Proof again that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be?
This has been a month of disappointments in a televisual sense, as I caught up with three remakes from my viewing youth, only to discover that time and technology alone are no guarantee of improvement over the original. First example was Magnum PI, the reboot of which I discovered quite by accident one evening while the ever-gregarious Mrs Simms was out socialising with friends, leaving me flicking through hundreds of TV channels desperately searching for something remotely watchable. Through the 1980s, Magnum was compulsive viewing – consistently ranked in the top 20 television programmes through its original run, and commended for its tackling of topics such as the humanising of veterans returning from the Vietnam war. But while the original series had a charm and wit about it, the remake was, for me, completely unwatchable, despite me giving it the best part of 10 minutes unwavering attention.
Shortly after that I discovered, again quite by accident, a reboot of MacGyver, a TV series that ran through the late 80s and early 90s, telling the tales of an investigator who managed to get himself out some of the most precarious and hazardous situations possible with little more than his genius level intellect, a Swiss army knife and a roll of duct tape. The appeal of the series was all about the improvisation of his plans and the ingenuity of his escapes, and you’d think that a modern reboot could have taken all that to new levels. But, alas no.
Finally, and most disappointing of all given that it was a reboot of one my favourite TV series from when I was growing up, and all the more of a let down as I’d seen the trailers and geared up for something amazing, was Project Blue Book. A dramatisation of the real life US Air Force secret investigation of the same name into extraterrestrial activity in the 1950s, it was a loose remake of 70s TV series Project UFO. Combine real world intrigue with a dash of fictional licence and a huge special effects budget, and you should have the recipe for something magical. Instead, the hour spent watching the pilot episode felt like an hour completely wasted, with implausible characters matched at every step by an equally unlikely storyline.
Now of course we all know that nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, but we surely have a right to expect that a modern rethink on an original classic ought to demonstrate tangible improvements. If designers and manufacturers can bring aesthetic and functional improvements from one generation of product to the next, then why not in a reimagining of the original. And if it’s not about improving it, but instead just tapping into the nostalgia value, then surely all those original features that made the product so appealing in the first place must also be there in the modern incarnation. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Mark Simms Editor