Christian Toto, National, Politics

Coarse reboots of classic TV favorites disappoint

“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” is back, but you’re forgiven for not recognizing her.

The original show offered a squeaky-clean girl (Melissa Joan Hart) discovering her bewitching powers. For seven seasons “Sabrina” embraced that tone, one not dissimilar to the Archie Comics line that inspired the show.

The new Netflix version? “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” starring Kiernan Shipka does more than tweak the show’s title. It serves up Satanic sequences, complicated teen schemes and something else hardly appropriate for tween viewers. An orgy.

As Fox News reports:

The orgy scene – set to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” – appears in the seventh episode of the series and features half-a-dozen scantily clad teens in Sabrina’s house. When the 16-year-old namesake character is hesitant to join in, she’s mocked for “killing the mood” and told to either “get in, or get out.”

Netflix scores the series TV-14 with warnings like “chilling,” “scary” and “violent.” That warning label’s official description, according to TVGuidelines.org, is more complete, and scary, for parents. “a program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age.”

Talk about an extreme makeover.

Even Satanists are up in arms about the show, suing both Netflix and Warner Bros. for copyright infringement tied to the Baphomet statue featured on screen. You just can’t please everyone.

It’s hardly the first time Hollywood brought back a beloved property only to give it a gritty, albeit Satanic free makeover.

Last year’s “Baywatch” feature cast Dwayne Johnson, arguably Hollywood’s most bankable star, alongside the expected array of pretty people. The original show was neither squeaky nor clean, what with its undulating bodies and slow-motion jogs. It still made the broadcast TV cut each week.

The film version? A hard-R rated comedy loaded with scatological humor. Audiences stayed away in droves, delivering a rare box office bust for Johnson.

That film’s miniscule haul (U.S. Box Office: $58 million) dwarfed that of another veteran TV property brought to the big screen.

“CHiPs” made Erik Estrada a star for a short while in the late 1970s. The series clearly inspired Dax Shepard of TV’s “Parenthood” fame. Shepard wrote, directed and starred in the 2017 film version alongside the underrated Michael Pena. How did Shepard pay homage to the classic show? He littered the screenplay with gay panic jokes, for starters. The rest? Let the MPAA’s ratings guideline share more: Crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use.

In other words, it couldn’t have been more different than the TV show had it been staged on tricycles, not motorcycles.

The results? A miniscule $18 million box office tally.

The 2011 film “Red Riding Hood” took a timeless kids’ story and slathered on the grit, “Twilight” style romance and other mature elements. Time magazine dubbed it one of the year’s worst movies. Others noted a sexual note to the wolf character.

There’s nothing wrong with R-rated material when consumed by the appropriate audience. Some of Hollywood’s greatest films have been rated R, and for good reason. Movie patrons can typically spot mature fare without reading glasses. Does anyone think the outrageous “Deadpool” franchise is appropriate for the kiddies? If they do, they haven’t done an ounce of parental homework.

“CHiPs,” “Baywatch” and now “Sabrina” might have grabbed a larger audience had they stuck to the source material’s DNA. It’s what fans fell in love with initially. Why fix what isn’t broken?

There’s something more troubling about this cultural trend, though.

Why does Hollywood think this is what patrons demand in 2018 and beyond? It’s deeply cynical to believe “CHiPs” fans craved a crass, sexualized take on the show they grew up watching. Wouldn’t fans of the original show want to watch the reboot with their sons and daughters?

Today’s teens, burdened by foul social media messages and peer pressure, could use a pal like the ’90s version of Sabrina again.

There’s a pragmatic reason against these coarse reboots. Doesn’t the industry realize family-friendly films often crush the competition? The number two movie at the box office last year? Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” live-action update. The previous year’s number two smash? The PG-rated “Finding Dory.”

It’s both short-sighted and cynical to think audiences want to see their favorite characters again, only this time dropping F-bombs … or their pants.

Christian Toto is the editor of HollywoodInToto.com, the Right Take on Entertainment

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