Summit via Everett Collection
You can imagine that Renny Harlin, director and one quadrant of the writing team for The Legend of Hercules, began his pitch as such: We'll start with a war, because lots of these things start with wars. It feels like this was the principal maxim behind a good deal of the creative choices in this latest update of the Ancient Greek myth. There are always horse riding scenes. There are generally arena battles. There are CGI lions, when you can afford 'em. Oh, and you've got to have a romantic couple canoodling at the base of a waterfall. Weaving them all together cohesively would be a waste of time — just let the common threads take form in a remarkably shouldered Kellan Lutz and action sequences that transubstantiate abjectly to and fro slow-motion.
But pervading through Lutz's shirtless smirks and accent continuity that calls envy from Johnny Depp's Alice in Wonderland performance is the obtrusive lack of thought that went into this picture. A proverbial grab bag of "the basics" of the classic epic genre, The Legend of Hercules boasts familiarity over originality. So much so that the filmmakers didn't stop at Hercules mythology... they barely started with it, in fact. There's more Jesus Christ in the character than there is the Ancient Greek demigod, with no lack of Gladiator to keep things moreover relevant. But even more outrageous than the void of imagination in the construct of Hercules' world is its script — a piece so comically dim, thin, and idiotic that you will laugh. So we can't exactly say this is a totally joyless time at the movies.
Summit via Everett Collection
Surrounding Hercules, a character whose arc takes him from being a nice enough strong dude to a nice enough strong dude who kills people and finally owns up to his fate — "Okay, fine, yes, I guess I'm a god" — are a legion of characters whose makeup and motivations are instituted in their opening scenes and never change thereafter. His de facto stepdad, the teeth-baring King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins), despises the boy for being a living tribute to his supernatural cuckolding; his half-brother Iphicles (Liam Garrigan) is the archetypical scheming, neutered, jealous brother figure right down to the facial scar. The dialogue this family of mongoloids tosses around is stunningly brainless, ditto their character beats. Hercules can't understand how a mystical stranger knows his identity, even though he just moments ago exited a packed coliseum chanting his name. Iphicles defies villainy and menace when he threatens his betrothed Hebe (Gaia Weiss), long in love with Hercules, with the terrible fate of "accepting [him] and loving [their] children equally!" And the dad... jeez, that guy must really be proud of his teeth.
With no artistic feat successfully accomplished (or even braved, really) by this movie, we can at the very least call it inoffensive. There is nothing in The Legend of Hercules with which to take issue beyond its dismal intellect, and in a genre especially prone to regressive activity, this is a noteworthy triumph. But you might not have enough energy by the end to award The Legend of Hercules with this superlative. Either because you'll have laughed yourself into a coma at the film's idiocy, or because you'll have lost all strength trying to fend it off.
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NBC network bosses immediately thought of Aniston as the perfect person to portray Green when they were presented with the comedy and they cast her alongside co-stars Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc and David Schwimmer.
But she had yet to sign a contract with NBC to officially join the show by the time it was ready to go into production in 1994, and TV executive Warren Littlefield admits they took a huge risk keeping Aniston on the project instead of simply recasting the role - because they weren't completely sure if she'd be able to quit her other job.
In an interview on U.S. breakfast show Today on Friday (27Apr12), he said, "We had a little difficulty. She had actually signed on to do a series at CBS and we had to take her in second position. We did the pilot that way, and she still wasn't available.
"We had to go into series production throwing millions of dollars at risk and we still did not have the rights to go forward with Jennifer."
Aniston was eventually able to commit to Friends and the programme went on to become one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, winning multiple awards, including Emmy and Golden Globe honours - and launching her career.
It may be hard to believe, but you almost spent 10 years watching a show called Six of One featuring Courteney Cox as Rachel. Warren Littlefield, the former president of NBC Entertainment, has written the book Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV, and in an excerpt published in the May issue of Vanity Fair, he shares the history of how Matt LeBlanc, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, and Lisa Kudrow wound up meeting for coffee at Central Perk on a weekly basis.
Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman reveals that casting the iconic roles wasn't easy. "We saw a countless number of actors," she says. Among the first was Matthew Perry, who auditioned for the role of Chandler. Though it was obvious that he was a great fit for the part, he had already committed to doing the pilot LAX 2194. (Someone at FOX thought a time travel show would be more exciting if it focused on airport baggage handlers). Kauffman thought the role of Chandler would be the easiest to cast because, "It’s got the most joke jokes. It’s sarcastic and kind of quippy," however, "No one could do it. No one.” Shockingly, FOX didn't pick up the luggage-themed pilot, and Perry was free to take the role.
We also came dangerously close to living in a "Rachel cut," Braniston-free world. The role of Rachel was originally offered to Courteney Cox, but she asked to do Monica instead. That required a big character rewrite, because those casting the show had another actress in mind for Monica. “When we originally wrote the role, we had Janeane Garofalo’s voice in our head,” explains Kauffman’s writing partner, David Crane. “Darker and edgier and snarkier, and Courteney brought a whole bunch of other colors to it. We decided that, week after week, that would be a lovelier place to go to.” She nearly lost the role to Nancy McKeon, better known as Jo from The Facts of Life, but eventually NBC decided to go with Cox.
Shortly after casting the other roles, Kauffman realized they might be making TV history. “The first day we went to a run-through, and the six of them were together for the first time, onstage in the coffee shop, I remember the atmosphere being electric," she said. "A chill ran down my spine.”
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Despite some high-profile missteps, nets still betting on series remakes (NYT)
The New York Times' Bill Carter today wonders why, despite recent failures like "Bionic Woman," studios keep churning out remakes of old series as new prime time fodder.
Among the most prominent projects under consideration at the networks for next fall are these familiar names: The Rockford Files on NBC; Charlie's Angels on ABC; and Hawaii Five-O on CBS.
All of the projects were announced with some fanfare by their networks, but the show creators and top network entertainment execs were reluctant to discuss any specifics about the new versions yet, the NYT says, because they are still in the writing stages.
Still, Warren Littlefield, who was the top programmer at NBC and is now an independent producer, told the NYT, "It's a good idea to try. Movies have proved you can do well with a presold concept."
And yet, the NYT contends, in the history of network television, no remake of a previous hit series has ever become a hit itself on network television. (Battlestar Galactica, had a favorable reception on the Syfy - then SciFi - network in 2004, but that was on cable, not broadcast television.)
One could perhaps make an argument for some shows spawned from original hits, Carter suggests. Star Trek birthed four separate series, but those were all spinoffs.
The current development slate titles are true remakes. The Rockford Files could certainly be helped by the fact that it features a creator with one of the best recent resumes in television. David Shore, the chief creative force behind House has said that Rockford was one of his favorite shows growing up and that he hopes to find a way to replicate its mixture of comedy and action.
But replicating a star on the level of James Garner may prove more challenging, the NYT notes.
Littlefield said having a talent like Shore running the show would be a great advantage, but he added, "I don't think there are many gumshoe detectives around anymore, so the key will be how they reinvent the character."
How much to remake and how much to reinvent has been an issue with previous efforts at bringing back familiar shows and characters.
"The identity of a hit TV series is so intimately tied to the original stars, style and attitude that made it a hit in the first place that any deviation from that creates a real sense of aesthetic dissonance," Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, told the paper.
Littlefield said that the woeful track record of previous remakes should not discourage network programmers from continuing to buy projects based on old hits. "But there has to be a series there," he said. "It can't be like a movie. You can't trick them."
He further added, "At the risk of being oversimplistic: it also has to be good."