Mr. TV: Remake Redux

I’ve always maintained that the networks should resist the temptation of remakes. But HBO is going there with a revival of the 1945 theatrical Mildred Pierce, which starred Joan Crawford in an Academy Award-winning role as a woman who climbs her way to the top but still can’t win the approval of her bitchy daughter, played by Ann Blyth.  

In the upcoming miniseries version—which debuts this coming Sunday at 9 p.m.—Kate Winslet steps into Crawford’s role. Evan Rachel Wood (Once and Again) is the daughter from hell, and Guy Pearce is playboy Monty.

Considering HBO made a name for itself by creating breakout originals, this remake seems like a bad play. The problem with redoing something is the constant comparisons to the original. I imagine HBO assumes most of its viewers won’t know, or care, that this is a remake. Perhaps they’re right; 1945 is Paleozoic in television years. But for my money, the original Crawford outguns the rehatched Winslet any day.

Speaking of classic movies, on ABC Tuesday this week is a two-hour special called Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time. It features the best in the history of cinema based on an ABC News and People.com poll compiled by a panel of film industry experts. While I haven’t seen the list of recipients, expect the same crowd of classics like Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Cane and Ben-Hur to populate the list.

Shifting to the world of regularly scheduled series, if you enjoy Dancing With the Stars on ABC (I consider it to be the current form of variety), tonight marks the spring season premiere. Last fall, Dancing hit rating highs by aiming low with Mike “The Situation”
Sorrentino and Bristol Palin, who managed to last until the final despite her obvious lack of talent. This time around neither Jersey nor quasi political figures are on board, but there is the usual mixture of  sports legends, models, a reality star, a talk show host and C-listers in search of a comeback. Competing will be actress Kirstie Allie, radio personality “Psycho” Mike Catherwood, wrestler Chris Jericho, actress/musician Chelsea Kane, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, Ralph “The Karate Kid” Macchio, model Petra Nemcova, entertainer/philanthropist Romeo, Super Bowl great Hines Ward, E! star/Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson and talk show host Wendy Williams.

While not the best mix, Allie is a definite catch because she once was a big TV star as well as a public weight gainer and loser and gainer again. Williams is, in many ways, larger than life and should be fun to watch. And to anyone who thinks competing on Dancing With the Stars is a step down, don’t forget that more than 20 million viewers will be tuning in. That’s a pretty big stage. If I were an actor in search of a comeback or an aging sports figure, hell, yeah…I am going on Dancing With the Stars and dancing my ass off.

On Wednesday this week, TV Land sitcoms Hot in Cleveland and Retired at 35 conclude for the season (with the second half of Cleveland’s 20-episode current season expected back this summer). Unlike the “sophomore slump” that impacts many returning series, Hot in Cleveland remains the best ensemble of female actors since The Golden Girls two decades earlier. But Retired at 35 is stale and unfunny and not worthy of continuing. Lack of communication from the TV Land press department also tells me the ratings were not very good.

Also exiting for the season this week is MTV megahit Jersey Shore, which remains a deeply guilty pleasure. As easy as it is to poke fun at these f-bomb dropping fame freaks, there is something about them that resonates with the audience. What Seinfeld was to sitcoms, Jersey Shore is to the category of reality TV. It’s the nonscripted series about nothing.