Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shakespeare by any other name

By R.J. Harlick

Your assignment: You must novelize a popular TV show, past or present. The catch: you must change its genre. What show and what new genre? Give us a taste of the plotline and character arcs. (Example: Turning I Love Lucy into a serialized thriller series similar to 24.)

Do you remember the eighty’s TV show Moonlighting starring Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis before he headed off to the big screen? The two of them ran the Blue Moon Detective Agency and didn’t always get along. There was one particularly memorable episode that I still chuckle over. The storyline was based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of a Shrew and had everyone dressed in the ornate garb of Shakespeare’s time.  I can still picture Bruce Willis as Petruchio, the aspiring suitor, arriving to court his unwilling bride, the headstrong Katherina played by Cybil. Garbed in velvet and satin with a floppy medieval hat, Bruce rides up on a horse that was wearing a blanket with a BMW logo and enormous sunglasses perched on its nose. The dialogue was a mix of famous lines from various Shakespearean plays and the modern dialogue of running a detective agency. The show was hilarious and a marvelous example of cross-pollinating into another genre, if Shakespeare could be called a genre.

Though not directly answering this week’s question, I thought I would explore the Shakespearean plays that could be used for some of the TV shows I’ve watched over the years.

In some respects Downton Abbey could provide a good cast for King Lear. We have a father with three daughters and a magnificent estate that has an heir problem. But it seems unfair to give the Earl of Grantham the tortured soul of a King Lear. He’s too nice. Nor do Lady Mary and Lady Edith have the evil in them to do what Regan and Goneril did to their father, King Lear and their sister, Cordelia. 

But I think it would be fun to take the cast of MASH away from the Korean War for a few hours and put them into the fantasy world A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where everyone is falling in love with the wrong person.  I think Klinger would make a marvelous Puck, the mischievous sprite who concocts a magic potion to make a person fall in love with the first living being they see upon waking up.  Frank Burns would be a perfect bumbling Bottom, a member of an acting group. Hawkeye, because he is top dog and has a devilish streak, will be Oberon, King of the Fairies and ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan, his queen, Titania.  I’ve used Hot Lips only because she was the only female with a major role during the 13 years of the shows run. A comment on the times, eh? The other cast members will fill the various star crossed lover roles and the acting group of the play within the play.

And so we have Hawkeye upset with Hot Lips ordering Klinger to make this magic potion and give it to her. Hot Lips falls asleep in the forest while the play within a play takes place. She awakens. And the first living thing she sets eyes on is Bottom wearing the head of a donkey. She falls in love and so the fun begins.

Though love isn’t exactly a theme of NCIS Los Angeles, there is the undercurrent with Deeks and Kensi and Sam is always trying to get Callen a girlfriend, so I think the high jinx going on in Much Ado About Nothing would work. Deeks and Kensi could be Benedict and Beatrice, who are afraid to admit they love each other. Callen could be Claudio who is searching for love and finds it in Hero, who could be played by Nell which would be interesting.  Sam is Don Pedro, a prince from Aragon and I’ll have Hetty take on the role of Don John, his bastard brother, only because he is the one pulling all the strings and causing such confusion.  

In short Callen falls in love with Nell and proceeds to woo her, but Hetty intervenes and sets it up so that it looks as if Sam is also going after her. Meanwhile a matchmaking scheme is hatched by Sam to get Deeks and Kensi to admit their love to each other. But like anything that has to do with Shakespeare none of it goes smoothly.

I am sure many of Shakespeare’s plays could be applied to other TV shows, but I’ll stop here and let you digest these three possibilities.


And to switch to some blatant self promotion, the next Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder, is available for pre-order and will soon be out on Netgalley for reviews.

Enjoy your day.

4 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Fun stuff, RJ. And you know what they say, there's only five (or seven, depending on who you talk to) basic plots and Shakespeare did them all. So in a sense everything is an updating of his work ;-).

Also, I don't know if you did it on purpose of if it was a Freudian slip, but in talking about MASH you said something about taking them out of the Viet Nam War. MASH was set during the Korean War, but in reality it was really dealing with Viet Nam and Korea as just a way to make the pill a little sweeter since it was more removed from the moment.

Paul D. Marks said...

That should be "and Korea *was* just a way to make the pill a little sweeter..."

RJ Harlick said...

Whoops, you're right, Paul. Thanks for pointing it out.

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