Friday, 24 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #945: Have Writer -- Will Travel

The original series, which ran from 1957-1963 and 225 episodes was set in the 1870s starred Richard Boone as a man living under the name of Paladin. Paladin was a man with sophisticated taste, a classical education, and a vague and mysterious past. He made his living as a freelance champion, charging up to a thousand dollars a job protecting people from outlaws, scoundrels, and rogues.

He would arrive in town, dressed completely in black, and give the miscreants one chance to end their criminal ways and leave in peace. Usually they didn't listen, and then the fighting would commence, and the bad guys would promptly rest in peace.

The show featured a lot of the then up and coming writers and directors working in TV at that time, including Gene Roddenberry, Sam Peckinpah, and even Ida Lupino.

So, let's look at the pros and cons...


1. DAVID MAMET: David Mamet is probably one of the best dramatists working these days. He also has experience making TV, as he did as a writer/producer with the military drama The Unit, which ran for 4 years on CBS.  He can bring depth of character and story to the normally wafer thin genre of the action-drama. Plus, he won't be bound by political correctness when it comes to presenting the historical setting.

2. THE GENRE:  There was a time when Westerns dominated television. But it faded away eventually, and despite some attempts it, so far, has only shown signs of life on cable channels like AMC and HBO.

However, in the right hands, an adult-oriented Western, with good characters, story, and a liberal peppering of action, could be seen by audiences as exotic and interesting.


1. THE GENRE: While the "adult Western" genre has a potential for a comeback on network television, the networks have managed to find ways to screw it up.

The problem is the mindset that many network executives have that dictate that shows set in the "wild west" have to be either The Lone Ranger, Little House On The Prairie, or some bastardized amalgamation of both.

If they go for The Lone Ranger they treat it as an action-adventure aimed at boys between the ages of 6 and 12. Lots of unrealistic action, politically correct (for the time) lessons for the young members of the audience, thin characters, no romance, and no drama.

If they go for Little House, they try to mold it into an overly sincere family drama about life with cute bucket-headed children that tries to teach a different lesson about understanding and working together in every episode.

2. THE NETWORK: As I've written earlier this week it's really hard to get something that breaks the mold on network TV.  While there was once a time when a new Western show would be a no-brainer, it's now a tremendous risk.

CBS is notoriously risk-averse. So far it's worked out well for them, but I fear that they may have forgotten that their biggest hits of the past decade, like the CSI franchise, their multi-camera sitcoms, and their recent hit Person Of Interest, were all considered "risky" choices at the time they were given the green light.

Personally, while I normally don't care for remakes on principle, I would like to see a network try to make a real adult Western, and I would like to see Mamet's take on the genre. 

That's what I think, let me know what you think in the comments.


  1. A Question concerning politics and people in the entertainment industry.

    I can sort of understand the people who actually work making movies being far left liberal (or at least letting people believe they are) since that protects their job.

    But what about the people who report on the movies. Is there a reason why film critics and other such persons must adhere to the anti-conservative bad mouthing?

    I point to the weekend box office reporting of boxofficeprophets dot com and the slam they casually slide in with their reporting on the documentary "2016 Obama's America".

    Why insult your readers that way?

    I've always known that site was liberal but I put up with it because they _usually_ didn't go out of their way to insult me.

    I just deleted their bookmark.

  2. Blast Hardcheese27/8/12 8:09 am

    Hi Fuloydo,
    Pauline Kael once said something to the effect of, "I don't understand how Nixon became president. Nobody I knew voted for him." There's your answer. People in a bubble (and the entertainment business is a biiiig bubble), literally cannot conceive of rational disagreement with their views.
    Or put it another way...if you showed these guys a stereotypical 'conservative' character: fat guy in a wife-beater and ball cap, muttering racist imprecations as he stalks the aisles of Wal-Mart. They'd nod and say 'yes, that's a real character, and shows the dark underbelly of American yadda yadda yaddda...'. Now if you turned it on its head and showed them a bearded hippie who hasn't bathed in a month, munching on granola and weeping about the rainforest, they'd say 'oh, that's a ridiculous caricature, without any nuance.'
    They don't worry about pissing off their non-liberal readers because in their minds you're all just ball-cap racists.
    (BTW, Ball-Cap Racists is almost a great name for a rock band)

  3. How much worse could a "Have Gun" remake (as a TV show) be than the movie remake of "The Wild, Wild West?"


  4. Fuloydo - Blast answered a lot of your question for me. People in entertainment live in isolation from the real & assume that anyone that disagrees with them must be evil. There's also a sense that they must either pay penance for their success and wealth by supporting the correct causes, or protect their wealth and social standing by supporting the correct causes.

