Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Picking over a plate of Classic Character Rehash

As I mentioned in my TV Thursday post the other day,I did catch the premiere of Bates Motel,the modern day re-imagining of Psycho's bad boy next door Norman Bates(and his still breathing mother). While the show may be better than I first thought it would be, there are lingering clouds of doubt hovering in my mind about the long term strength of this new series.

 Joining Norman in the back from the pop culture beyond genre later this season will be Hannibal, a prime time prequel that follows FBI profiler Will Graham(Hugh Dancy) in the early days of his career and the beginnings of his professional partnership with renowned psychiatrist and secretive serial killer Dr. Lecter(Mads Mikkelson) .

For those of you wondering "Hey,where's Clarice?",this connection between Lecter and Graham came well before Silence of the Lambs,in author Thomas Harris' earlier novel Red Dragon. That book has been adapted twice for the silver screen(the superior version being 1986's Manhunter,in my opinion) and based on what I've seen so far in the promo for Hannibal,the small screen rendition promises to offer a nearly similar amount of sinister suspense and startling gore(you have been warned):

With all of the reboots and remakes churning out of Hollywood for the movie houses these past few years,it's no wonder that the same set of replays would be made for TV as well.

TV is no stranger to reviving familiar pop culture figures,whether it's superheroes(Smallville),space explorers(Battlestar Galactica) or fashionistas(The Carrie Diaries). In fact,it can be seen as a creative challenge for both writers and actors to place their own spin on such well known story lines and quotable characters.

 However, making something so ingrained within the pop culture psyche fresh and new is truly a tall order there of Brobdingnagian proportions:

My main problem with both Bates Motel and Hannibal is that by going back,it's hard to appreciate their moving forward. Ultimately,their fates are sealed beforehand,since the reason that they're so famous is for their infamous deeds. Therefore, the possibility of redemption is null and void in order for these shows to have any workability at all.

To get a idea of what works well in the sphere of character restarts,let's look at Elementary,the latest contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes. The show has done well with audiences and critics alike,despite a few quibbles from diehard fans regarding some of the changes made from the Arthur Conan Doyle template,and is a smart and snarky mystery series with true dramatic bite.

 Considering that this is the third Sherlock Holmes retake we've seen within the past decade(that includes two blockbuster films with Robert Downey Jr. and a touch of steampunk sensibility as well as a lauded BBC series),how is it that the time honored detective manages to step a step ahead of the game here?

One clear advantage that Holmes has is that he is an open ended character. Granted,he does have certain traits and supporting players to take along with him for each new outing but as long as there are puzzling crimes to be solved,Sherlock Holmes takes root easily anywhere he goes. Even in this latest version,despite change of country,time period and gender(for his protege Watson),the dectective's uncanny mental skills and off beat relationship with others are still as sharp and surprising as ever:

 While certain encounters with characters and situations are unavoidable for any Holmes adaptation,they don't have to hold back the leading man or determine his fictional fate. In fact,during the original heyday of Sherlock Holmes,Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a story that killed his famous detective off,mainly because he was tired of writing about him. Otherwise,he could have gone on forever with tales of Holmes,which even ACD's mother wished he would.

 That send-off,however,didn't keep Sherlock Holmes down for long and for generations, the return of Baker Street's greatest crime fighter has delighted mystery lovers and given them new memorable moments of suspense.

 That is the trick to reviving classic characters for most mediums,I think,subverting predisposed expectations. For example, I didn't believe that Once Upon a Time had a chance in hell of sustaining their story line beyond the first season but they certainly have. By expanding their universe with other fantasy characters and taking the whole "what if I made my own happy ending?" concept to greater depths,all the doors of possibility are open for this lot to walk on through.

  While I wish the best of luck to Norman and Hannibal,they may want to take a page from this set of fairy tales(or Holmes' handbook) and see if they can spin any yarns that will even make the most jaded of pop culture players sit up and take notice,as well as want more:

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