Yesterday was a head-spinning day when it came to '90s nostalgia. In the morning, Showtime announced that “Twin Peaks” would be returning in 2016 with a nine-episode miniseries, and there was much rejoicing across social media.
In the evening, meanwhile, Deadline reported that NBC was developing a sequel series to “Say Anything,” set 10 years after the events of the film, and there was much anger and skepticism on social media – and no one sounded unhappier than “Say Anything” writer/director Cameron Crowe, whose tweet about the project may have already killed it.
– Cameron Crowe (@CameronCrowe) October 7, 2014
Six hours after the initial report by Nellie Andreeva – and only a few hours after that tweet – she followed up with a new story suggesting that NBC and 20th TV would likely abandon the project rather than upset Crowe, even though 20th owns the rights to the property and can do whatever it wants with them.
There are a few interesting dynamics at play here. First, you have NBC's extreme reliance on remakes and adaptations of familiar brands. The network had been doing a lot of it prior to the current administration (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”), but it's become Bob Greenblatt's go-to development move. Sometimes the results have been great (“Hannibal”), sometimes they've been mediocre (“About a Boy”), and sometimes they've been utterly pointless (the “Rosemary's Baby” miniseries). But in a fractured TV marketplace where it's hard to get anyone to pay any attention to a new show, Greenblatt's team clearly believes that a familiar name can provide a leg up.
In this case, though, the name just upset people, because anyone who knows “Say Anything” enough to care about a remake also knows that it's a perfect close-ended story that should be left alone – unless Cameron Crowe himself has an idea about Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court as adults. And Crowe not only wasn't involved, but immediately went for the social media nuclear option.
Compare that to the “Twin Peaks” situation, where creators David Lynch and Mark Frost are on board to write every episode (with Lynch planning to direct all nine) and clearly view it as a passion project where they have more to say about these characters and this world. You may feel that “Twin Peaks” is also better off left alone, but at least the appropriate people are giving this a shot.
There are some stories that lend themselves to adaptation. Hannibal Lecter has appeared in many books, a half-dozen movies made by a wide swath of filmmakers (and featuring several different actors in the role) and is now in NBC's great TV show. The original “Parenthood,” while a good and memorable film, had already been adapted for television once before (featuring a young Leonardo DiCaprio), and the current version borrows only the loosest of character types from the movie.
“Say Anything,” on the other hand, is like many of Crowe's films: a deeply personal work that only he could have made. There's no point to doing it without him, and someone at NBC or 20th should have made more of an effort to connect with him before letting the idea get this far. The Deadline story suggests there was a miscommunication with Crowe's people, but there was no confusion about that tweet (nor about John Cusack's own anger at the idea).
And social media made this mess both more public and quicker than it might have been in the past. Once upon a time, Crowe probably still could have killed it with a few phone calls and an interview with EW or one of the trades, but now all he needed was 139 characters – fewer words even than Lloyd Dobler needed to explain his aversion to buying, selling, or processing anything.
Remakes and adaptations will never go away, but yesterday was a stark reminder of how there's a right way and a wrong way to do them.
(Though if NBC had tried to do a sequel that was about the kid from the Gas 'N Sip scene, I suspect everyone would have agreed.)
UPDATE: The “Say Anything” adaptation has, to no one's surprise, been shelved.