Considering how popular sports are with people of all ages, there are surprisingly few television shows that have a sports connection. Even dating back decades, there isn't much of a catalogue. Which is pretty stunning considering the number of crime dramas that seem to dominate the airwaves.
You would think that people would prefer some light hearted sports fare than the disturbing goings-on of NYPD's Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, which is charged with investigating sex crimes and other various atrocities.
Well, you would be wrong. People seem to be obsessed with murder, which is why I'm expecting CSI: Peoria will be on the CBS fall schedule in 2013.
That being said, there have been a few sports-related television series over the years. And because we seem to be completely out of new ideas (see: Saw 27), I think a couple of them are worthy of a remake. Naturally, they'd need some tweaking, which I've graciously provided.
So let's take a look at some of the great (but mostly mediocre) sports shows of the past and what a modern-day update might look like…assuming any networks had the balls to take me up on any of these stellar ideas.
American Gladiators is a game show that originally ran from 1989-96 and had a brief revival in 2008. The show featured roided and oiled up, half-naked men and women who were tanned to a crisp donning nothing but some strategically placed spandex and a scowl.
The first run was pretty entertaining because there wasn't much on TV back in the day and it took awhile for the novelty to wear off. The second run, hosted by the horrifying Hulk Hogan and the loathsome Laila Ali, failed because they tried too hard to recreate the original.
Big surprise! There were no fresh ideas at NBC. Stunning.
Today when you want to remake something stale and unpleasant, you need to add something new into the mix to make it worth watching. It doesn't even matter if the thing you add is also stale and unpleasant; the very act of mixing them makes it better.
People today have a hard time dealing with the physical appearance of the no-name gladiators, but seem to enjoy celebrity. So slip this one on for size: We replace the no-name gladiators with the most physically capable figures of MLB's infamous steroid era. Honestly, they don't even have to be physically capable; just desperate to make a buck.
Amazing, right? Well, it gets better. The show is hosted by recently bankrupt pitcher Curt Schilling who has recently been railing against our gladiators' potential induction into the Hall of Fame. Admit it—you'd kill to see Schilling interviewing Barry Bonds after those stupid events.
ABC's sitcom Coach ran for seven seasons from 1989-97 and starred the always-awesome Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox, the head football coach at Minnesota State University.
The main cast was rounded out by his bumbling assistant coach Luther Van Dam, saucy redhead girlfriend Christine and dumb jock Dauber, turned idiot savant as an assistant coach.
I was young when this show aired, at least relatively so, but remember watching it during some of its run—particularly during the later seasons. It was moderately funny; enough so that it'd be worth another look. That is, assuming I've got a fresh take on the whole concept, which…obviously…I do.
You may not like it, but reality television is just where it's at these days. It's cheaper to produce, requires far less creativity, and it relies on humans just being their idiot selves to make us laugh.
Although, please note, that I'm not calling LSU head coach Les Miles a laughable idiot. He's one of the best coaches in college football for one of the best programs in the best conference in the country.
But we all know that Miles has his share of peccadilloes, in fact, he has a lot of people's share of peccadilloes, and is one of the most entertaining personalities in all of sports.
And with Les Miles as their father, I suspect he's got a brood of interesting offspring as well. The show would follow Miles, his closest co-workers, a little behind-the-scenes of the coaching life and then dip into the family man behind the grass-eating goofball we see on the sidelines.
Sorry 'Bama fans…Nick Saban didn't make the cut. Nobody wants to watch him scowling at everyone in his life 24/7.
Nickelodeon's Guts was a popular competition series that aired for four seasons between 1992-96. The show was hosted by actor Mike O'Malley, and British actress Mo Quirk served as the official referee.
The contestants competed in a series of ridiculous athletic events—most of which were just regular sports designed to be more "extreme." At the end of the show, the contestants would face off on the feared "Aggro Crag," a man-made mountain designed with various obstacles to slow those little jags down. The first one to the top won.
The show also featured various pre-recorded segments in which the hosts would chit chat to the kiddos about their interests outside of being extreme and what exactly did having "guts" mean to them.
I have a special place in my heart for Guts, but there's no way anyone who watched it during its original run would watch a remake unless they tweaked the format significantly. First of all, we've got to lose the little kid/pre-teen competitions.
