This is an update of one of my first blog posts!
A few years ago, I saw a short interview clip with LeVar Burton on Yahoo! Shine. (It’s not active anymore, sadly.)
I don’t usually watch actor interviews, but I knew that Mr. Burton wouldn’t be in character, so I thought I might enjoy it. I was surprised, though. I was truly impressed and challenged when Burton started to discuss his involvement with Reading Rainbow and an upcoming re-make of Roots.
To paraphrase a bit:
- The goal of Reading Rainbow was always to engage its audience using current, relevant technology in order to promote and encourage reading.
- In the 80s, that technology was television. In the new millennium, the relevant technology is computers, so Reading Rainbow has been reinvented as a tablet app.
By a similar token:
- Alex Haley’s Roots tells a story that is an important part of American history and culture.
- The 1977 miniseries Roots was effective partly because the actors involved were well known, iconic television figures.
- Younger generations don’t have as much of a connection to those actors, and the visuals look dated enough to turn off some younger viewers. That means an important story is starting to go unheard.
I am absolutely thrilled with the concept of a Reading Rainbow app. I had heard of it before, but hearing Burton talk about it reminded me how cool I think it is. I haven’t used or seen it in action, but the use of modern technology as a way to keep encouraging kids to read just makes all my nerdy bells and lights go off.
Being a nerd, I didn’t actually need encouragement to read. Reading Rainbow still gave me a wealth of awesome books I might not have found. It helped reinforce the idea that reading and a love of books were important and didn’t make me “strange.”
I’m a fan of classic films and television, so I had never really thought about the possibility that a movie or a miniseries (or even an old TV show) might need to be updated and re-made in order for some viewers to fully appreciate the story. I don’t know that I completely agree, but I do see the value in remaking Roots. Mr. Burton’s thoughts challenged me to reevaluate some of my annoyance about the sheer number of “re-imagined” television shows on the air right now.
These are the conclusions that I’ve come to:
- Some stories are important enough that they need to seem relevant to more than one generation, and if re-makes can help with that, they should be encouraged.
- Some ideas are universal, and by nature that makes them relevant and important to every generation. That’s why franchises like Star Trek and Doctor Who keep finding new outlets and expressions of themselves.
- I’m still annoyed with the blatant and shameless level of commercialism associated with the constant, poorly conceived re-imaginings and endless crop of spinoffs and sequel films.
- I think it’s a shame that there are so few new heroes on television now, and storytelling seems to be getting less important.
- But, I realized that the only difference between re-imaginings now and awful sequels in the past is a difference of degree, and I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who automatically thinks all re-makes are crap because “they aren’t like the original.”
Seeing this interview clip encouraged me to check out some of the recent re-imaginings of franchises I loved. That’s why I was willing to watch The Sound of Music Live. I also checked out Ironside and Beauty and the Beast. As usual, the only one I truly enjoyed watching was cancelled. That’s not really the point, though.
Here are some remakes and adaptions that I have enjoyed.
What are yours?
- The Return of Reading Rainbow (everydayfamily.com)
- Reading Rainbow Helps A Child Overcome His Fear Of Flying (buzzfeed.com)
- A Reading Rainbow (growthology.org)
- LeVar Burton on the intersection of education and technology (webinknow.com)
- LeVar Burton, in Conversation (on.aol.com)