In these final days of 2017, as we look back in order to move forward, I wanted to take a moment for a few more cultural highlights of the last 365 (give or take a few), particularly the ones that dared to reimagine beloved classics. Yes, I’m talking about “remakes.”
In a world screaming for originality, the remake gets a bad wrap. And, to be fair, a lot of remakes deserve that wrap. I will not contest that the world is full of many pointless remakes that don’t have good enough answers to the one basic question you should have to answer before you embark on such a scheme—Why?
To paraphrase Shakespeare: The arts are a mirror held up to society. So, following that metaphor, remakes reflect the reflection, which, if mishandled can make for some trippy, fun-house times. Fortunately for us, more than a few achieved “remake” greatness in 2017 and I think we’re all truly better for them.
I’ll start at the beginning, with a classic sitcom for a modern audience, “One Day at a Time.” I’ll also admit that before this Netflix remake was released last January, I’d never heard of it…but I had heard of Valerie Bertinelli, so that’s something. In this show, we find one of the keys to a worthwhile remake—a complete reimagination.
“One Day at a Time” kept the basic premise of the original, single, divorced mother raising two children, and left everything else from the 70s/80s (some fashion choices aside) behind. And did I mention Rita Moreno?
It was the fun, joyful, cross-cultural start to 2017 that we all needed, and I can’t wait for season 2 (January 26, 2018).
And now, from one icon of stage and screen to a film favorite turned Broadway musical. I know, I know, the formula is tired and overdone, which is why it’s so exciting when someone actually finds a way to do it right, over and over and over again. “Groundhog Day,” did just that with the help of original screenplay writer, Danny Rubin, and Tim Minchin, who’d already successfully brought “Matilda” to the stage.
How? I’m glad you asked. It didn’t try to recreate the movie. It took the themes, a few of the character names, and ran with it, and took it places the movie hinted at, but just didn’t have the format to explore. The result was a beautiful exploration of the human spirit, the passage of time, and making the most of that which we are given.
This show may have been overlooked by the Tony Awards, but it got the ultimate approval, the praise of Bill Murray, who saw the show twice (in a row!) and explained the show beautifully: “The idea that we just have to try again. We just have to try again. It’s such a beautiful, powerful idea.”
Finally, I’ll close with a controversial choice, which when I say what it is, is going to seem ridiculous. But, believe it or not, there were a lot of people who really didn’t like Disney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast.”
And because I respect everyone’s right to their own opinion, no matter how wrong they are, that’s all I’m going to say about that.
For me, this recreation was a wonderful tribute to the generation that grew up with it, with beautiful new details for the next. It was clear that it was a labor of love for those involved and pure joy (at least for me).
With that, here’s to fresh takes and remakes worth revisiting in 2018!