Aug 23 2013
I took August 21’s press release from Entertainment One and Nu Image citing the creation of a Rambo TV show with more than a grain of salt: they said that screen legend Sylvester Stallone was considering returning to one of his seminal characters on the boob tube, of all places.
Of course, it didn’t take even 24 hours for someone to set the record straight: Sly would most definitely NOT be joining the TV production. The correction even somewhat mildly poo-pooed his participation in some kind of creative capacity, and that was a wet blanket fandom didn’t need. While I certainly wouldn’t doubt that the Italian Stallion himself might want to provide some subtext for the further adventures of everyone’s favorite Vietnam veteran, I never once thought from the beginning we’d actually see the man doing it on behalf of the networks.
For those of you who may’ve missed it (or spent much of your adult life on an island), the character of John Rambo stems from the David Morrell book (and the subsequent motion picture) “First Blood.” Plans to follow the book’s narrative were completed – (spoiler alert!) Rambo actually dies in the end. (You can check out the special features on any of the latest DVD releases to see for yourself). However, rumor has it that ending never tested well with audiences, and Sly and the producers kinda/sorta thought maybe they had a good thing in the character of Rambo. The veteran survived, if for no other reason than to wage a one-man-rematch of the entire “Vietnam Experience” in Rambo: First Blood, Part 2.
Purists, all that I ask is that you don’t even get me started on reliving the craptacular Rambo III. After seeing it theatrically and openly lampooning its sentiments, I can remember arguing with friends at the time that the film’s proper title should’ve been “Rambo II: First Blood, Part 3.” Perhaps that would’ve made more sense than the convoluted plot involving Russians, a captured (and somewhat emasculated) Col. Trautman, and the Mujahideen rebels in Afghanistan.
Two decades after disappointing the series’ ardent fans, Stallone brushed off the franchise with another installment, this one simply titled Rambo. The story mostly ignored how the vet had kept busy in the past 20 years, and, instead, it focused on what John Rambo did best: defying the odds and butchering enemies of the United States. For all its foibles, Rambo worked quite well; I remember stating, at the time, that the only problem I had with it stylistically was that it felt too short, clocking in at a lean 92 minutes. (The “Extended Cut” feels more complete, and that shows you what difference an additional 7 minutes can make!)
So I’m all in for seeing more action and adventure in the Rambo universe. I could quibble over when it might be set and where it could be and what stories might take place, but, in the end, those are minor points. The fact that there exists some interest in revisiting the character is good enough for me.
Still, the question remains: on what channel could a Rambo TV series possibly end up?
Well, my best guess is that it won’t be on Lifetime.
Or the Oprah Network.
I can’t imagine any of the big names – CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc. – would wanna have something so dedicated to American military superiority (which Rambo undeniably is) given airtime.
And I wouldn’t imagine The History Channel or National Geographic or the Home Shopping Network will have any legitimate interest in the property.
Politics aside, it certainly won’t end up on MSNBC unless the producers plan on having Rambo come back with the sole purpose of destroying the US of A.
While syndication is certainly a possibility, anyone who’s who in the TV syndication universe would tell you that it’s mostly deader than dirt – Seinfeld reruns, along with infinite repeats of The Big Bang Theory and Friends, have done maximum damage to the hour-long syndicated action/drama format.
I’m inclined to wonder if it could go the way of FX or AMC. FX – in particular – has dabbled in the action/drama quite effectively over the years (The Shield and Sons of Anarchy come to mind), while AMC has mostly staked out cable with period or performance pieces (Mad Men and Breaking Bad). Clearly, both channels have made some waves as of late – they’re actively looking for the ‘next big thing’ – as their signature programs are nearing the end of their creative lives. I’d honestly be surprised if they weren’t interested should Rambo actually evolve from news to an actual program.
However, right now I’d have to put money on either Cinemax or Starz to be the real movers and shakers.
Starz recently allowed their big hit, Spartacus, to deal their main character his final blow. There was some passing news blurbs about a possible Caesar-centric spin-off, but, to my knowledge, absolutely nothing has come to pass on that idea. They’ve had a few other shows that underperformed expectations – Boss lasted two seasons; Torchwood: Miracle Day was hardly a miracle; and their stellar crime drama, Magic City, also recently suffered the ax. Starz could use a known commodity like Rambo to supply some needed ratings’ juice.
Likewise, Cinemax has made some waves with the hour-long action show. If you’ve missed Strike Back, then you’re missing the best shot of adrenaline since the glory days of Kiefer Sutherland’s 24. The lovely Melissa George headlined a lukewarm addition, a spy drama called Hunted: the first season was a mixed bag, and the BBC recently pulled their support for a possible second, though Cinemax remains interested in somehow ‘rebooting’ the whole idea. While I thought their crime drama Banshee really pushed the bounds of believability in its first season, it still warranted enough attention to serve as a respectable ‘guilty pleasure.’ It’ll be back in 2014, but, in the meantime, the ‘Max’ could definitely benefit by capturing Rambo.
I know it’s still early, but speculation is what fuels the internet.
Heck, I wouldn’t even mind speculating who could fill Rambo’s shoes, though I thought that best to leave to you smilers in the talkbacks.
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