There are a number of reasons I don't think that little kids should be competing in the "Extreme Arena." Like the fact that you have to be nice to little kids, and that doesn't make for good television. Plus they are small, injury prone, major insurance risks and most have parents that care about them.
So let's make the events more extreme and replace the kids with surly teenagers. They're bigger, can withstand harsher conditions and many of them have parents who can't stand to look at their stupid faces.
Then we replace the host with snarky, and often bitingly mean, mostly unemployed comedian David Spade. I'd love to see him conducting those interviews with all the enthusiasm of a man being walked to the death chamber.
And then you replace the referee with Padma Lakshmi. She's beautiful, relatively talented and knows how to talk in front of a camera. Plus, Pakshmi would really distract the male contestants and she knows absolutely nothing about sports—so some added comedy.
Years after the Saved by the Bell days, which ended in 1993, NBC executives tried to recapture the Zack and Slater magic with a couple of new shows geared at the same demographic: Saved by the Bell: The New Class and Hang Time.
Anyone who watched the original run of Saved by the Bell knows the new class was nothing short of a travesty, but people seem to have more fond memories of Hang Time. The half-hour sitcom was about an Indiana high school that had a basketball team with…gasp!…a girl.
The idea for entire series was actually ripped off from a single episode of Saved by the Bell (remember when a girl wanted join Bayside's wrestling team?), but they managed to stretch it out for a full six seasons. Although the network never seemed quite happy with the cast, because people were always coming and going without explanation.
Somehow they managed to land a number of high-profile NBA guest stars like Gary Payton, Mitch Raymond, Damon Stoudamire and Kobe Bryant. Less surprising is that Screech made a guest appearance in Season 6.
Personally, I wouldn't want to remake Hang Time in any way, shape or form. I thought it was boring, the kids were nerds and the girl on the basketball team just didn't impress me enough with her basketball skills. I think if you want to shatter the glass ceiling at something, you should be truly exceptional.
So this is the direction I'd go with Legit Hang Time:
Most of the class can stay, obviously with updated age-appropriate actors, but the little blonde basketball player and the cheerleader would be replaced with Baylor superstar Brittney Griner and Kim Kardashian.
When the blonde girl first tried out for the basketball team, it ruffled the feathers of everyone who didn't think a girl had any place on their team.
Well guess what, boys, now it's you who need to prove your place on Griner's team. She's bigger than you. She's faster than you. And she will not take any of your guff. Brittney can play herself, or they can give her another name, but the plot would remain the same.
Kim Kardashian would take the place of the wholesome cheerleader to give the show a little edge. So Kim isn't just the new girl in town making the boys drool with her pom poms; in a 21 Jump Street twist, she's also a narc for the overzealous local police chief, whom she's sleeping with, working undercover to keep kids off drugs.
Expect guest appearances by disgraced NBA players, reality starlets struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and, naturally, Screech.
This is kind of an obscure one, in that I'm the only person I know that actually watched this show, but MTV aired Surf Girls in 2003. The show was a reality competition that featured 14 amateur, super-hot surfer girls coppering for the chance to go pro.
It only lasted one season, which is baffling to me because it really seems like a can't-miss. You've got the beautiful girls (ages 18-22), stunning scenery, barely-there bikinis and the occasional drama amongst the cast.
This was in the early days of the reality competition shows, though, and the show may have actually benefited from taking the whole contest aspect out of it.
So here's my thought on the best way to remake Surf Girls. First: Take out the competition aspect of the show because nobody (besides surfers) really understands how you score surfing. If you don't stumble off the board and break your face on some coral, I automatically give you a 10.
Second: Focus on the girls who have already gone pro, like the legendarily luscious Alana Blanchard and her (almost) as stunningly beautiful group of surfer-girl friends. It'd be a nice change of pace to see a group of women who are actually friends, rather than group of volatile psychopaths who are hell-bent on destroying each other.
Third: Skip the reality-show drama angle and aim for a documentary feel. These girls live amazing lives. They are constantly traveling to the most beautiful and exotic places on earth. They are rarely seen in anything but a bikini. They are both athletes, competing in surf competitions around the globe, and models, always looking for more sponsors and different ways to pay the bills.
