Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More TV Do-Overs! (X-Files and Once Upon A Time)

I had so much fun talking about how Hawaii Five-O needed to be redone that I couldn't resist my thoughts on what other shows I would change. 

The X-Files

When the show started out, Fox Mulder was haunted by the memory of his sister Samantha’s abduction. He grew up to become an FBI agent who saw conspiracy theories and aliens everywhere- and he just might have been right. He was reluctantly partnered with Dana Scully, equally brilliant but far more skeptical. Scully could hold her own against Mulder, but this was his show.

And then it wasn’t, for a couple of reasons:
  • Gillian Anderson, the actress who played Scully, became pregnant with her first child in the middle of the first season. To accommodate it, the writers made Scully disappear and then recover from her abduction in a hospital bed. Where was she? Kidnapped by aliens- Mulder was right!- and then her eggs were harvested for an ongoing cloning experiment. From that point on, The X-Files was as much Scully’s show as it was Mulder’s.
  • Gillian Anderson was a better actor than David Duchovny, who played Fox Mulder. While Emmy awards tend to be even more controversial than others, the academy got it right when they gave one to Anderson for her role and not Duchovny. She had more range, dramatically and comedically, than he did. Ultimately, she was the better choice to build a show around, but the premise was his character.
  • Some of the ways they chose to enhance his character were unfortunate. Mulder was the odd duck because he saw conspiracies, so then the writers made him weird, geeky and sometimes kind of lame. Putting someone in an odd situation is one of the quickest cheats to make them more interesting, but ultimately it doesn’t hide the original problem of a weak center.
"The truth is out there." "I *want* to believe you. Maybe you should try that again."

Actors aside (although never, really, when you’re talking about television), The X-Files created a world in which ghosts, aliens, vampires, psychics, witches and the Loch Ness monster were real, human beings could be the biggest monsters of all AND there was a big conspiracy. The only problem was that they didn’t seem to know what that conspiracy was themselves, but somehow the audience was convinced that the ultimate answer was going to be awesome. The truth was out there, but they needed to make it up as they went along. That’s exciting the first season or two, but after that your viewers start asking, no, seriously, what’s the real story? By the time we got to the very last episode, the writers put in a throw away line to explain that Samantha had died years before and was being cloned. I guess they didn't care anymore. That's okay; the viewers didn't either.

Therefore, my Do-Over recommendations are pretty simple: if I were going to redo The X-Files, I’d decide what, specifically, the conspiracy was first before I started leaving dead bodies and limbs in elevators, hallways, car trunks and the former Soviet Union and started weird scientific experiments on moving train cars. I’d also have cast a lead actor who wouldn’t be outshined by the person who was supposed to be his sidekick.

Once Upon A Time

This show had such great potential: Snow White, Prince Charming and all of their kingdom’s memories are wiped out by the Evil Queen and they’re sent to a World Without Magic (that would be our world, for the record), but not before Snow White gives birth to and Prince Charming successfully hides their newborn daughter Emma. Her destiny is to find and rescue them, and twenty-eight years later the son she gave up for adoption- who just happens to have been adopted by the Evil Queen- shows up with a magical book of fairy tales to make sure she does just that. Emma is extremely skeptical, but her dormant maternal instincts kick in and she ultimately breaks the curse. Is that all? Nope. Her parents get split up again- mom gets sent back to the Enchanted Forest, and dad is still in our world- we meet Captain Hook (he’s misunderstood- and hot) and we find out that the real reason the curse was placed was so Rumpelstiltskin could get back to his son Baelfire/Bae- who grew up to become Neal, the father of Emma’s son Henry!

The Rumpelstiltskin line of the story has remained pretty strong. When Henry was kidnapped by a mysterious magical force last year, we discovered that his abductor was Peter Pan- and that Peter Pan was really Rumpelstiltskin’s father! Good old fashioned family drama with a touch of magic- perfect.

Would that the same thing could be said for the fraught story between Snow White and the Evil Queen, aka Regina. The Queen hates Snow because as a child she inadvertently caused the death of her true love, Daniel; no, actually, Regina’s mother Cora killed Daniel after she killed Snow’s mother, Eva, and she did all of this to put Regina on the throne; no, actually, the miller’s daughter Cora really hated Princess Eva because she humiliated her in front of the court of her future husband Prince Henry; no, actually, Cora hated Eva because Cora was all set to marry Leopold when Eva outed her as already being pregnant with Zelena, whom she abandoned at birth and grew up to be the Wicked Witch of Oz.

"Why do we hate each other again?" "Let's ask our moms."

"I've sort of forgotten..."



Wait, what? None of that makes sense. Eva wouldn’t have outed Cora AGAIN to Henry’s father when those two later became betrothed? Leopold wouldn’t have recognized her years later when she arranged for him to meet her daughter Regina? You know what that’s a sign of? Someone making up a story as they went along.

My suggestion: Make a storyline bible and stick to it. And when you decide you want to integrate someone from another fairy tale or legend, be a little more creative.

What are you dying to rewrite? Hit the comments! And then jump over to my good buddy Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba's blog tomorrow to see what she'd like to change.