Have the studios spent millions to establish brands only to let the brands languish? With a few exceptions – The Godfather video game, The Indiana Jones Chronicles – the answer is yes. After the prodigious successes of the TV series Fargo and Bates Motel, based loosely on the classic films Fargo and Psycho, studios have been looking to redeploy other similarly prestigious titles onto the small screen. A quick look at what’s coming in Fall 2015:
Casablanca: Rick Rolls
In 2015, Rick (Zach Braff) manages the bar-restaurant that still bears his grandfather’s name, though now the centerpiece bar counter focuses on sushi. Rick maintains a “beautiful friendship” with the local chief of police, the clever, diminutive Peugeot (Mathieu Amalric), as well as a more adversarial one with the town’s leading smuggler, the porcine Lamborghini (Timothy Spall). All Rick wants is to make viral videos, but in present-day Morocco, Rick finds his hands full dispatching “spiritually questing” tourists and terrorists. And Rick is secretly desperate to learn the truth about his parentage, something his old black piano player, Hiram (Nipsey Russell), refuses to share despite their employer-employee relationship. And what will Rick do now that a spicy Spanish former flame, Elisa (Paz Vega), is back in town? “I came for the Latinos,” she explains. Rick answers, “There are no Latinos in Casablanca.” She says, “I was misinformado.”
Picking up three years after the film left off, this series chronicles the mid-60s adventures of the inmates at North Bend State Hospital in Oregon, a sort of Mad Men meets Orange is the New Black meets…uh, a mental asylum. Nurse Ratched (Toni Collette) still rules with an iron fist, but as the show proceeds we begin to see cracks behind her iron curtain. Our voice-over narrator is Little Chief (Adam Beach), mute to the group, but who reveals to us that he knows the Chief who escaped – Little Chief is here for the “three hots and a cot.” Little Chief also joins the group – many of whom are allowed to leave whenever they like – on occasional excursions into the local town, which thanks to Candy (Khloe Kardashian) is turning into a hippie, free-love paradise. So many of our beloved, familiar faces are back – Mr. Turkle (Ernie Hudson), Cheswick (Patton Oswalt), Harding (Topher Grace), Martini (Dominic Monaghan), and Taber (Christopher Lloyd). But will our heroes go insane before they find out everyone’s a little crazy?
Singin’ in the Rain Productions
After a few initial successes, Don Lockwood (Darren Criss) and Kathy Selden (Jessie Mueller) have found that early 1930s audiences are getting a little tired of their romantic musical shtick. After trying various ways to integrate the Depression (bread lines, apple-selling stands, gangster motifs), Don and Kathy are about to abandon California and move to off-Broadway when they meet Bill Robinson (Savion Glover), who shows them how to – ahem – blacken up their act. Eventually Robinson becomes bigger than Don and Kathy, renames himself “Mr. Bojangles,” and stars with a 7-year-old moppet named Shirley Temple (replicated by CGI). Their white-black pairings become more and more risqué, to the consternation of Will Hayes (Kevin Pollak), who gets more fanatical about his “Code” even as each episode ends with some delightful number shamelessly lifted from the MGM songbook. To compete with Bojangles, Don and Kathy have little recourse but to become more sexually outre, including an eye-popping version of “You’re The Top.”
Rear Window Plaza
In this clever “rear-imagining” for 2014, Stella (Pamela Adlon) finds it a little strange that the old, wheelchair-bound Jeff (Chevy Chase), has an attractive young lover, Lisa (Kate Upton), who keeps coming around their Harlem apartment in stylish new outfits. Eventually we learn that Lisa can’t otherwise afford rent in New York, and that’s the least of the secrets of the residents of the housing complex centered around Rear Window Plaza, including riotous characters like funny old Jews, cranky Chinese, music-at-all-hours Latinos, basketball-obsessed black kids, nefarious fat people named Lars, and whatever other demographic the show can cynically represent. But it all comes back to the three-generation humor of Jeff, Lisa, and Stella, who gently remind us of (respectively) old scary New York, new smartphone-enabled everything, and some kind of Chelsea Handler-like bitterness that post-Bloomberg New York has become too nice to complain about. Jeff’s stalking ways lead him into trouble with Lisa but the tacit approval of the local N.S.A. officer Doyle (Dan Aykroyd), and hijinks ensue. Oh, how they ensue.
Forrest of Arabia
Welcome to September 12, 2001, the day after an older, unwiser Forrest Gump (Todd Robert Anderson) managed to mangle a negotiation with terrorists onboard United Airlines Flight 175, then parachuted out of the plane moments before impact – where he sorta hang-glided unnoticed into the middle of the South Tower, subsequently getting rescued by firemen just before the building’s collapse. A year passes, and President George W. Bush seizes upon this champion ping-pong player’s potential and dispatches him to Iraq, where he and his stalwart companion Bubba Sharif (Mos Def) teach the Sunni troops how to seize trains mostly by lining up in the shape of a Sunni (or smiley) face. Gump eventually befriends an Iraqi veteran, Lieutenant Al-Dan (Said Taghmauoi), who is bitter at having lost both legs to war, but as they sail around the Persian Gulf looking for oil rigs to fix, Al-Dan learns to accept himself. Through a series of misbegotten accidents, Forrest Gump manages to bring full pluralistic democracy to Iraq, and is so popular among Iraqis that he is encouraged to submit his name for the new Presidency; the first season ends with jubilant Iraqis erecting a statue of him in place of the old one of Saddam Hussein, with several burqa-clad women holding up signs that say “Run Forrest Run!”