Personally, I think it's got crossover appeal for both men and women and would reach outside just the MTV age viewer. Hopefully far beyond the MTV age viewer.
MTV used to have a whole host of weird sports shows that most people of a certain generation remember vaguely. They were moderately entertaining at the time, but seem to have died out as a species.
MTV Rock N' Jock was a show that aired annually, or semi-annually, through most of the 90's. Basically the whole point was to gather together an interesting mix of actors, musicians and professional athletes to compete in some kind of athletic event. The standard challenges were softball, basketball and football.
The game was always terrible, but the entertainment factor was determined by the mix of celebrities involved—and absolutely nothing to do with hosts Bill Bellamy, Dan Cortese (The Mimbo) and Ken Ober.
First of all, let's just shelve all the real sports. I don't want to watch celebrities play softball, football, basketball or bowl competitively. There are athletes that are paid to do this professionally and I already watch most of them; minus the bowling.
I want some full contact stuff. Like boxing.
Yes, the celebrity boxing thing has already been done, in a sense. That's only if you consider Tonya Harding, Barry Williams (Greg Brady), Screech, Joey Buttafuoco, Paula Jones (one of the women that Bill Clinton allegedly sexually harassed in the early 90s) and Vanilla Ice, "celebrities."
Even in their heyday, which was decades ago, those folks barely qualified as celebrities. But FOX did get the formula right in know the type of people you need to target: Desperate people, and there are (at least) three types:
1. Desperate for attention, but don't actually need the money (Ryan Lochte, Kim Kardashian).
2. Desperate for attention and money (Lindsay Lohan, Octomom).
3. Desperate athletes trying to get their career back on track, but aren't smart enough to understand this is a terrible idea.
Throw in a boxing kangaroo as the grand finale and you've got yourself something worth watching.
Wild & Crazy Kids remains popular for those of us who can't help but be nostalgic about the carefree days of the early '90s.
The show aired on Nickelodeon and was co-hosted by three cutie teenagers who were charged with facilitating ridiculous challenges that were competed in by fairly sizable groups of children.
The show only lasted three seasons before being cancelled in 1992. Like many of Nickelodeon's competition shows, it received a brief revival a decade later, but it lasted just 10 episodes.
The failed revival of Wild and Crazy Kids in 2002 leads me to suspect that nobody is interested in this show anymore. Times have changed, there is a lot more television out there to compete with, and the small audience who cherished the show during it's original run has really outgrown the concept.
Which means in order to revive this cult classic, you have to find a way to tap into the original enthusiasm from the old-time viewers who watched the show, while making it more age-appropriate for the potential audience. Hence: Wild and Crazy Adults.
Sure, that title sounds like something you might stumble upon late night on Skinamax, but that's the beauty of it. It's meant to draw attention, but obviously I'm not suggesting we do a porn remake—I'll leave that to the professionals.
What I'm thinking is that the adorable teenage co-hosts are going to be replaced by three Playboy bunnies and a male who they drive crazy because wants to sleep with them all, but they think of him as a big brother.
The competitions would be amped up too—think Fear Factor meets The Biggest Loser, but with less fat people and donkey semen.
The whole thing may sound a little crazy, but crazy seems to be the order of the day. Plus, if this gets picked up and I get my big payday as a TV producer, I'll have some time to work out some of the kinks. Or work in some more kinks. Whatever. I'm flexible. Very flexible.
The White Shadow was a television drama that ran on CBS from 1978-81, which was a bit before my time. The only reason I've ever even heard of this show is because Bill Simmons, one of my favorite writers, was apparently obsessed with the show back in the day.
After the show's creator Bruce Paltrow died in 2002, Simmons wrote a column on the "genius" of the show for ESPN. The premise of the show was that a white NBA player, forced by injury to retire, leaves Chicago to coach basketball at a predominantly black high school in Los Angeles.
Simmons is spot on when he calls the show groundbreaking and it's no surprise that network executives weren't quick to jump at show that had a predominantly black cast. But in the end they relented and, in the process, seemed to have changed the life of Bill Simmons.
In the column, he actually goes through the plot line of all three seasons, highlighting his favorites and letting you see the show through his eyes.
I'm actually a little concerned with how this is going to go over with everyone, including Bill Simmons, but just hear me out before you decide you hate this or think it's racist or something.
