It was the huge success of Brian de Palma’s The Untouchables back in 1987 that made Hollywood realise that vast amounts of money could be mined from a middle-aged audience by revisiting their childhood nights spent in front of the television. Fellow 1950s TV stalwart Dragnet arrived the same year to lesser acclaim – pairing Dan Aykroyd’s stoic Joe Friday against Tom Hanks’s impossibly-named Pep Streebeck – but the ball kept rolling.
In the 1990s, the ‘movie version of the classic 1960s TV show’ became a genre of its own. Some were huge hits (The Fugitive, Maverick), some spawned brand new franchises (Mission: Impossible, The Addams Family), some were absolute disasters (The Avengers, Wild Wild West). The best of them cooked up something fresh and new from the old ingredients, creating something with pan-generational appeal. If the recipe was right, there were huge dividends to reap.
Strange then that the children of the 1980s – the first generation of adults to own more toys than their children (mint condition and still in the original packaging) – have been denied their chance to relive the Saturday afternoons of their adolescence. Not that Hollywood didn’t give it a shot.
Alas, the first wave of Eighties TV remakes stumbled at the first hurdle. Michael Mann’s new version of his own Miami Vice (2005) was an inaudible mess in which Colin Farrell was out-acted by his mullet haircut. There were high hopes when the mother of all ‘80s TV shows, The A-Team returned in 2010. Even with a white-hot cast (a post-Taken Liam Neeson and a post-Hangover Bradley Cooper) and an aerial dogfight between fighter jets and a plummeting tank, the movie was dead on arrival and Glen A Larson’s phone suddenly stopped ringing.
There have been signs of life however, in the shape of the surprise hit return to Johnny Deep’s teenage address, 21 Jump Street (and the excellent sequel 22 Jump Street, released on DVD in November ). With Denzel Washington about to put on Edward Woodward’s trench coat in The Equalizer (in cinemas September 26th ) here’s a selection of 1980s small screen fodder that’s ripe for a rebirth in the 21st century.
Magnum, p.i. (1980-1988)
Vietnam veteran and ex-Naval officer Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) lives a life of luxury as the head of security for mysterious millionaire author Robin Masters (a body double with the voice of Orson Welles). His services are provided in exchange for free board at Masters’s palatial Hawaiian estate, where he regularly locks horns with the caretaker, British former soldier Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (John Hillerman, playing the greatest character in 1980s television history).
To earn extra money, Magnum moonlights as a private detective and uses his arsenal of high-waisted jeans, gaudy sleeveless shirts and TV’s last unironic moustache to solve mysteries. To this end he is aided by fellow veterans, Rick and T.C. (not to mention Robin Masters’s Ferrari 308 GTS which he borrows from time to time).
Matthew McConaughey recently revealed that he declined a $15million offer to play Thomas Magnum in a movie remake. Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber has been trying to get a Magnum, p.i. movie off the ground for years. “I wrote a script that I love at Universal – the tone was very much Beverly Hills Cop – there were no short shots, no cameos, no moustaches. It’s an action movie that’s funny and I’m very, very proud of the script.”
It’s entirely possible that Universal have been trying to get in touch with him since his last movie, We’re The Millers made $150m domestic in 2013. Thurber spoke about Bradley Cooper and Chris Evans in the title role. Sticking my neck out a little, he could do a lot worse that recruiting his Dodgeball star Vince Vaughn.
If Vaughn could shake himself out of the lazy torpor he’s been wallowing in since The Dilemma, he has all the right ingredients to recreate Hawaii’s favourite laid-back, affable, incorruptible private eye. Presumably the ‘Hollywood Department of Obvious British Casting’ have already tapped Simon Callow to play Higgins.