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Mission: Impasse-able
November 18, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
Mission: Impossible, the 1996 Brian De Palma movie that launched the Tom Cruise M:Ifranchise, is televised tonight at 8 p.m. ET by American Movie Classics. I recommend you don't watch it.

But I do recommend you think about it - for reasons I'm about to explain.

De Palma's film has some stunning sequences, including the famous drop-from-the-ceiling scene. But the movie so betrayed the spirit of the original TV series, by betraying the spirit and integrity of a formerly unimpeachable character, that the entire project smelled of cynicism. Eleven years and two sequels later, it still carries that stink.

(Go to the MORGUE section, and you can read my original review of the movie as it ran in the New York Daily News).

But Mission: Impossible is worth thinking about, at this point in time, for another reason. Twenty years ago, the last time the Writers Guild of America went on strike, ABC planned to use the series as a means to produce and present scripted prime-time dramas - without using any writers.

The plan was to take old scripts from the original 1966-73 CBS series and recycle them, filming word-for-word, scene-by-scene remakes filmed in Australia with an all-new cast. Plans were altered, though, when the strike ended in August 1988.

Mission Impossible castABC kept the updated series on its schedule, but quickly employed writers to beef up old scripts and generate new ones. The new Mission: Impossible, bringing back Peter Graves as Jim Phelps and presenting Jane Badler (the rodent-eating alien hottie from the sci-fi miniseries V) as a female agent, premiered two months later. It wasn't very good, and it didn't last long.

One other desperate strike-driven idea from 1988, though, was much more successful. The Fox network, which had unveiled its inaugural prime-time lineup only the year before, added to its schedule a show that didn't need writers - because it wasn't scripted. It was more of a documentary, following around people and capturing whatever they did, editing the raw footage later into some sort of narrative.

It was called COPS. Twenty years later, it's still here.

And if reality TV took hold then, what do you think will happen when, in another lengthy strike, it dominates TV in the coming months?

Brace yourself for TV: Unwatchable.

 

1 Comment

 

Toby OB said:

I remember reading that the network showing 'Sonny Spoon' (NBC?) was going to take old episodes of 'The Rockford Files' and adapt them for use on 'Sonny Spoon'.

So far, I'm not hearing any plans along those lines, but the networks know now that they can probably get away with more reality shows until somebody blinks.

Comment posted on November 18, 2007 9:12 AM

 
 
 
 
 
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