In reviewing as much as I could of The White Shadow, I definitely can't deny the compelling plot line and I love that it has crossover appeal for both kids and parents—in the same way that Friday Night Lights did.
But it's been about 30 years since the show aired on CBS and since then, we've seen countless stories of the white savior stepping into the picture to make things better for some portion of the black community.
There are very few (if any?) examples of this happening in the other direction depicted on television or film. It certainly doesn't seem out of the realm of possibilities that a black NBA player, forced into retirement by injury, could step in and coach at an all-white school in Omaha.
In this day and age, The Black Shadow actually seems like far more compelling television. If you don't, let's just agree to disagree, shall we?
You might be thinking "WTF, isn't this show still on?" The answer to that question is, in fact, yes. I am acutely aware of the fact that MTV's Challenge series is still on the air because I have yet to miss a season.
That's not something I'm proud of or anything, especially since I stopped watching the shows that populate the challenge casts years ago, so I rarely even recognize any members of the current casts. That being said, each season has a "theme" or some kind of new spin that is concocted with the specific intent on driving the contestants to drink.
The "Battle of the Exes" was one of the more explosive and entertaining seasons of The Challenge, because there are few things more uncomfortable than being forced to vacation, drink and compete in physical challenges with your ex.
MTV probably owns the rights to this whole concept, and they're pretty good at it, so I trust them to produce The Ultimate Sports Challenge: Battle of the Exes.
This is one of the most natural fits on this entire list because many of the men on those shows are natural born athletes and many of the women are just desperate schemers looking to make a buck.
Note that I said most, because I wouldn't really classify A-Rod as an athlete anymore or Elin Nordegren as a desperate schemer looking to make a buck. She's got plenty, after all.
All that aside, putting together a bunch of divorced (or trying to reconcile) sports couples and making them compete as couples against each other sounds like absolute heaven.
I guarantee Vanessa Bryant would throw a drink at Kim Kardashian and maybe Evelyn Lozada within the first 48 hours.
ABC's Wide World of Sports actually had a shockingly long run for a show that I don't ever remember seeing an episode of. It started out as nothing more than a summer filler show in 1961, kinda like Dancing with the Stars (a national plague), but it became a surprise hit with viewers and ran on the network, in some for or another, until 2006.
The show itself had a concept that was truly ahead of its time; traveling around the world to feature different sports, and sporting like events, from all around the globe. There were a lot traditional segments on racing, figure skating and various other common Olympic-type sports.
But their segments on extreme sports like cliff diving, surfing and other extreme sports were the first time the viewing public had been introduced to such activities. The show became so popular that it spawned international versions in Canada, Australia and Mexico.
If you thought there was a Wide World of Sports back in the day, there's a much Wilder World of Sports today. Ski jumping, Indy Cars and later the X-Games were kind of edgy for the time, but we've become much crazier as a species in recent years.
The trio of social media (which connects us all globally), technology and an absolute burning desire of one-upmanship that permeates our "OMG LOOK AT ME" culture, have really raised the stakes in a lot of sports—some of which are more legit "sports" than others.
Instead of skydiving, we have group naked skydiving. Instead of cliff diving, we have diving off mountains in a flying squirrel suit trying to fly (it often ends in splatter). Instead of track and field events, we have people throwing themselves off a cliff-like hill en masse annually, risking life and limb, for nothing more than a wheel of cheese.
The whole world is a car crash and you know people just can't look away. It's time to revive this old classic, with an extreme twist.
ABC's Shaq Vs. was a reality show that ran for two seasons between 2009-10. The premise of the show was basically that Shaquille O'Neal operates under the premise that he is the greatest athlete of all time and, therefore, could challenge (and beat) star athletes in other sports at their own game.
The show was stupid, because the fundamental premise under which Shaq was operating was dead wrong. But that's actually what made it funny—he always lost.
The only episode that Shaq came home with the win was the second-to-last episode in which he challenged Charles Barkley, the worst golfer on the planet, to a golf game and a competitive eating challenge.
Maybe the hot dog eating competition was competitive, but I could be drunk and blindfolded and beat Barkley at a round of golf. And yes, Sir Charles…consider that a challenge.
Here's my thought: If Shaq can lose pretty much every legitimate challenge in two seasons of Shaq Vs., well then I can think of another former Celtic who could do the same thing—Brian Scalabrine.
