This past week, Hollywood has taken the piles and piles of bold, original scripts they have, stacked them neatly on top of each other, and used them as a stepping stool to reach up to the dusty back shelf where all their old crap is.
With the announcements of TV series set in the worlds of this summer's "The Avengers" and cult Japanese hit "Battle Royale," not to mention a prequel to "The Shining," the desperation for content with built-in branding has reached a fever pitch.
Let's start with that "kernel of an idea" Deadline reported on to take some of the residual good will generated by Joss Whedon's superhero team-up and promptly spend it on lottery tickets. Marvel is in early discussions with ABC, for whom they're also developing a new "Hulk" show, to set a primetime series within the universe of "Avengers," which most likely means S.H.I.E.L.D sans Samuel L. Jackson.
Not all of the six films in the Marvel Movieverse have been perfect, but they never felt cheap or restrained. We're sure the superheroics in an "Avengers" show will be kept to a minimum, because the laws of TV economics dictate that every time Thor unleashes a thunderbolt a production executive loses their job.
If that means there's gonna be a two-part bottle episode set entirely in the S.H.I.E.L.D helicarrier janitor's closet, then so be it, as long as the show runners can Aaron Sorkin-up that custodial lingo.
That said, would it be too much to ask that Marvel stick to their creative guns and craft a show with the same integrity and fidelity to the source material as the movies were? Or, at the very least, get some "Baby Avengers" in there?
There was a time when it was okay for networks to crank out campy, low-budget dreck based on comics and fans would lap it up because they were so starved to see spandex in motion. That time was called the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s. In this century, us comic book dweebs have developed a more sophisticated palate. If you give us Captain America in a motorcycle helmet, we will notice. Slap Wonder Woman in a dominatrix outfit you ordered off Adam & Eve? Respectfully denied.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, another film that could be run through the TV meat grinder is "Battle Royale," Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 film based on the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami, but unlike "Avengers," it's being spun off less for its own popularity in the States then for its resemblance to "The Hunger Games." While "Battle Royale" was essentially "The Running Man" meets "Lord of the Flies," "The Hunger Games" was "Battle Royale" meets white people.
Youth-centric network CW will jump on any concept that involves putting hot, barely legal teens in sensationalistic situations (see "Gossip Girl"), and an island where 42 students fight to the death in a government-orchestrated orgy of violence with only one competitor left definitely fits that criteria.
What's interesting is that The CW can't stop with just one. They also have another, similarly female-centric show titled "The Selection" that also mines that dystopian trend the kids are all crazy about.
Also check out 'The Hunger Games' and 'Battle Royale': Rip-off Schmipoff
Lastly, we come to the Los Angeles Times story that Warner Bros. might want to check back in to the Overlook Hotel for a "Shining" prequel. "Shutter Island" writer Laeta Kalogridis as well as "Zodiac" scribe James Vanderbilt are hot on the case of chronicling the eerie history of the haunted hotel pre-Jack Torrance, and while they've both done excellent work in the genre revisiting Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece would be like Andy Warhol painting Michelangelo's Pieta orange.
"Yeah, Andy, that certainly was ballsy, and now it looks really orange, but can you please hose it off now?"
A prequel to "The Shining" is a wholly bankrupt idea, the original still being perhaps the pinnacle of bravura horror filmmaking (it can never be overrated), but revising it isn't as sacrilegious as, say, DC Comics recent "Watchmen" prequels. "The Shining" legacy was already sullied by a misguided mini-series remake perpetrated in the '90s by original author Stephen King, and the master of terror will bring more "Misery" to fans soon with his literary sequel "Doctor Sleep."
Whether "The Shining: The College Years" or any of these other spin-offs come to pass, it's important to keep repeating the mantra that no matter how mercenary these boardroom-initiated cash grabs are, they can't harm the originals… only Joel Shumacher can do that.