I have a fondness for any character that appeared on the old "Defenders of the Earth" (Defenders!) cartoon back in the '80s. Yes, even Mandrake the Magician is beloved by me. I'm also one of possibly 5 people who enjoyed the 1996 "Phantom" movie starring Billy Zane. That's why I was happy to read the Hollywood Reporter announcement that the Sci Fi Channel (soon to be renamed Sy Fy - it's cool because it's misspelled) has green lit a pilot for the Phantom. It will be a four-hour movie, with further episodes being contingent upon it drawing a large enough audience, following the "Battlestar Galactica" program model. They have also green lit similar productions of "Alice," an update of "Alice in Wonderland" in the vein of the channel's "Tin Man," and "Riverworld," based on the books by Philip Jose Farmer. (via MTV's Splash Page)
Apparently it was reported back in December that an Australian company was planning on bringing The Phantom to the big screen again in a film titled "The Phantom Legacy," written by Tim Boyle. Somehow, I get the sense that this is not likely to happen now. I love the Ghost Who Walks as much as the next girl who had an inexplicable crush on Billy Zane in the early to mid '90s, but I just don't see the world being able to sustain two live action Phantom adaptations. That's just me though.
I'm also a bit wary when Mark Stern, Sci Fi Channel's vice president of original programming, is quoted as saying "It's not a guy in purple tights." Well, yes Mark. It is, or, at least, it should be. What's wrong with the purple tights? And if you think there is something wrong with the purple tights, then why the hell do you want make a show about the Phantom? Maybe I'm foolish, but I actually have some faith that this will turn out better than Sci Fi Channel's "Flash Gordon" series, which, I saw as primarily crippled by its lack of production values. It wanted to be "Battlestar Galactica," but it looked cheesier than the 1980 movie. Why even bother with the Hawkmen if you can't afford to give them wings? That's when the show lost me. OK, some of the acting was pretty terrible too.
Anyway, with the production model they are using, it seems like they will at least have the ability to produce something of quality, provided they start out with quality writing. I'm just not sure I'm interested in another show about a costumed superhero that is too embarrassed to just be what it is. Why do television executives insist on denying one of the most basic tropes of the superhero, when it's obvious from film, that the general public is perfectly willing to believe in a guy in a flamboyant costume beating up bad guys (as long as said guy does it in a strictly PG-13 sort of way)? When will the spandex shame end?
I'm not going to bother commenting on "Riverworld" or "Alice." I've never read the books, so I have no idea if they will make for a good television series, though THR specifically notes that the characters will be portrayed by actors in their 20s, so someone like Napolean "won't be a balding man with his hand in his coat." This intrigues me. Will Napolean be a young man with Fabio hair and his hand in his coat? Are they going to have him grow a foot while they're at it too? As for "Alice," it will be written and directed by Nick Willing, who also wrote and directed the network's "Tin Man." I believe Brenda's review of that provided all we need to know about what to expect from "Alice."