That's right! The White Mamba himself. Scalabrine is nowhere in the running as the best athlete ever, but he is a fan favorite pretty much everywhere he goes. Honestly, he wasn't even terribly gifted at basketball; not that it matters in the slightest.
Shaq was one the NBA's greats for over a decade and a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, but he lost to everyone he (legitimately) challenged. His arrogance made it awkward.
Scalabrine could lose to everyone he challenged too, but it'd be more ironic and comedic than awkward. Plus, who doesn't want more Brian Scalabrine in their life?
ABC's Sports Night was a show about the behind-the-scenes happenings of a fictional sports show that is more than a little reminiscent of ESPN's SportsCenter. The show was a critical darling, had an exceptional cast and a cult following.
Unfortunately, a cult following doesn't usually produce the type of ratings that the major networks are looking for and ABC cancelled the Aaron Sorkin show after just two seasons. More than a decade later, people are still talking about this show.
And you have to wonder that had it aired today on one of the cable networks that it would have been give more time, like a lot more time, to flourish. It was one of my favorite shows of all time, which is exactly why I wouldn't want to see them try to remake it exactly.
Instead of trying to duplicate the magic of Sports Night, I'd really like to see that actual goings-on behind the scenes at the actual SportsCenter and ESPN in general. Love it or hate it, most sports fans are pretty interested in the goings-on at the Worldwide Leader's compound in Bristol, Conn.
Behind the SportsCenter would attract lovers and haters alike and would be one of the most meta experiments in television history. A television show filming a television show about the making of a television show—and I think we just found our complicated, but intriguing, tagline for the show.
It's hard to imagine many of the talking heads on ESPN letting their hair down behind the scenes, but they have at least a few folks who couldn't help but be themselves off…yet on…camera.
Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper ran for five seasons on ABC from 1992-1997, originally airing after the cheese-ball classic sitcom Full House, before moving to the TGIF Friday night lineup, and ultimately, to that television graveyard called “Saturday” for its final season. The show starred Mark Curry, as former NBA player Mark Cooper, who now works as a substitute teacher and coach at the fictional Oakbridge High school.
Cooper shares a house with childhood friend Robin Dumars, played by Dawnn Lewis, and her best friend/roommate Vanessa Russell, played by Holly Robinson (of 21 Jump Street fame).
So, the show centers on the shenanigans of the wacky and cool Mr. Cooper as he tries to learn the ropes of being teacher, while macking on roommate Vanessa—successfully macking, I might add, because they’re in a relationship by fourth season. Oh, there’s also a ‘tough love’ female principal and annoying/zany neighborhood kid.
I vaguely remember Hangin’ ,but I certainly must have watched it. I know this because any self-respecting tween watched the crap that aired on ABC’s TGIF. Like most family-oriented sitcoms of the era, Hangin’ managed to be both far-fetched and formulaic.
I think I know exactly what, or shall I say who, could give a remake of this lame sitcom a little bit of an edge.
My feeling is that if the entire premise of a sitcom is based on the idea of a former NBA player moving in with two hot ladies and paying the bills by becoming a substitute teacher, then the starring role has to go to the real thing. Without a “Mr. Cooper” played by a well-known NBA player, the show is a failure.
Also, if you’re going have the dude living in the same house with two women, one of which he wants to scam on, then you need him to be the kind of guy who would make an already-awkward situation a whole lot weirder.
That’s why my remake would star the man, the myth, Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace. Yep, welcome to hell, ABC, because someone just greenlit Hangin’ with Mr. World Peace. In this version, Dawnn, Vanessa, and Oakbridge High School are going to find out they’ve bitten off way more than they can chew.
I hope Principal P.J. Moore has a back-up plan, because Mr. World Peace might not even show up when you call him, and if he does, your guidance counselor is going have to work a little overtime. While, the original show had Mark and Vanessa falling in love and eventually getting engaged, the story arc in Hangin’ with Mr. Peace going to be little less predictable.
World Peace is going to break stuff. He’s going to bring strange women home from Las Vegas. When Metta isn’t freaking out Dawn and Vanessa in person, his creepy—and frequent—text messages are. It’s going to be vintage Metta World Peace.
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