, offering them a lift back into town in his Toyota Prius. Mulder and Scully decline, having already arranged to hire a new model Ford Taurus sedan. Taking the Taurus, Mulder and Scully follow Wrangler back towards New Orleans, but both cars are forced off the road by voodoo extremists who have painted one half of their faces white, the other half black, in a bid to make themselves difficult to recognize. Mulder is especially angry at how the collision has put a dent in the Taurus, and he questions if the FBI will pay the excess on the insurance whilst bemoaning the extra paperwork he will now have to fill out. He gets out his mobile phone to call the insurance providers, but the voodoo extremists knock the phone from his hand. Scully, Mulder and Wrangler are all bundled into the back of the extremists’ pick-up truck, and are driven to a remote shack surrounded by swampland. After a feast of alligator and crawfish gumbo, four beautiful and half-naked voodoo priestesses subject Wrangler to a prolonged body massage. The priestesses repeatedly rub the essence of extremely poisonous frogs all over Wrangler’s naked body. This induces a fatal heart attack. Wrangler dies smiling. Mulder takes his shirt off, willing to sacrifice himself in order to buy time for Scully in the hopes she can escape with her unborn child. But before the poison massage ritual can begin again, it is thwarted by AD Warren, who arrives with a dozen other FBI agents. The voodoo extremists are taken into custody, whilst AD Warren warns Mulder and Scully not to tell anyone about ‘this embarrassing episode’. Mulder and Scully are unclear as to what was really behind the mystery, but they agree to keep working together as a team. Their plan is to reopen a series of unsolved cases, colloquially known as the ‘why the heck would anyone choose such a peculiar way of murdering someone’ files, or the ‘why files’ for short.

Pros: Potential for guest appearances by Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, by Gillian Anderson as the Director of the FBI, and by Alice Cooper, Danny DeVito, Jim Parsons and Katee Sackhoff as the ‘lone gunpersons’.

Cons: Blatant product placement for Ford motor cars. Also a bad advert for the FBI – for all Mulder and Scully’s efforts, the public is no safer (or wiser).

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