It’s pilot season in the television industry and the networks are announcing pilot orders left and right. And it seems that this years “big thing” is remaking properties from the 1980s. I’ve already discussed ABC’s new version of V here. That network has also ordered a pilot based on the 1987 film The Witches of Eastwick (based on the novel by the late John Updike).
But television has already tried producing a small screen version of The Witches of Eastwick. Twice. NBC shot a pilot for fall 1990 starring Catherine Mary Stewart, Julia Campbell and Ally Walker. FOX tried an updated version, one that would focus on the sons of the “witches” from the movie, with Lori Loughlin, Marcia Cross and Kelly Rutherford. Both attempts failed. NBC burned its version off on June 28th, 1992 (following another failed pilot, “Yesterday / Today”, starring Nick Gregory as a big shot high school football star who suddenly wakes up from a 20-year coma). The FOX version has never been broadcast. I can’t say I have any special insight into the minds of network chiefs, but if the first try didn’t work and the second try didn’t work, I wouldn’t try again.
But The Witches of Eastwick wasn’t the only film the networks tried adapting for television in 1990. Working Girl, Uncle Buck and Ferris Bueller were among those that actually made it on the air, although none lasted more than a season. Unsold attempts included television versions of Steel Magnolias, Big and K-9, in addition to The Witches of Eastwick. NBC also adapted 1989’s Parenthood into a half-hour sitcom starring Ed Begley, Jr. Brandon Tartikoff actually ordered the series before the film hit theaters. The show ran for all of 12 episodes.
And now, according to Variety.com, NBC is trying it again. This version will be an hour-long comedy/drama updated to fit today’s society. So it won’t be a remake of the movie or the subsequent television series but will retain the trappings of the movie? I can’t see viewers tuning in simply because this new show shares the title of a popular film two decades ago. But if the cast is compelling and the writing tight, there’s no reason to believe the show can’t succeed. I just don’t see why there has to be any connection to Parenthood. The premise is vague enough that unless the writers can replicate the exact tone of the movie — and viewers are still drawn to it — there will be nothing to distinguish from any number of similar shows.
Given that the networks seem to be on a late 1980s/early 1990s kick these days, I’m hopeful someone will announce an update of ABC’s short-lived 1991 drama My Life and Times, starring Tom Irwin. It wasn’t based on a movie, though, so I’m not going to get my hopes up.