We’re back! Here’s “Part Two” that features the last four films on the list:
ELEVATOR PITCH: It’s every cop show ever but with aliens. I mean, what else do you want from me?
Has there ever been a series more well-suited for television than Men in Black? I’m not sure. Mainly, because it arrives fully-baked – ready to follow the standard, police-procedural format that’s been used by literally hundreds of cop shows over the last fifty years. All while adding in the same twist that made MIB the movie so exciting back in 1997 – there’s fucking aliens everywhere, bro. And they’re running around, committing crimes and shit. Luckily for us, we have the Men In Black – back and in television form – ready to solve a new crime every week.
Now, before you scoff, let me just say that, yeah – I’m aware that MIB III was the hottest of hot New York City garbage. I know this despite the fact that I haven’t even seen it (mainly, because I am no longer 12). But, even so, that’s only because it’s been years since the original, it felt like a tired money grab, and let’s be honest, no wants to see Will Smith do this anymore. To me, the staleness of the movie is all the more reason to do the television version. It’s time to let some new blood dawn the black suits and start ridding the streets of alien scum (literal scum in some cases).
Because, lest we forget – the premise of the original film is borderline brilliant – and because it’s such a rich world that means there’s lots to explore that gets breezed over in the movies. Pick out any of the nice little details filtered in throughout the franchise (e.g. the “Customs” line in MIB II), and you’ll see all the evidence you need that the people who made the movies did the work necessary to create a fully-formed world. And since Barry Levinson did a lot of that work himself as the director, we know he could do it again for the series. Especially since he’s been involved with a number of great TV shows throughout his career – including cop shows like Homicide: Life on the Street and Shades of Blue (which is on right now).
So, what’s that I hear?
Here come the Men in Black … Galaxy defenders! Uh-huh, uh-huh.
ELEVATOR PITCH: Friday Night Lights if it were a comedy. With a hint of Eastbound and Down if the characters weren’t insane.
This is another release from last year that was good as movie, but would’ve absolutely crushed it as a Netflix series. In Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, he makes a movie with somehow even less plot and more drinking – this time set in the world of 80’s college baseball in Texas. And if you’re telling me that I can watch a show about college baseball in Texas in the 80’s – well, as far as world-building for TV is concerned, that’s an absolute home run, a dinger, a four bagger, an upper-decker, a grand salami – should I keep going or should I just kill myself with a baseball bat?
The point is, there’s a lot to love here, and not nearly enough people have seen the movie to make it a sacred text (or even a text for that matter). The series is ready to put up way bigger numbers. Not only that, but its measly box office returns virtually guarantees every single actor in this cast would be thirsty enough to do the same and return. Because, while there are certainly no stars in the group, there are some performers with star qualities. Keeping the cast, combined with its promising field of play, make this one a guaranteed hit.
(I swear I’ll never do another baseball pun ever again.)
ELEVATOR PITCH: Lost without the time travel. Survivor, but scripted.
For those of you who have never seen The Beach, first of all, let me just say – congratulations. And for those of you who have seen it, let me also just say – you probably felt the same way I did – that it squandered a pretty awesome premise by never understanding what was cool about it.
Quick Recap: In the movie, a young Leoooooooooo (DiCaprio) – a few years removed from his icy death in the Atlantic because that dick Rose wouldn’t share her giant-ass door with him – is back in the water. He discovers a map to an undisturbed, utopian paradise in Thailand. Pretty cool, right? Yeah, I think so. Arriving in this paradise he discovers that the island is filled with backpackers from all over the world and that he’s not exactly, totally “allowed to leave”. Oh, snap!
Here’s the thing about a The Beach (The Television Series) – it very organically taps into a ton of things we already love about other famous shows without stepping on their sandy little toes. Just like hits Survivor and Lost, The Beach is about survival on a faraway island (something we’ve all pondered). Only, The Beach is interested in asking an even bigger question – “Once you survive – then what?” “If you had a chance to create utopia – what would it look like?”
