Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Retreading Chandler’s Gumshoe

I may finally have to give up on America’s television industry. I was a big boob-tube watcher in my youth, but over the last decade, I’ve found little to enjoy on the small screen. It has gotten to the point where I use my TV set primarily to watch DVDs. This fall, I added only two shows to my regular viewing schedule--The Blacklist (which I really enjoy, even though co-star Megan Boone is no match for the sinisterly charismatic James Spader) and The Michael J. Fox Show (for purely sentimental reasons). I don’t see a great deal of creativity or originality coming from the TV networks or--with the notable exception of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom--the cable channels. And news that ABC is hoping to introduce a new series about Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s renowned private eye, is unlikely to change things.

“The project ...,” reports Deadline Hollywood, “is described as a smart, sexy, and stylish update of Chandler’s character which follows the investigations of wisecracking, edgy, and rugged private detective Philip Marlowe as he navigates the morally complicated world of today’s Los Angeles--where the bright California sun casts long and dangerous shadows ... and where true love can be more difficult to find than justice. [Castle creator-showrunner Andrew] Marlowe is writing the script with his wife, Castle writer/consulting producer Terri Edda Miller, through their MilMar Pictures.”

This marks the third time ABC-TV has endeavored to reanimate the ghost of Philip Marlowe for its own ratings benefit. In 1959, Philip Carey starred in a short-lived, half-hour drama based on Chandler’s P.I. In 2007, the network again got excited about Marlowe, thanks to a pilot starring Irish actor Jason O’Mara. However, that project was eventually dropped, and O’Mara went on to star in U.S. version of Life on Mars. Aside from the Carey show, the only other successful effort at bringing Marlowe to TV screens came in 1983, when British network ITV launched Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, a period detective serial starring Powers Booth. It ran for two seasons, with each of its 11 episodes based on a different Chandler short story.

American television has done a demonstrably poor job of resurrecting classic series. Ironside, Charlie’s Angels, Knight Rider, The Night Stalker, The Bionic Woman--they’ve all come and gone before most viewers even knew they were on. And plans to reintroduce The Rockford Files (with the un-tough Dermot Mulroney trying to fill James Garner’s shoes) died early, thank goodness. Yet we’ve recently heard of plans to reboot Remington Steele as a comedy-drama for NBC, and CBS wants to revive Murder, She Wrote with The Help’s Octavia Spencer as a self-published mystery novelist fascinated by true crimes.

Handing Philip Marlowe over to the folks behind Castle might ensure that a pilot film is at least made. But I have to say, Castle is altogether too cute and formulaic for my taste. I can’t see Raymond Chandler being happy that its developers have been selected to bring his iconic Los Angeles gumshoe back to the screen.

(Hat tip to Shotsmag Confidential.)

READ MORE:Voice Without a Face: Finding a Face for Philip Marlowe,” by David Vineyard (Mystery*File).


Winifred said...

Totally agree, US isn't producing any good detective shows nowadays.

I've become addicted to Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano, sub titles & all! Just now watching the third series & still enjoying it. They follow the books quite faithfully & I love the minor comic characters. The film length episodes are great for Saturday nights after Strictly!

Also enjoyed the spin off The Young Montalbano, although there were only four episodes. Salvo was good & loved meeting Fazio's dad. Salvo had fabulous curls. Whatever happened to them?

I'm going to miss them both!

“Buongiorno signora, il commissario Montalbano sono….”

Chad Eagleton said...

I've always found the phrase "smart, sexy, and stylish update" to basically guarantee suck.