A few days ago I was driving to work, and started thinking about Jackie Gleason. Hey, it happens from time to time… Specifically, I was remembering The Honeymooners, and how Gleason’s character – Ralph Kramden – was always threatening his wife with a punch to the mouth. “…Right in the kisser!” he’d roar.
The 1950s audience would laugh and laugh, and I was wondering what might happen if a current show featured a fat blue-collar worker who threatened to knock his wife to the moon, at the slightest provocation. Then I thought: “Well, maybe on cable… And maybe if it was a ‘dramedy,’ so the producers could claim they were trying to encourage an important national dialogue about spousal abuse… or some such thing.”
From there, I began thinking about other sitcoms, and how they might be adapted as modern-day cable dramas. And below I’ve tried to come up with a decent pitch for a few of the old shows. Remember, this would happen in an imaginary world where the original sitcom doesn’t exist, but I am trying to sell the premise of each to FX, HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc. as a drama.
Got it? OK, let’s go.
Leave It To Beaver From the outside, the Cleavers appear to be a wholesome American family: a caring father, a loving mother, and two teenage boys – all living together in a beautiful suburban home. However, looks can be deceiving…
Ward, the patriarch, is a proud and brutal man who runs a successful slaughterhouse on the edge of town. He wants nothing more than to be perceived as an upstanding pillar of the community, and rages whenever that illusion is threatened.
His wife June cheerfully provides meals to the retarded daughter they keep hidden in the basement. The girl is named Dolores, but is referred to as “The Reet.” The family’s friends and neighbors sometimes hear strange noises coming from the house, but have no idea the daughter exists.
Wally and Theodore (aka “Beaver,” short for “Beaver Fever”) are troubled youths, who have successfully intimidated most of Mayfield.
Wally heads up a group that deals Oxycontin to high school students, and Theodore is a chronic masturbator who installs hidden cameras in bathrooms and locker rooms, all over town. When the devices are discovered, nothing is ever done, for fear of retribution at the hands of Wally. Around Mayfield, the brothers are sometimes referred to as Uday and Qusay.
At the end of the opening credits, Wally, Theodore, and two of their confederates – Lumpy and Whitey – are shown walking toward the camera in slow-motion, before a massive explosion occurs behind them. Then, in large red block-letters that fill the screen: Leave It To Beaver.
The show is a statement about the strange, twisted lives that are often secretly played-out behind perfect facades. It is narrated by a boy named Eddie Haskell, who used to live in the neighborhood, before foolishly needling the younger Theodore (calling him Squirt, and Creep), and ending up as a zip-tied corpse in a rock quarry.
The Munsters This family of monsters (named Munster) is forced to keep moving from town to town, because the grandfather refuses to abandon his vampire heritage and continues to “feed” on a regular basis. Herman, the head of the family, is exasperated by the old man, and his stubbornness. They have numerous arguments about tradition, and the importance of respecting the old ways.
Herman desperately wants the family to integrate into modern American society, but Grandpa refuses to play along. He prowls the streets of whatever new town they happen to be living in, and feasts on an unsuspecting pedestrian three or four nights per week. He repeatedly creates a pile of bloodless husks, and a police force looking for answers.
This dynamic is further complicated by Eddie – the son of Herman and his wife Lily – who also happens to be a vampire (it skips a generation). Grandpa doesn’t encourage Eddie, but doesn’t discourage him, either. As the boy reaches puberty, local farmers begin to tell of mutilated cattle found in their fields. Lily says nothing, but is disturbed to find Eddie’s bed sheets stained with more blood than usual.
Herman, who was created from human scraps in a laboratory, is also the victim of prejudice at “the plant,” where he works. The other men mock the size of his lunchbox, and his effeminate manner. They say he was clearly given a “fag heart,” which upsets him greatly.
During one such episode Herman begins stomping his feet in frustration, and saying, “Oh darn, oh darn, oh darn, oh darn…” His super-human strength causes the ceiling to collapse, killing two of his co-workers, and causing a third to be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
In addition to Herman, Lily, Grandpa, and Eddie, the family also keeps a prisoner on-hand – always referred to as “Marilyn” – to provide spare parts for Herman. Once the prisoner has been stripped-down to a hollowed-out torso and head, they discard it and grab another Marilyn from the streets.
