Recasting TV Characters

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26 August 2014.

With the first episode of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi hitting the small screen (and the big screen for the truly addicted) this past Sunday, let’s have a wander through my top 4 least successful recasting of characters in the world of television.

For the record, I thought Deep Breath was a solid start for the twelfth Doctor and I’m looking forward to enjoying Capaldi’s prickly, all business Time Lord.

4. The First Doctor – Doctor Who: To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original run of Doctor Who, a feature episode was produced in 1983. The Five Doctors was to reunite all five lead actors. Unfortunately, Tom Baker refused to participate so footage from the unaired story Shada was slotted in instead. The original Doctor William Hartnell had passed away in 1975 and was replaced by Richard Hurndall. Although endorsed by Hartnell’s widow, Hurndall portrayal of the acerbic first Doctor is the least believable aspect of the special, despite the wobbly sets and rubbery aliens. Hurndall passed away in the same year, supposedly before he was paid for the role.

3. Catwoman – Batman: If Batman is the world’s greatest detective, why was he incapable of noticing when his arch nemesis Catwoman changed from white actress Julie Newmar to black cabaret songstress Eartha Kitt in the campy TV series which ran from 1966-1968? Catwoman even changed again to the white Lee Meriwether for the movie. I suppose she was wearing a mask.

2. Becky – Roseanne: For the first five seasons of Roseanne Barr’s sitcom, daughter Becky was played by Lecy Goranson. When the actress chose to pursue university, her character was written out of the show. By season six, the role was recast with Sarah Chalke (later of Scrubs fame) who continued until the end of season seven, when Goranson’s university schedule allowed her to return. Scheduling conflicts midway through season eight resulted in Becky being played by both actresses in different episodes. Chalke reclaimed the role full time for the show’s ninth and final season. The show producers dealt with the regular changes in Becky’s appearance with a running gag.

1. Jan Brady – The Brady Bunch: When the cast of The Brady Bunch were approached in 1976 to return to television in the all singing, all dancing, all terrible Brady Bunch Variety Hour, all were coaxed back with the exception of Eve Plumb (Jan) who wisely stayed away. She was replaced by “Fake Jan” Geri Reischl, a talented singer and actor. Luckily for everyone involved, and TV audiences, the show only lasted nine episodes and is considered one of the worst ever produced. Geri retired in 1983, but returned to singing in 2000. My brother bought me an autographed copy of her 2011 album, entitled 1200 Riverside for my birthday last year. It is not very good, but the CD makes a great drink coaster.

TV Review: Gotham

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 7 October 2014.

In the comic adaption wars, Marvel may well and truly own the silver screen but DC has rapidly cemented its domination of our televisions. I’m a recent convert to Arrow, now about to enter its third season. With compelling characters and a gritty revenge based overarching storyline, it is easy to binge on an episode or five.

Joining the DC ranks will be the Arrow spin-off The Flash, premiering in the States tonight. Existing in the same universe, I’m looking forward to enjoying the adventures of Barry Allen following his encounter with an exploding particle accelerator and then being struck by lightning (as you do). Let’s hope it fares better than the 1990 series which starred John Wesley Shipp (who will appear in the new Flash series as the lead’s father) in an awkward Michael Keaton Batman inspired rubbery suit.

Already out of the gate this year is Gotham, a drama series set in the Batman universe. Actually, make that the pre-Batman universe. Focusing on a young Detective Gordon (The O.C.’s Ben McKenzie), the pilot episode opens with the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Gordon bonds with the now orphaned Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) at the scene of the crime. At this moment, they are both set on their paths to become the future straight edge Police Commissioner and masked vigilante Batman. If you don’t know whom becomes who, then you probably should stop reading here.

For the casual Batman movie watcher, the references to future members of the Rogues Gallery is about as subtle as Bat nipples. A young girl tending to her plants introduces herself as Ivy. An ambitious criminal receives a beating that renders him with a penguin-like limp. A forensic specialist at the Gotham City Police Department likes to tell riddles. A young thief clad in all black likes to climb on things and often coughs up fur-balls (I made that last bit up).

Die hard fans will also appreciate the appearance of mob leader Fish Mooney (a fantastic Jada Pinkett Smith), as well as Detectives Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) and Crispus Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones), all relatively minor characters in the Batman universe.

The rendering of Gotham City is quite spectacular, in a comfortable hybrid of Christopher Nolan’s modern boom town and Tim Burton’s gothic megalopolis. At a glance, there’s no doubt that this is Gotham.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen the first two episodes and come to the conclusion that what this show needs is Batman. Sure, the similarly veined Smallville kept Clark Kent out of the Superman suit for ten seasons (with the exception of the very last few seconds of the show) but the series still centred on Kal-El coming to grips with his powers. The only great change coming up for Gotham’s Bruce Wayne is puberty.

Comic book readers and film fanatics are programmed to appreciate Detective / Commissioner Gordon as a supporting character. I honestly don’t know if I can sit through at least a decade of this show waiting for Batman to appear.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:23  Leave a Comment  
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