Casting Movie Adaptations of 1980s Television
June 11, 2009 | Lists
Any hope that Hollywood screenwriters used their time off during the strike to take long canoe trips into the wilderness and dream up brilliant, wholly original plots for movies was shat on in a big way with the news that an A-Team movie is on the way (See here for our A-Team casting suggestions, and we also gave our picks for The Three Stooges movie). We’re still trying to wrap our minds around the fact that Liam Neeson is tipped to be playing Hannibal in that film. That an actor of his caliber would consider attaching himself to a project that scores an F on the test of time, shows what a creative nadir Hollywood has reached.
But we’re not the kind of guys to sink into denial and convince ourselves that atrocities such as the Dukes of Hazzard movie are anomalies. We know that lazy studio execs will wander into the wasteland of 1980s network television and pluck out an awful show to be repackaged and sold to people who will get nostalgic because they were too young to evaluate how crappy the show was the first go-round.
We’ve decided to do some of the legwork for these execs and cast adaptations of lousy 80s television programs even before they are officially announced. Here then are our Top Casting Picks for Adaptations of Lousy 80s TV shows!
Bob Uecker was at the height of his creative powers in this 80s sitcom. At this point, we would be taking a poke at the utter hackery involved in creating the Mr. Belvedere premise — an English butler hired by a sports writer (Uecker) and his wife who is in law school. Sports writer is a good job to give a talentless actor only meant to appeal to Joe Lunchbox — we refer you to Ray Romano in Everybody Loves Raymond — but it’s doubtful that Uecker’s character would be able to afford his mortgage payments supporting three kids and a studying wife on a sports writer’s salary. We would point out that few sitcom premises are this ridiculous, but the premise dates back some 50 years. Mr. Belvedere was originally a novel, and later turned into a few successful films in the 1950s. The 80s do not have exclusivity on terrible ideas. The refined Brit butler is paired with the uncouth yank and hilarity was presumably meant to ensue.
Once Mr. Belvedere makes its long-unawaited return to the big screen, we would cast it as follows.
For the title role, we can’t decide between Sir Anthony Hopkins and Michael Caine, the latter having honed his butler-acting chops in the past couple of Batman movies as well as shown a willingness to sign on for just about anything (this anything, includes Jaws 3D). However Sir Anthony Hopkins would have great on-air chemistry with our choice for the Uecker role, Jim Belushi, the consummate fat middle-aged everyman. Tony Sirico, Pauly Walnuts from The Sopranos, would be a runner-up. This show was basically the Belvedere/Uecker half-hour, but for the other roles we’d cast Beverly D’Angelo as the wife, Zack Braff or possibly Michael Cera as the older son (originally played by an actor who many believed, wrongly, went on to become Marilyn Manson), Miley Cyrus as the daughter, and Angus Jones, from Two and a Half Men and Frasier, as the younger son.
For those unfamiliar with Belvedere, the introductory sequence tells you all you need to know about the show:
“Gag me with a spoon!” it’s ALF, the wise-cracking anteater-looking alien who crash lands on a suburban family’s garage and becomes part of the Tanner family, who threatened national security by not reporting their knowledge of extra-terrestrial life to the proper authorities.
There is only one possible casting choice for the role of Willie Tanner, the nebbish head of the Tanner household whose whiny demeanor makes him someone you mentally slap several times during the half-hour duration of the show, and that is Woody Allen, which, given that most of his movies are commercial flops, would give him just the kind of scratch to finance his next Scarlett Johansson dud.
As for the title character, the original Alf was a puppet, but we think for the big screen it would be better if a human is stuffed into an ALF suit. Few actors could carry this off while remaining true to the character and not requiring a suit that would look substantially larger than the original ALF character. Danny Devito, come on down. If the studios go with a puppet ALF, we would ditch the PG rating and have Dennis Leary voice the doll. Howard Stern would work as well. Willie’s long-suffering wife would be played by Susan Sarandon (speaking of suffering, an audience would as well with a running time over 75 minutes) while his daughter, virginal Lynn, would be played by Jessica Alba, and Finding Neverland’s Freddie Highmore as the dorky son, Brian whose only friend in the world is ALF.
The opening to ALF
This 80s gem relied on that old sitcom chestnut: the odd couple. Bronson Pinchot took the torch from Yakov Smirnoff when it came to ‘recent immigrant who doesn’t know if he should use his toothbrush for his teeth or to start his car’ humor (though at least Yakov was born outside the United States, unlike accent-faking Pinchot). Boring old cousin Larry takes Balki Bartokomous the quirky foreigner into his home and the guys have one wacky misadventure after another.
For Balki, our top pick is Roberto Benigni, which would require a change of surname and an Italian back story, but the actor would bring needed authenticity to the role, essential if the film adaptation is to be a success. Jackie Chan would be a dark horse for this role (it would still do more for his stateside rep than the awful Rush Hour movies). Paul Giamatti would play cousin Larry, as he’s already proved himself as a good buddy movie actor in Sideways and somehow we think that Benigni would genuinely piss him off, which would make for good watching. The show’s other two stars — the guys’ respective girlfriends — would be played by Gwynneth Paltrow (Larry’s girlfriend) and Lisa Kudrow (Balky’s). Kevin Spacey for the part of Larry if Paul Giammati doesn’t work out.