Herman burns through body parts (and Marilyns) at an accelerated clip, and Grandpa demands to know how it’s any different than his own late-night outings, for which he’s regularly criticized.
“Apples and oranges,” Herman insists. “Apples and oranges.”
The Brady Bunch After Mike Brady’s wife is burned to death in a swift-moving industrial fire, he hooks up with a divorcee named Carol Martin, and they form a blended family. He has three sons, and she has three daughters.
Mike is a successful architect, and they move into a large home of his own design. It was supposed to be for him and his first wife, but she is dead now and there is no reason to ever mention her again. Same goes for Carol’s first husband, who was clearly such a monster he wasn’t granted even supervised visitation rights of his own daughters. The details of his atrocities are left to the imagination.
At first the new family has difficulties, stemming from the fact they are all being forced to live with, essentially, a gang of strangers. It doesn’t help matters that the kids – both boys and girls – have to share a weird Jack ‘n’ Jill bathroom, with no toilet. There is major conflict when Peter innocently walks in one day, as Jan is awkwardly defecating into a Quaker Oats box. Mike is forced to convene a Brady Family Meeting, to quell the uproar.
But, after everyone gets their sea legs, things settle down. Sure, there are occasional problems, like with any family, but it only serves to bring them closer together. Here are a few of the young family’s challenges:
- While horsing around the backyard (which Mike had paved with Astroturf, because he doesn’t trust Mexican gardeners around his daughters), one of the boys throw a football and completely explode Marcia’s face. She undergoes a series of reconstructive surgeries, but is left with an asymmetrical jaw line.
- Bobby goes to school and brags to everyone that he’s friends with Joe Namath. However, nobody knows who that is, and they throw Bobby down a flight of concrete steps. “Maybe your friend Joe Nabors will help push that bone back into your leg!” one of them yells down at him, before departing.
- A bully named Buddy Hinton begins mocking Cindy, because of her degenerative speech disorder. Every day at school he taunts her with “Baby talk, baby talk, it’s a wonder you can walk!” Peter tries to take care of the problem, but is promptly beaten unconscious. Mike and Carol visit the boy’s parents, who turn out to be bullies as well. Mike attempts to use kung-fu on the father, and receives a severe concussion for his troubles. In the end, Mike and Carol agree to sign over 10% of Mike’s architecture business, so that Buddy will leave Cindy alone. Mike’s dizzy spells never completely go away.
- During recording sessions for one of Greg’s groovy new songs, Peter’s voice starts to change and ruins everything. Later the same day Marcia and Jan barge into the boys’ room and present Peter with a stick of deodorant, and say, “Use it. For the love of all that’s holy, you’ve got to use it.” Then, just two nights later, he is furiously masturbating in his bunk, when the whole thing collapses on Bobby, who is sleeping below. The younger boy loses a kidney, but eventually recovers, in this tender episode about a boy and his changing body.
- While vacationing in Hawaii, the family’s beloved housekeeper, Alice, is caught in a riptide and whisked out to sea. Her body is never recovered.
And that was fun… If I’m unable to hook a cable network with one of those pitches, I’ll do three more next time. And if you enjoyed it, I’d very much appreciate a mention at Twitter and/or Facebook. If you’d like, you can even use the handy buttons below.
Thanks, and I’ll see you guys next time.
Have a great day!
Now playing in the bunker
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A Saturday update, and a darned amusing one at that. Well done, Jeff.
You had me at Quaker Oats box.
“Maybe your friend Joe Nabors will help push that bone back into your leg!”
The wife and dog are no looking at me crooked.
brilliant! I’d watch all of them
HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! The Reet!!!!!! Love it. Is that bad that I’m supporting this? I think you ‘d be surprised, Jeff. Someone is bound to go for at least one of these..
You sick, sick bastard. Now do “Green Acres”!!
