Saturday, February 9, 2013

Barbarella: The TV Series?

According to an item that recently appeared in Deadline, Barbarella may be coming to your TV screen.

This decision to create a TV show is an interesting change of tack after many, many years of efforts to make a new movie based on the character (the first, of course, being the '68 cult classic). According to Variety Dino and Martha De Laurentiis, who still held the rights to the character four decades after Dino produced Barbarella, cut a deal in 2007 to make a new Barbarella movie, which Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who scripted the last five James Bond films) were to write. Today it is Martha De Laurentiis (wife of the late Dino) who is to produce the projected TV series, presumably having decided that a movie is the wrong way to go (a reflection, perhaps, of the fact that the small screen is eclipsing the large as a locus for sexually-themed storytelling), with Purvis and Wade again attached as writers.

The choice of Purvis and Wade, so shortly after their rebooting of the James Bond franchise with their work on the script for Casino Royale, also seems worth remarking. Was the idea that, having recently helped relaunch one '60s pop culture icon known for sex-filled adventures, they might do the same with a second? This strikes me as more than probable.

Still, a Barbarella TV series strikes me as a longshot, not just because even with Big Names attached very few plans to make a show come to full fruition, or because this particular project has been kicked around for so long. There is, too, the sheer unconventionality of the material they are seeking to get produced. How many TV shows (excepting late-night premium cable softcore) can you think of seem remotely comparable to this concept?

I can think of only one. Watching Lexx, especially before I really got to appreciate the series' aspirations and uniqueness, I often found myself thinking of that film - because of its sheer sense of weird, its moments which gave the odd impression of porn with the sex scenes cut out, and perhaps, too, its red-haired heroine. (Yes, Jane Fonda is blond in the movie, but for some reason I always think of her as having been red-haired.)

Given that Lexx did get made it may seem that something of that could come back to the small screen, but somehow I don't see this being the direction in which the show will go, if ever it does get going. TV is a different place today from what it was in 1997, rather less room existing for a quirky, cult-pleasing genre show. And given the profile for which this de Laurentiis project seems to be shooting, it hardly seems likely to even try to be that, especially with the intent to go in a very different direction from the '68 film (the principal source of the character's cult today) having already been quite loudly trumpeted during the period when the plan was to make a new movie, and reaffirmed in the pieces I have seen about the newer plans for a small screen version.

And so picturing the Barbarella TV series we seem likely to get, if we get one at all, I think of the prior work of Purvis and Wade with the Bond series, which thrilled millions of moviegoers (Skyfall is at this moment not just the highest-grossing Bond movie of all time, but the seventh-highest grossing film in history), but dismayed many a fan of the pre-reboot Bond, by going for a more grounded, darker Bond, the old sense of fancy and fantasy gone. I think, too, of the direction in which space opera has gone in recent years. It all leaves me half-expecting that the show, especially if it reaches us by way of Hollywood ("often licentious, but always puritanical" as Roger Vadim, director of the 1968 film once said), the light, trippy, playful spirit of the first film will give way to a grounded, "dark and gritty," sex-negative (if still sex-laden) Barbarella - Barbarella as Battlestar Galactica - which strikes me as not really Barbarella at all.

The Decline of the Sex-Themed Blockbuster
My Posts on Lexx
My Posts on Battlestar Galactica
My Posts on James Bond

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