Hollywood turns to classic TV -- Tinseltown goes channel surfing for the next ''Brady Bunch Movie''

By A.J. Jacobs
Updated September 29, 1995 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Nickelodeon’s loss is Hollywood’s gain. With the success of last year’s The Brady Bunch Movie ($47 million), is it any wonder that herdlike Hollywood is busy strrrretching classic sitcoms into features? ”It’s the old Noah’s Ark theory,” says veteran sitcom writer Leonard Stern, who is a consultant on Savoy Pictures’ Honeymooners movie. ”When one is successful, every studio wants two.” (Indeed, a sequel to Bunch is set to begin filming in January with the same Bradys.) What’s more, almost every studio came up with the same gimmick: Drop the characters into the ’90s! So before you can say a.k.a. Pablo, the Motion Picture, here’s a look at other laugh track-free films about to cross over:

The Honeymooners In this upcoming feature, Jackie Gleason’s legendary loudmouth, Ralph Kramden, will be played by another rotund rowdy, Tom Arnold, who beat out Damon Wayans — he tried to encourage producers to feature an African-American Ralph. The plot is under wraps, but one thing you won’t hear is ”Bang, zoom, to the moon, Alice!” Apparently, domestic violence isn’t as funny as it used to be.

I Dream of Jeannie A feminist genie? Well, as feminist as a scantily clad, bottle-bound sex slave can be. In this big-screen version, from Columbia Pictures, the blinking nymph has morphed into a ’90s siren with a Sahara-size attitude. Casting won’t happen for months — the screenplay isn’t finished — but Sandra Bullock rubs us the right way. Though it hasn’t been decided whether Barbara Eden will make a cameo (”There’s no way of knowing until we see a script,” says an Eden spokeswoman), writer Danny Jacobson (Mad About You‘s cocreator) does promise the new genie will bare her navel. ”At the very least,” he says.

Green Acres Producer David Permut, who’s also working on a Love Boat movie, is developing this version of the Farm vs. Park Avenue hit with Twentieth Century Fox. The plot: Arnold Ziffel, the cerebral, TV-watching pig, takes over Hooterville. ”We’re trying to find out who Babe’s agent is,” says Permut. As for human casting, Permut won’t say anything except that he once considered Ivana Trump for the late Eva Gabor’s role. Yes, dahling, she was really a contender.

The Partridge Family Think The Producers meets Spinal Tap. In this movie, being developed at Warner Bros., two greedy record execs want to drive their company’s stock down so they can take it over. They sign the world’s worst band, the Partridge Family, who become a Gen X hit. Peppered throughout will be real rockers telling how the bus-driving balladeers have influenced their music. ”The plan is to put out a soundtrack with Green Day doing ‘I Think I Love You’ and REM doing ‘Come On Get Happy,”’ says producer Peter Aronson.

Gilligan’s Island Much like that ”three-hour tour,” Gilligan, The Movie has taken longer than anyone expected — it’s been on the boards for more than five years. According to producer and show creator Sherwood Schwartz, the project is now at Turner Pictures, and TV director Arlene Sanford has been hired, which, Schwartz believes, ”usually means it’s a go.” Since there were three — count ’em, three! — TV reunion movies exploring what happened to the castaways after leaving their desert isle, the film will delve into their pre-shipwreck lives. Schwartz says he’s talked with Roseanne‘s John Goodman about playing the Skipper — he’s already had some practice, having spoofed him in the show’s season finale in May.

Leave It to Beaver The screenplay isn’t written, but scripter Brian Levant (director of The Flintstones) plans a present-day Cleaver-family saga. Even the Beav himself, Jerry Mathers, is excited. ”I hope it captures the flavor of the original,” says Mathers, who still makes appearances promoting the character. ”Kids react the same way today.” Though Mathers says no one has called him about a part, Barbara Billingsley, who played June Cleaver, has already been drafted. When the writers pitched the idea to Universal, they got Billingsley to interrupt the meeting with milk and cookies and to demand that the execs wash their hands.

F Troop The movie of this cavalry-and-Indian sitcom promises to forge into new tasteless territory — an early version of the script features a bad actress named ”Sleeps With Producer.” Now in development (several studios are vying for it), the film will follow an evil capitalist as he tries to shut down Fort Courage. Troop is also being produced by Permut, who is considering former performers from Saturday Night Live and The Kids in the Hall for key roles.

Mister Ed In this riff on Cyrano, the remarkable horse feeds romantic dialogue to the lovestruck but tongue-tied Wilbur. When the project was at Disney, Kelsey Grammer was mentioned for the human lead. The film is now between studios. Expect the original Wilbur, Alan Young, in a cameo. Says producer Jim Mahoney Jr: ”If he’d like to be a part of the movie, we’d like to have him.” — Additional reporting by Pat H. Broeske and Irv Letofsky

Gilligan's Island

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