Stories we’ve experienced before—whether in book, film, or TV series form—hit screens in the next few weeks. Say hello to Twin Peaks, American Gods, Anne (of Green Gables) and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Expectations are high because these tales are beloved. But can they meet our lofty desire for a rapturous fusion of known premise, and unknown re-presentation?
Is it possible to successfully pastiche the discovered and undiscovered country? Much has been made of marketing nostalgia, but like a Unicorn Frappuccino, delight can fizzle to a sickly feeling.
In recent times the unsettling sensation of the familiar and the unfamiliar in a TV show doesn’t seem to be wowing audiences. Gilmore Girls and The X-Files rehashed didn’t bring the joys and feels they were meant to. So why are we still on this kick?
|Channeling the optimism of Anne Shirley right now.|
For the Powers That Be, the answer is the allure of a ready-made fanbase. People pre-loving the material saves a lot of dime for networks/production companies. No need for a kick ass marketing campaign to win over fans: they’re waiting in the wings. Can anyone say, "safe bet"?
Likewise, anticipation itself is a powerful marketing tool. Studies suggest just the expectation of a happy event is hella beneficial to the brain/body, so on a chemical level we’re getting a buzz out of these shows before they even drop.
|We're in for a wild ride.|
Post-viewing, fans are usually the first to riot (well, in an online sense) when the series doesn’t meet expectations—which is most of the time. The causes of these cruel, crashing, scripted TV hangovers are myriad.
Memory is a fickle animal. Another version of you scored a hit from the original material, but the you in the audience now isn't coming from the same place. And the writers are not in the same place. Society is not in the same place. Hell, even pop culture is not in the same place.
These stories stay with us because of a wild first impression, whether we read the book, watched the film, or saw an old series. But when it comes to a fresh viewing experience, that original stamp on our subconscious can hinder as much as help.
|In the case of The Handmaid's Tale, I'm perpetually freaked.|
(Strangely, non-fans who watch with fresh eyes often come out the winners. Maybe because they press play with minimal thoughts other than, hope this show doesn’t suck.)
Time to take a look at the trailers, and see if we can cut that subconscious commentary off at the pass. Maybe lower expectations from “greatest thing to ever hit the small screen, West Wing, Buffy and Veronica Mars included” (or whatever your poison) to “vastly entertaining show that did not change my world because I am not an unrealistic and demanding viewer”. Here's hoping.
Yep, starting with the Big One.
Why It Should Be Good: Because the original is incredibly iconic. Because TP’s creators are on board. Because the new eps are directed by Lynch. Because so far the aesthetic looks as incredible as the eye-catching original. Because so many of the cast members are back, and new additions are A grade awesome. Because an hypnotic, pervading existentialism is bound to be woven through the narrative. Because there are eighteen episodes, so no need to rush the story. Because my Twin Peaks DVDs make me feel like I’ve holidayed in this town many times.
Why My Memory Will Mess It Up: Because the original is incredibly iconic to the point where anything less than equally iconic will seem a step down. Unrealistic expectation level: uber-high, and hard to budge.
What My Current Day Mind Will Mess Up: The endless donuts and slices of cherry pie. Young me used to think, yummm, my kinda Americana. Older me is like, are there going to be gluten-free or paleo options and is anybody worrying about blood sugar levels?
A modern classic for many.
Why It Should Be Good: The premise is great. Love the idea of Gods like Odin livin’ large in the US of A. Show-runners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have speccy credentials. Cast-wise, I like Emily Browning, and I think she has the potential to be a massive star. I love Gillian Anderson (most people do). Kristin Chenoweth and Krispin Glover are also faves. The trailer looks moody and super-cool and already I might be Team Modern Gods (don’t tell “Wednesday”).
Why My Memory Will Mess It Up: Not much chance actually, because I’m not a big Gaiman fan. I’ve read American Gods, but it’s not in my Top 5 all-time novels, meaning no obsessing over changes in the transition to the small screen.
What My Current Day Mind Will Mess Up: Old Gods wandering around has popped up on a few TV shows over the years, so am sure to end up comparing Buffy, Supernatural and other series’ versions. Since Gaiman was probably part of the birth of this trope, his interpretation deserves to be respectfully viewed without other takes in the back of my mind.
Who doesn’t love Anne with an ‘e’?
Why It Should Be Good: This looks like it was made with care and obvious affection for the original material. The cinematography is lovely, and the story is touching. Even in the trailer Anne’s imagination, intelligence and emotional strength shine through. The plucky orphan who finds love at Green Gables is a perennial fave.
Why My Memory Will Mess It Up: Megan Follows was amazing as Anne and I don’t think she can be displaced in my subconscious. The cast of the eighties version are internationally beloved, so it will be a bit of an uphill slog for this lot.
What My Current Day Mind Will Mess Up: Lines like “Girls can do anything boys can do, and more.” Yes, Anne believes this, but pushing modern/positive beliefs into classic texts with such blunt dialogue can be clumsy and jarring. Anne is all for equal rights and is constantly pushing boundaries, not just in regards to gender but also class expectations of the period, but the story itself shows us this during her journey. Anne is a hero to many, in whatever decade, for a reason. Let the narrative speak for itself.
The Handmaid's Tale
Every woman’s nightmare: a dystopian breeding program in a fertility-challenged future.
Why It Should Be Good: The plot is a chilling extrapolation of the disempowerment of women, written over thirty years ago. Seriously, even the trailer gives me nightmares. The cast includes Peggy from Mad Men (Elizabeth Moss), Rory from Gilmore Girls (Alexis Blendel), and a heap of other talent.
Why My Memory Will Mess It Up: It won't. I found the story so dark and depressing I was never inclined to reread the novel. Not a huge fan of Atwood’s writing, but I do appreciate the narrative here, and think 2017 is the perfect time for this to transition to series. Not a big fan of the film interpretation either, which is helpful in that I won’t be making a visual comparison.
What My Current Day Mind Will Mess Up: This tale of the subjugation of women, complete with religious wrapping, is so bleak. At first read I thought, society is a hundred steps from creating such a world, and we’re only moving further away; never gonna happen. Now, with the situation in America, I take back those words: we’re about 95 steps clear. My mind will be screaming, PLEASE STAY FICTIONAL. Whatever the quality of this series turns out to be, plot-wise it’s the kind of cautionary tale the world needs right now.
See you all post-pilots xx