We’ve been fascinated by utopias pretty much since civilization began. From The Republic to Atlantis to Aldous Huxley (who actually researched real-life utopias for his novel). The movie never got this – the series could. What better way to answer the question, “How should we live on Earth?” than with a story that depicts people trying to create their idea of heaven on it? The Beach could literally collect some of the most interesting characters from around the world to answer that question. (Making for a very diverse cast that would probably be good for ratings if shows like Lost and The Walking Dead are any indication.)
The last big plus here – Alex Garland. He wrote the novel that the original movie was based on, and since then, he’s become a pretty fantastic film director. He worked his magic behind the camera for 2014’s sci-fi sleeper hit Ex Machina, and that means, that Garland could potentially direct the series! (This being true in the utopian world that I’m creating). There’s no doubt that it would be extremely euphoric to watch him bring to life the secluded Thai paradise he pictured while writing his book, so many years ago. And there’s no doubt, he’d have a much better understanding of the real appeal of his story.
ELEVATOR PITCH: The IT Crowd if it were music nerds instead of computer ones. Portlandia for the 90’s. Sex and the City if it were built around “top 5” lists instead of columns.
First of all, can I just point out how much I love it when a character talks to the camera? It allows me to pretend that they’re talking to me and that makes me feel special. Can I feel special for once??? Needless to say, I think it’s an underused device. In fact, the last show I can think of that employed this tactic was Malcolm in the Middle – and that was to diminishing returns because Frankie Muniz’s head looked like this:
Actually, last year’s Fleabag on Amazon uses the technique to great effect, and High Fidelity does too. Mainly, because the lovable John Cusack is the one speaking and his head is normally shaped. And, because his narration couches a plot device that is so good that I think it could carry the run of an entire series. He creates “top 5” lists for almost everything, and I think those lists could pertain to the themes of each episode the same way Carrie’s columns did on Sex and the City.
Now, because of the series subject matter, there would be immediate knocks on the concept from almost any TV executive. But, the good news is that most of them are stupid and don’t know anything! (Side note: I used to be a TV executive.) So, let me go ahead and offer rebuttals because I already know some of the generic talking points that might get thrown around.
Knock One: “Shows about music don’t work” (with Vinyl being the latest, and most expensive, example). But, in typical TV executive fashion that’s merely a surface reading of a deeper problem. Because, I would say the reason shows about music never work is not because “they’re about music”. It’s how they’re about music.
Most music shows almost always involve a character becoming a musician or some group of people (record label owners, record executives) advocating for a certain act that will be “the next big thing”. The problem with this is that music is incredibly personal and if the people watching the show don’t like the music of the act in the show, they’ll almost immediately tune out.
High Fidelity works as one of the best movies about music because it’s never about music in that way (until the very end – and even then – it’s not really about that). High Fidelity isn’t about great music, it’s about our relationship to great music. It’s about arguing over bands or artists, being passionate about what we like, and telling our friends they’re idiots for liking something different. And, that’s relatable. So relatable, it could fill endless hours of television when done right. Not to mention, it adds yet another storytelling device – one where the writers could tie the themes of certain songs being discussed in the show to themes actually happening to the characters.
Knock Two: “Record Stores are a thing of the past and are getting more archaic by the minute”. True. But, so is smoking in your office and impregnating your secretary, and I was still able to wrap my head around Mad Men.
This one seems like an easy fix. Put the show in the 90’s and let the series play out just like the fate of Sam Goody record stores everywhere (RIP Sam! I’ll never forget paying you $19 for a Weezer CD!). To me, the impending death of the record store gives the series a natural and powerful conclusion. The series could end with the store closing and the recognition that a way of life – the subculture that was built around record collection – is no longer relevant. Touching and bittersweet, it could be a love song written to an era – a perfect record of the times.
. . .
Did I leave off a great movie? Did I make a bad pick? Do you hate me? Hit me up and let me know!