Phil Jett says
I always pictured The Brady Bunch on Showtime with a lot of not really incest incest between the teenagers followed by a bunch of uncle daddy jokes when one of them gets pregnant with Oliver.
Uncle Daddy being, of course, the son of Uncle Grandpa.
Actually they are currently working on a remake for the munsters for TV.
Alice in WV says
omg, re: bunker cam… if I ever lose my big toe, I’m totally doing that.
I read that there actually is a “gritty re-imagining” of “The Munsters” in the works for NBC. It will probably suck. You know, like the “MIssion: Impossible” and “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Dukes Of Hazzard” movies. Although, to be fair “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” had shit for a basis, so what did anyone expect? Also, Tom Cruise.
I’m not sure if I’m supporting my point or just making my head hurt more. Damn you, Hollywood and your insistence on destroying the legacy of TV from my youth!
Great stuff, Jeff!
My favorite Brady Bunch episode is when Sam the Butcher delivers the ‘meat’.
NC Dave says
Colonels Hogan and Klink deserve to be reborn…
Great update! You had me and my husband laughing hysterically!
this was one of my favorite updates of all time!!
Ever notice that dairy air is appropriately named?
The common element between the original “Beaver” and yours is that Eddie Haskell SHOULD have met a violent death under either scenario. What an ass….
Great update, with weirdly few comments. Maybe nobody feels as if they can compete. I had some ideas, but I felt like if I put them up here it would be like Michael Palin presenting his feeble silly walk to the superior John Cleese.
I did have some really dark stuff about Family Affair, though, about how Uncle Bill bashes in Mr. French’s skull with an antique paperweight after he finds that he should never have trusted him alone with Buffy and Jody. After the murder, he abandons the children as if they are tainted, and moves to Costa Rica with Cissy.
Good ones, Jeff! They all sound way better than the originals.
How about something with The Beverly Hillbillies? Maybe the oil company doesn’t pay him a fortune for the rights to drill on his land. Maybe the state takes over his land using eminent domain…some lame excuse for wanting to build a freeway there. So Jed starts his own Occupy Movement – Occupy the Oil Fields. His family and extended family and friends all start setting up tents on the land, firing their rifles at any “critters” that try to set up drilling equipment.
I missed that one, where Peter was masturbating and the bunk collapsed on bobby. Did Peter finish the job before checking on bobby? “What’s going on up there Peter?!”. “nothin’ dad!…grunhuhh.. Unh.”
Fabulous post, i felt as if watching it on tv.
BTW…Let’s see what Three’s Company looks like next time. I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that old man Roker was a bisexual cuckold.
I always thought Petticoat Junction was a strange name for a brothel.
Tipsey McChugney says
I always liked that episode of Giligan’s Island when they were visited by “The Mosquitos”
I really liked The Honeybees, the band that the island women formed, except for the fact that Mrs. Howell had to be part of it! She almost ruined the sexy vibe of the group. I remember being genuinely angry about it as a kid.
Nothing killed a Gilligan’s Island preteen boner quicker than Mrs Howell.
Drug Delivery Guy says
Classic Jeff! I loved it. I don’t do twitter or facebook, so I’ll make some printouts and hand them out to people.
How about the Andy Griffith show? Aunt Bea and Andy?
The Partridge Family.
Keith comes home after a weekend away and excitedly tells his mom about this fascinating guy he met. His name is Charley and he’s a really good songwriter, but he just can’t seem to catch a break. Shirley agrees to meet him and is thoroughly charmed, and they agree to record some of his songs. Charley brings over some of his friends to help out and The Partridge/Manson Family Goodtime Jamboree is born.
Everything is going great until Ruben Kinkaid’s mysterious brutal murder.
“Bewitched” and “Gilligan’s Island”…go! Do a Jeff Kay makeover on those, please!
Hahaha, great post. The whole time I was reading this, I kept hearing an insipid laugh track at certain times.
Example – …”Apples and oranges”, said Herman Munster. (canned laughter)
The laugh track is one of the reasons I quit watching television.
Did anyone else rub one out to the idea of Jan squatting over the Quaker Oats box?
All in the family hardly needs tweeking.