We're Giving You Half a Billion Dollars to Spend on Pop Culture. Don't F*ck It Up.
How many times have you walked out of a theater craving a sequel that never arrived? Or wished your favorite novel was in some studio’s development pipeline? Or become obsessed with an engrossing television series only to learn it would end prematurely? FREEBASE A FUCK, HANNIBAL!
We deal with these pop-culture disappointments - which are like real-life disappointments but empirically worse - on a semi-annual basis. Compounding these frustrations is the realization that we’re mostly powerless to prevent cancellations or influence studio decision-making. The choice to greenlight a sequel, remake a failed film, bring back a series for another season, or option a book is left to a small coterie of men
and women whose primary responsibility is shareholder satisfaction.
But what if, like Donald Trump, you had the cash to finance flights of fancy yourself? Well, now you do. Kinda.
We’re giving you half a billion dollars* to spend on whatever entertainment properties you choose. This is your opportunity to realize your pop culture dreams by, um, using fake money to make movies and shows that still won’t actually exist. So I suppose they’re still dreams, technically. Just go with it, OK? Adapt that novel. Resurrect your favorite television series. Remake a film that didn’t live up to its potential. Buy NBC for $499,999,999 more than it’s worth. The only limit is your imagination and $500 million fictional dollars.
*We are not giving you half a billion dollars, you goddamn takers. Create a job.
There are a few other stipulations. I’m not handing you people a Huell-bed of cash with no strings attached. Who do you think you are, a failing investment bank?
1. You have to spend it all. Stashing money in a contingency fund for future college expenses or a new water heater — while pragmatic financial planning — violates the spirit of the exercise. It’s house money. It’s BOGUS house money. Don’t leave with bills in your wallet.
2. Be realistic. If your dream is to remake the Star Wars prequels with big boy dialogue and a lead actor who isn’t developmentally disabled, you can’t earmark $80 million for the full trilogy. FX-laden tentpoles carry hefty pricetags.
3. We’re giving you roughly the GDP of Tonga to realize your pop culture dreams. Don’t also ask for a time machine. That’s rude. Sequels, prequels, remakes - the actors you cast will appear at their current age. If you want to blow your load on a tenth Seinfeld season, you get 66 year old race-joke aficionado Michael Richards in the Kramer role, not the irreverent goofball you remember from your childhood.
My fantasy team is below. Post yours in the comments. I’ll run the best submissions in a separate post next week.
How James Swanson’s riveting 2007 chronicle of the all-consuming search for John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination isn’t already a blockbuster miniseries defies comprehension. Good news — now I get to make it my way. The right way. With DMX in every speaking role. My Manhunt will be a chase film first and foremost — propulsive, frantic, tense. Think Fury Road with fewer flaming guitars. It will also have a keen sense of time and place. The 19th century Maryland swamps and Virginia forests where Booth took refuge were foreboding environments. His hardships are essential to the story. I’m sticking John Hillcoat in the director’s chair, signing Jake Gyllenhaal to play Booth, and I’m airing the four-hour miniseries on a broadcast network over President’s Day weekend.
I’ve raved about Peter Watts’ spectacular hard sci-fi novels here before. They’re fantastically entertaining works packed with clever insights about consciousness, artificial intelligence, post-humanism and alien encounters. They’re also as dense as a Kim Davis supporter stuffed inside an iridium tube. (Iridium is an extremely dense element. I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO EXPLAIN THIS! LEARN YOUR PERIODIC TABLES, BRO!) Adapting Watts’ science-journal prose into a workable miniseries requires a screenwriter capable of clarifying the plot and expanding character interactions without sacrificing the scientific undercarriage. What’s on your plate these days, Alex Garland? Want a chance to write a landmark sci-fi miniseries directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga?
Fans savaged ESPN for cancelling its well-reviewed series about a fictional professional football team after pressure from the NFL. Look, I loathe the shield, but their reaction is understandable. A broadcast partner airing a show that accurately portrays professional football players as homophobic, misogynistic wife-beating, drug-dependent rapists is like Animal Planet running a Most Gruesome Baby Seal Deaths marathon on Earth Day. So I’m rebooting the show on Netflix and making it even more outrageous. The starting running back oversees a child slavery ring and wears a suicide vest on the field so opponents are sacred to make a tackle. Commissioner Lodger Baddell, a former Vine star, uses a Keno machine to determine punishment lengths and hopes canings will replace fines for first-time PED offenses. The kicker thinks a hot dog is a sandwich. Ratings gold.
Utopia Season 3 ($30M)
The Passage ($120M)
Ridley Scott optioned the rights to Justin Cronin’s post-apocalyptic vampire story three years before its publication…and has done absolutely nothing with them since. So I’m buying them.
Condensing Cronin’s generation-spanning tale into a two-hour film was a ridiculous idea anyway, so I’m allocating $90 million to turn it into a six-hour HBO miniseries. Matt Reeves — who was originally slated to direct John Logan’s script before moving on to Dawn of the Rise of the Preamble of the Introduction to the Planet of the Apes — would an excellent choice to helm the series, but he’s busy supervising Andy Serkis’ transition into a chimpanzee. So I’m going with Darren Aronofsky, a man with the experience, vision and audacity to pull off such a massive undertaking.
Hey, Alex Proyas: you still have any of that The Crow/Dark City magic left in you? If so, here’s nine figures and set designer who wears steampunk attire to the grocery store. Have fun. BioShock’s layered, twisty, captivating slow-burn story — about a plane crash survivor who finds himself trapped in Rapture, a dystopic underwater city plucked straight from Ayn Rand’s sploosh dreams — is already perfectly tailored for big screen success. One change, though. I’m making the lead character female so I can cast Lupita Nyong’o. Primarily because Lupita Nyong’o radiates talent like a delightful sun. But it’s also nice knowing this minor casting change will cause maladjusted Dew-powered gamers to stroke out en masse, thus ridding the world of an ancient malady.