Five Shows Looking for a Reboot
It has recently come to my attention that Channel 5/PBS are showing a remake of the classic BBC comedy-drama All Creatures Great and Small. The series, based upon the semi-autobiographical novels of James Herriot, centres on the lives, loves and misadventures of the partners of a veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire in the 1920s and 30s. All very nice, all very cosy, all very ‘nine o'clock on a Sunday evening’. Not to my taste.
But we seem to live in an age of remake, reboot and retread, don’t we? At least two attempts to revive Miss Marple (Geraldine McEwen and Julia MacKenzie) fell far short of the standards set by the late Joan Hickson. In the same way, despite the best efforts of Alfred Molina, Kenneth Branagh and John Malkovich, David Suchet remains the definitive Poirot. Ditto the Great Detective himself, where neither Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), nor Johnny Lee Miller (Elementary) came close to Jeremy Bretts’ masterful portrayal. Forget about Robert Downey Jr altogether — Sherlock Holmes is not Tony Stark!
At the other end of the scale, we have the Star Trek re-imagining. Not too bad, to be honest, and at least made with some degree of affection and integrity. It helps that Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto required absolutely no effort to be better actors than Shatner and Nimoy (it would have taken an awful lot to be worse). We at least did not have to suffer Shatners’ scenery- chewing and the sodden, bullpen scripts, though we were treated to one last sight of Nimoys’ uncannily accurate imitation of a stuffed owl!
But all this apart, there are a few TV shows from my (long ago and far away) youth that could do with a reboot. Here are a few:
The Avengers: Not the Marvel lot, you understand, but the proper Avengers — Mr Steed and Mrs Peel. There’s a sight too much, gritty, emotional dark drama going on these days. We could do with something light-hearted, with wisecracks among the action and slightly-improbable plots (I’m up to here with drug cartels, serial killers and domestic terrorists, thanks). I must admit that I like the idea of Idris Elba as John Steed, I think the role would suit him. In a modern version, of course, there would be more opportunity to showcase the intellectual abilities, as well as karate skills, of Mrs Peel.
The Champions: This little-known adventure series from ITC ran for two years (30 episodes) in the late ’60s. It featured three agents of an international organisation called Nemesis, who after a plane crash in the Himalayas, acquired enhanced mental and physical abilities (heightened senses, greater strength and speed, some telepathy and precognition). They used these abilities in subsequent missions (in assorted exotic locales, of course) while trying to keep them secret from their boss. The current superhero vogue makes me think an updated reboot would have a bit of a chance.
Sapphire and Steel: All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Transuranic heavy elements may not be used where there is life. Medium atomic weights are available: Gold, Lead, Copper, Jet, Diamond, Radium, Sapphire, Silver and Steel. Sapphire and Steel have been assigned.
This little gem of a head-scratcher ran between 1979 and 1982 and, it appears, was understood fully only by the writer, Peter J Hammond, and one of the stars. The eponymous Sapphire and Steel were a pair of ‘Operators’ for a mysterious organisation whose brief was to repair breaches in Time. The breaches allowed a variety of forces or beings to enter Time and cause havoc. The role of the Operators was to repair the breaches, with the forces outside of course, regardless of the consequences to any humans caught in the middle. Unlike the Doctor, Sapphire and Steel were not kindly eccentric idealists. Despite her surface charm, Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) was coolly detached while her partner Steel (David McCallum, who according to Lumley was the only other person who understood the premise) was brusque to the point of cruelty at times. Other agents were occasionally featured, such as the massive, jovial Lead and the crafty, slightly camp Silver. The Operators’ powers are varied and often quite subtle and the cases involve anything from hauntings to time-loops to possession. Lovely stuff, I want more!
Ace of Wands: Part of ITV’s unending and unsuccessful quest to find a rival for Doctor Who, this kids’ show ran from 1970 to ’72, when it was replaced by the execrable The Tomorrow People. The central character was Tarot, a stage illusionist who may or may not have had actual magical powers. He was accompanied (in the first two seasons), by Sam — an ex-con who was his stage-hand and helped develop the stage illusions — and Lulli, his assistant with whom Tarot shared a telepathic link. There was also an antiquarian book dealer named Mr Sweet, who could provide all sorts of useful background information. Plots ran from foiling the kidnap of high-ranking NATO officers, through defeating evil wizards (Russell Hunter as Mr Stabs was particularly memorable) to dealing with ETs. With its’ combination of technology, stagecraft and genuine magic, it came off as a kid-level cross between Mission: Impossible, Jonathan Creek and Dr Strange. I’m thinking a YA version might be good.
The Mind of Mr J G Reeder: A 1969 crime series based upon the short stories by Edgar Wallace. Mr Reeder, mild-mannered and bowler-hatted, works for the fictional Public Prosecutors Office in London on the 1920s. He describes himself as having an unfortunate problem “I see wrong in everything. I have the mind of a criminal.” He is able to use this peculiar mindset to uncover the plans of, and wage psychological warfare upon, a series of counterfeiters, murderers and gangsters. In his bowler hat, dark jacket, pinstripe trousers and tightly-furled umbrella he is an unimposing figure, down to the steel-rimmed spectacles he looks over, and sometimes under, but never through. However, his ‘weakish-looking’ frame hides expertise in both boxing and jiu-jitsu, beneath the jacket is a heavy-calibre automatic pistol, and the umbrella hides a twelve-inch blade. Whether set in the 1920s, or updated to now, this cerebral detective deserves another airing!
Just a little wishful thinking. Any old show for your past that you feel deserve a second chance?