    ErisGuy - There was talk of a "Have Gun, Will Travel" feature film remake, but the plan was to cast rapper Eminem as Paladin, and give it a modern "hip-hop" setting, and it sank in development hell.

    Outside of that, I would find it hard to believe that David Mamet could do anything worse than the remake of "Wild Wild West."

  5. Blast Hardcheese27/8/12 1:49 pm

    OK, now you're just funnin' us, D. Eminem in a remake of HGWT. That's a thigh-slapper, all right.

    (uncomfortable pause)

    That *was* a joke, right?

  6. Furious wrote, "There was talk of a "Have Gun, Will Travel" feature film remake, but the plan was to cast rapper Eminem as Paladin, and give it a modern "hip-hop" setting, and it sank in development hell."

    Yes, that sounds wonderful. Cast a punk, misogynist, who publicly fantasizes about child and wife abuse as the 'hero'. Most of the 'damsels in distress' in these type of stories are actually 'damsels'.

    Why not Roman Polanski as a child therapist? Charles Manson as a male nurse? Bobby Brown as a marriage counselor?

    If this is not a joke somebody should simply get a punch in the snoot. Eminem is one of those jackasses that deserve a special place in hell.

    Mamet should do Paladin as a tv series. He has good dialogue and I like his action. Spartan was one of my favorites.

    Rainforest Giant

  7. Thanks for the feedback.

    That matches about what I was thinking. It just blows my mind that someone trying to make money with their writing would so easily dismiss half of their potential customers.

    I can only assume that the writer of the article assumed that there would be no readers of the type he was dissing since everybody knows 'those people' can't read.

  8. Oh. One more thing.

    To be a truly great name for a rock band it should be Ball-Cap Racist MotherF#(kers.

    It just doesn't work without the profanity. :D

    On a completely unrelated note...
    D? I'm having real problems with the capcha software you're using.

    The number part I can usually make out but the letters are so run together I usually have to reload two or three times before I get one I can make out. And even then I sometimes get kicked back because I got it wrong.

    Just say'n.

  9. Fuloydo - That's captcha is by Blogger so complain to them. Before I used it I would get nothing but spam-bots.

    A way to avoid it is to set up your own Google or Blogger account.

  10. If there is a remake, who will be 'Paladin?' Richard Boone nailed the role cold. There isn't much depth or gravitas in the potential actors' pool these days.

  11. Blears- The odds are that the actor will be either British or Australian. That seems to be the trend for "macho" roles.

  12. Furious,

    You don't like offers for penis enlargement and hair growth? Being a giant I got plenty of both but who doesn't want more? It's that or buy a sports car and I sure don't fit there.

    It's sad really we used to have actual tough guy actors, Bogart, Stewart, Tracy, McQueen. Now we have 'Stars Earn Stripes' and nobody notices the lack of genuine military experience in the entertainment industry. Not that you have to have a military background or experience to be an action guy but at least you can look anybody in the eye without flinching and can summon some grit to put on screen.

    Americans are too thuggish or delicate with little in between. Danny Trejeo and Dutton are both felons and project prison enforcer toughness quite well.

    If Mamet does do it he can use Val Kilmer he surprised me in Spartan and Val would do well with the action.

    Rainforest Giant

  13. Rainforest Giant -

    I have plenty of .... hair... and don't really need any of those products.

    As for casting a "tough guy" or "action hero" I always say you need to cast someone who looks like he would back you up in an old west style saloon brawl.

    As for casting someone for Paladin, Val Kilmer might be able to pull it off, but not after some really hard work in the gym because he's working on a "later Brando" look lately.

  14. Yeah,

    He's headed past the John Wayne gut and heading into John Belushi territory.

    I think the show would give him the impetus he needs to keep in shape. It worked for Norris.

    Rainforest Giant