News · TV

We Really Are Living in 1984: ‘The Karate Kid’ and ‘Miami Vice’ Head Back to TV

And we’re not even mad about it.
Karate Kid Ralph Macchio William Zabka
By  · Published on August 4th, 2017

And we’re not even mad about it.

It’s 1984 all over again. With news that The Karate Kid and Miami Vice are returning to television, the recent wave of nostalgic reboots and revivals doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. With contemporary television seemingly content to spend so much time in the past, it is evident that proven hits from a bygone era remain favorable among viewers. But while original programming is essential to ensure that the medium continues to move forward, sometimes being stuck in a previous decade hits the sweet spot, as well. There’s room for both as long as people are watching, and these latest announcements are enticing prospects nonetheless.

Set to arrive on Youtube Red sometime in 2018, The Karate Kid revival series, titled Cobra Kai, will serve as a direct sequel of sorts to the 1984 film, with stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka set to reprise their roles as Daniel and Johnny, respectively. Hot Tub Time Machine’s Josh Heald will share writing duties along with Harold and Kumar duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. This won’t be the franchise’s first stint on the small scree, as there was also an animated series spin-off that briefly aired in 1989.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the story takes place 30 years after the events of the movie and sees the old rivals reigniting their rivalry as middle-aged men. Johnny, seeking redemption for his past failures, returns to his old stomping grounds and reopens the Cobra Kai dojo. Daniel, on the other hand, seeks some direction in his life without his mentor Mr. Miyagi to guide him. Therefore, both men decide to deal with their demons the only way they know how: through karate.

The show’s creators have assured fans that the series will be a natural successor to the movies, promising to retain the core qualities that made the films so special and appealing in the first place. In a joint statement, Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg profess, “Cobra Kai​ will be a true continuation of the original films — packed with comedy, heart, and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry, and we’re thankful to our partners at YouTube Red, Sony Pictures Television, and Overbrook for their shared enthusiasm in making our dream project a reality.”

This is the type of revival that most fans will surely get behind. After all these years, it’ll feel like catching up with old friends in a way. Having the old stars back in the equation allows for a natural continuation of the story, and one which has a lot of potential for some lighthearted and nostalgic entertainment. However, while the show will undoubtedly appeal to the ’80s and ’90s kids who grew up watching the movies, the decision to take the series to Youtube Red suggests they’re also targeting a younger demographic as well. Will it be the latest revival to resonate among 21st audiences? We’ll just have to wait and see…

Elsewhere, the reboot of NBC’s police procedural television drama Miami Vice will be led by Fast and the Furious stalwarts Vin Diesel and Chris Morgan. Let that sink in for a second: one of the most beloved shows in the history of American pop culture is returning to our screens courtesy of two major components of one of the biggest blockbuster franchises of all time. Will it be a worthy modern successor to a show that defined a decade, or will it be a prime example of Hollywood at its most creatively bankrupt?

Right now, we can only speculate as to how it will turn out, but as is the case with any project, our preconceived notions are likely based on how we feel about the general work of the talent involved or our attitudes towards the endless cycle of reboots and revivals. At the time of this writing, all we know is that Diesel and Morgan will serve as producers alongside Shana Waterman (24: Live Another Day) and Ainsley Davies. Meanwhile, relative newcomer Peter Macmanus, whose previous credits include an episodes of The Mist TV series and Satisfaction, will pen a script based on the original series.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Diesel supposedly pitched the idea to bring the show back to NBC personally, and he’s certainly the biggest name attached to the project in some capacity thus far. The association of Diesel and his regular cohort is an intriguing prospect, and it’ll be interesting to see how they go about it: will it be high-octane carnage that defies logic, or will they opt for something more grounded in basic action territory?

Diesel and Morgan’s brand of entertainment is not so far removed from elements which made Miami Vice a hit back in its day. While Miami Vice was gritty, atmospheric, and strong in its storytelling, the show still featured fast cars, speed boats, high-speed chases, and plenty of action. Don’t be surprised if the new series decides to crank up the action-oriented sensibilities in order to appeal to the demographic who have made Diesel’s and Morgan’s previous project’s box office so successful.

It is also worth noting that the second Fast and the Furious movie (the one and only installment that Diesel isn’t in) is basically a buddy detective story set in the Magic City, so there are further similarities to be found between each franchise that complement each other well.

Should everything go ahead as planned, the Miami Vice reboot could see itself entering a competitive market for shows of this ilk. With Top of the Lake: China Girl, Twin Peaks, and Lethal Weapon currently ongoing, and Mindhunter and S.W.A.T. set to premier later this year, we’re not without a shortage of police dramas for the foreseeable future. How will Miami Vice stand out from the pack? Let’s hope that it fares better than Training Day, which recently handed in its badge and gun.

However, the bigger issue here pertains to the current television climate we’re living in. It’s an era of revivals, remakes, and re-imaginings, which often incurs the frustration of viewers who are fed up of older properties being resurrected or revamped for modern times. But nostalgia is a powerful drug and a profitable one. Established franchises with their built-in fanbases are easier to promote, and as fans, it’s often likely that curiosity will get the better of us.

Unlike the cat before us, however, indulging in that curiosity doesn’t kill us. Therefore, if we’re dissatisfied with the latest attempts to cash in on the past, we just move on with our lives until the next version comes along and attempts to capitalize on our fandom and the cycle continues. As science explains, nostalgia is good for the soul, and even with the most cynical of outlooks and lowest of expectations, I think most people are willing to enter any updated version of a TV show or film ready to be proven wrong.

If we’ve learned anything from this trend, it’s that sometimes new iterations and revivals of old favorites can be pretty darn good. Fargo, Hannibal, The Exorcist, and Bates Motel have arguably enriched their respective franchises, while Twin Peaks, Gilmore Girls, Fuller House, and Ash vs. Evil Dead, to name a few recent examples, have provided satisfactory continuations to legacies many believed still had plenty of gas left in the tank before their mighty comebacks were made official.

With Lost in Space and Star Trek: Discovery on the way, as well the long-awaited returns of Roseanne and Curb Your Enthusiasm — along with a few others — we’re just going to need to accept this current fad is here to stay. That said, I think it’s safe to say that the widespread positive reception of a few shows that fall into these categories has given us reason to be optimistic and excited for what lies ahead.

Granted, for every Fargo or Hannibal there is an Uncle Buck or 24: Live Another Day, but let’s not pretend that original shows don’t also underwhelm as regularly as they impress, either. Both can co-exist in the world of television, and it’s nice to have a mixture of nostalgia and originality in our lives. I ain’t mad about that.

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Kieran is a Contributor to the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.