Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Remaking "All in the Family"

This is in response to THISARTICLE, which is about the possibility of remaking in some limited series, various classic episodes of popular old sitcoms.  Especially those that had a measure of cultural relevance.
Some people are calling this an awful idea.  They list the usual reasons of, “I want new things, not remakes” which is demonstrably untrue when you look at box office numbers.  The strawmen also mention how, “It’s a classic, don’t mess with it”, which is also stupid, reinterpreting things that are considered classics with fresh perspectives is a key concept in creativity.  Alan Moore’s entire career is about popular reinterpretations of characters from other eras.
All of that aside I thought of 3 ways they could do an “All in the Family” reboot/remake/sequel that would be somewhat relevant to today’s world.  You might be asking yourself, “What makes a 31-year-old qualified to comment on a show that had run its course before he was even born?”  I watched it in syndication, because we did not have cable when I was growing up and “All in the Family” was what was on.
You may feel free to sing the theme if you know it.
First Option: Straight up remake
            This appears to be what they are going for.  Using modern production methods, conventions, and actors to create a crisp and fine looking set of episodes that would serve as a “best of” tribute to the old series and maybe a gateway for people wondering whether they should try out older programs when looking for something to watch.
            This is a boring method.  It adds nothing and the only editorial commentary you can glean from it is by looking at which episodes that were chosen for a remake and asking, “Why did they think this was worth the treatment?”
            This sort of thing does happen from time to time for a good reason.  “Doctor Who” has several episodes remade inanimation, the reason for this has to do with archiving techniques, the BBC did not keep recordings of dozens of old episodes and as such lots of episodes are lost in time (you can follow the link to a short documentary that will explain what happened in that instance, and here are the other entries in that documentary explaining new efforts in recovering lost TV shows).
If you don't know anything about "Doctor Who" this must look very strange.
Second Option: The Farce
            Anybody remember “The Brady Bunch” movie they made in the 90’s?  When they took the Brady family as their 1970’s selves and just plopped them right into (then) modern 90’s Los Angeles?  It was funny.  Really funny.  It did a great job of illustrating how much the show’s conventions were different from modern entertainment and how far removed from reality the whole thing was.
Have you ever seen that Mad TV Sketch about the “Andy Griffith Show” in which Andy is actually a violent king pin in Mayberry?  About how they take what you expect and know about a character and completely turn it on its head to unnerve you?

            They could do something like the above examples with “All in the Family”.  Having the exact same Archie appear in modern New York, or conversely set it all in the same time period but make fun of it but having Archie be 100x’s more politically incorrect.  I mean, you don’t have to Calvin Candie the whole production by having Archie use the N-word 100+ times, but making the character worse and less sympathetic would be a good way to make fun of how the show often attracted the wrong kind of praise—as people would often like the show because they were the same sort of blue collar bigot that Archie was, not realizing the show was making fun of him for his bigotry.

Third Option: The Sequel/The Remake
This wouldn't be too hard to make, at least not as hard as you would think it would be.  The show has been off for 40 years and what actors from the show that haven’t passed on are now either too old to return to their roles or you just wouldn’t want them to try.  So you would need a fresh cast.
Now you get to choose if you want this to be a modern Archie or if you want it to be a sequel.  The sequel would carry its own issues, they would have to play with the timeline a bit, make Meat Head and Gloria a little younger, maybe set the whole thing in the early 2000’s that is not really that difficult.  The hard part, whether you are doing a remake or a sequel set in modern times is picking out what modern bigotry you want to make fun of.  And how far you want to take the characters.

Let’s do some for instances.  Just assume this is a straight up remake.

Instead of black neighbors they have Middle Eastern Muslim neighbors.  Instead of a preachy son-in-law marrying their daughter, they instead have a preachy daughter-in-law marrying their daughter.  Anxiety against Muslims and Gays are the two big fish right now.
Maybe make Archie layered in that he remembers protesting Nixon or something, and he looks back on those times in his life as "the necessary changes" and how he thinks changing things now is a step too far.  That he thinks he fought, "For those people to be treated fairly, but not so that they could live in my guest room."  Which, let’s face it, a lot of older people who would have been “liberal” (whatever that word means anymore) in the 70’s think now.  Many old liberals are pretty conservative by today’s standards.

See, it might not be on a chart, but if you search for the term "liberals" it is now just a slur.
Or have him be a blue collar guy who laments that all the jobs he and his dad had worked, all of those jobs are going away and he resents the rest of the world and the rich for causing it.  My grandfather was a fan of Bernie Sanders during the election for just these kinds of reasons.  You could even have him be really liberal on economic issues but socially conservative.

You don't have to make it straight up a repeat, there are plenty of things in the modern world that need looked at, and giving them a leering look while still making them a sympathetic voice and doing their best to learn and be fair.  If you remember the show Archie wasn't all bad, hence why so many people didn’t get that he was supposed to be laughed at.

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