The Play Typer Guy
The Play Typer Guy Podcast
Why Remakes Of Your Favorite Films, TV Shows Don’t Work

Why Remakes Of Your Favorite Films, TV Shows Don’t Work

With writer Danny Horn!

My son turns 10 today! I won’t ask where the time has gone, because the mirror tells me each morning. Back in 2014, as I anxiously waited for my son’s arrival, I stumbled upon the Dark Shadows Every Day blog. I’m a big Dark Shadows fan — my late mother introduced me to the show — and when your life is about to change, you find comfort in the familiar. However, the blog was more than just a nostalgia trip. Writer Danny Horn impressed me with his thoughtful exploration of what made the series compelling — its narrative influences and genre innovations. Horn is the rare fan and critic who can accept a work for what it is, while providing cogent and often hilarious commentary.

Horn reviewed all 1,000 or so post-Barnabas Collins episodes of the series over almost eight years. It’s quite the achievement, and now he’s moved on to other exciting projects, including the currently resting Superheroes Every Day blog podcast and the just launched Fantastic Miss Piggy Podcast — a history, an analysis and a celebration of that porcine pop culture phenomenon.

So, while I attend a Lego birthday party, please give a listen/watch to my discussion with Horn about Dark Shadows, Marvel movies, Muppets, and why Hollywood and fans are obsessed with remakes that almost always fail. It’s a good time, I promise.

My 10 year old would love it if you became a paid subscriber on his birthday.

Transcribed excerpts from our discussion:

SER: I want to present this to you as a question, why particularly people and fans among them want to remake the things they love. You know, we talk about studios and movie studios. That makes sense. They are business people. They're risk averse. It’s like someone paid money to see this before. They’ll pay money to do it again. Go run with it. But you and I at home on our couches can just demand new … more new fun stuff.

I already have this. So why do you think there’s that desire to remake — almost like the movie Vertigo — to just remake the thing that has died and gone away?

DANNY HORN: Well, Dark Shadows is a very unique and interesting TV series. For folks who don't know, it’s a 1960s vampire soap opera, which evolved from just a very kind of boring and tedious dark soap opera that wasn't going anywhere. And they decided to throw a vampire into the story and all of a sudden it exploded in popularity as soon as they started doing weird supernatural stuff.

So after a while, there were ghosts on the show, and then it just expanded to like witches and Frankenstein monsters and werewolves.

There was a year where the show was nothing but werewolves, which is insane. All done in this like half-hour afternoon soap opera form. It was utterly brilliant and strange. And the thing that was brilliant and strange about it came from a real understanding of what the audience was responding to at the time.

… As they as they experimented and threw more elements into the show, they could see the audience really responding to it and they could pivot towards the stuff that people liked and away from plot twists that people just didn’t like. They were really attuned to that, and so it ended up being just this bizarre, remarkable show.


SER: There's a great line of yours to someone. It is one of my favorite examples of shade because someone's explaining very enthusiastically if [the Dark Shadows 1991 remake] had come back for a second season, what it would have been like and how they would have essentially done a sort of half-assed version of one of the least popular plot lines on Dark Shadows.

And you wrote, “Well, that sounds about as incoherent and mindlessly derivative of season one. It’s more, this is what happened next on the original show, rather than saying, who are these characters? What do they want? Where is the conflict? In other words, actually writing a television show.”

DANNY: That’s a hard thing about like the concept of remake, especially if folks like want to keep the story consistent. Essentially, you know, Dark Shadows fans, they want there's like a particular timeline of the story that they want to see this beat and this beat and then take out this part because everybody agrees it was stupid and then move on to that. Writers don’t want to write that.

Good writers, good television writers don't want to write to a story that was put on 30 years before where they don't have the opportunity to change things or move things in a particular direction because they’re interested in it. So what you end up with is bad television writers being responsible for the remake and that has been true for every remake they’ve tried to make of Dark Shadows.

Being Responsible For The Remake, and that has been true for every remake they've tried to make of Dark Shadows.

Why remakes of the Muppets have struggled

SER: You’re very much in the world of the Muppets. There’s been an argument there that this is a show that essentially can't be remade from its golden era period.

What is your thought on that?

DANNY: Yeah, The Muppet Show is another crazy lightning in a bottle like Dark Shadows. Burned very brightly, but I don’t know if it can be redone.

The Muppet Show was a variety show, a 1970s variety show, which was a genre that just doesn’t really exist anymore.

Like now we have singing shows and there are dancing shows, but we don’t really do, except I guess on Saturday Night Live, the combination of like sketch and backstage and music, like no one is making television like that anymore.

I actually kind of wish that they would try because they did do a couple of very effective live shows. They did The Muppets Take The Hollywood Bowl several years ago and then The O2 in London.

And people do still love these characters and they still kind of love this format, but I think producers are afraid now that on modern TV, people just aren't interested in that genre anymore.

Is there superhero fatigue?

DANNY: I think Marvel has done some of that successfully where they were surprised by how great Black Panther turned out to be and how popular it turned out to be and so therefore that means we're going to keep making Black Panther movies … Shang-Chi, I think I’m not sure if they're going to use him anymore or not because it was an okay movie they’re sort of trying out some of these characters and seeing what the public response is and then kind of

Similar to what Dan Curtis was doing with Dark Shadows, trying to move towards the characters that are working and away from the ones that are not.

But there are many current problems with what's happening in Marvel.

SER: What do you think is the challenge? I know sometimes people can kind of latch on to an idea like superhero fatigue …

DANNY: Yeah, I don’t believe in superhero fatigue at all. I think it’s just that they didn’t make a good movie [last] year.

SER: Can it be as simple as that?

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The Play Typer Guy
The Play Typer Guy Podcast
"The Play Typer Guy” offers an engaging deep dive into politics and pop culture. Your host is Portland, Oregon-based playwright, columnist, and media critic Stephen Robinson. His son describes him as “play typer guy."