Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Will Ferrell in Land of the Lost Movie. Will Ferrell!?

I was one of those 1970s kids who grew up watching Sid and Marty Krofft's live-action adventure series Land of the Lost on Saturday mornings. It was riveting viewing, this live-action series about a contemporary family (the Marshalls) lost in a closed universe with dinosaurs, Sleestaks, Pylons, and the Pakuni.

I watched the show religiously for three years, and just completed my collection of episodes with the release of the third season DVD. I've written about the series for Cinescape, in a detailed online retrospective replete with interviews, and for Media Whack I conducted an interview with a screenplay author (Teddy Tenenbaum) in 2000-2001, who was fashioning a faithful adaptation of the series to movie form. I was even "thanked" on the Second Season DVD box set credits, for helping to arrange interviews with cast & behind-the-scenes personnel. So it's fair to say that I remember Land of the Lost fondly, and that I've devoted some time and effort writing and thinking about it.

And that's why I'm utterly aghast (and heartbroken) at the news published on April 25th, 2005 that the series is being "re-imagined" as a broad comedy movie starring Will Ferrell. That's right. Will Ferrell. True, he did play Marshal Willenholly in Jay & Silent Bob Strikes Back, but otherwise this is a really uninspiring and sad choice. Bewitched (also starring Ferrell...) is being re-imagined this summer as a post-modern movie-within-a-movie version, and now Ferrell is participating in a Land of the Lost farce. Will, can't you let my childhood rest in peace? Can't you just leave it alone?

For many children of the 1970s, Land of the Lost was our first exposure to serious science fiction. And it was just that, despite the fact it aired on Saturdays and was intended for children. David Gerrold was the series story editor, and the series' episodes were penned by giants in the fields of science fiction and television such as Larry Niven, Theodore Sturgeon, and D.C. Fontana. Why, Harlan Ellison was nearly retained to write an installment, if I'm correct. In 43 episodes (over three years) the episodes dealt with time loops, alternate universes, alien possession and other long-standing themes of the genre in a way that made them understandable (and still fascinating) to young minds. The show never talked down to its intended audience and that was part of its magic.

The show also wasn't afraid to be scary. Remember those creepy Sleestak, hissing and attacking from the pitch black of night? Or the episode where Will and Holly encounter a vision of their (deceased) mother? Or the one where Holly hangs suspended over a bottomless pit for the better part of a half-hour, surrounded by darkness on all sides? For children of the disco decade, these were signature moments and ones that we have held with us for thirty years.

But what I always liked best about Land of the Lost was its environmental message. You see, the Land of the Lost was a closed, pocket universe which ran by its own set of rules. Sometimes, those mechanisms would get out of whack and the Marshalls would have to act as good stewards to fix them, preventing storms, endless days, unending nights, and so forth. And they fixed things by cooperating with their neighbors, the Sleestak and the Pakuni. The message was plain to me even at age 5 -- we must all work together to protect our universe's treasures, the riches and resources of this fragile Earth.

It would be wonderful if a new Land of the Lost would take the concept of the original series seriously, providing our youngest generation with an understanding of environmental responsibility as well as a healthy dose of science fiction action.

Instead, we'll probably be invited to laugh at burping dinosaurs, silly ape men, and risible Sleestak bumblers, all with Will Ferrell goofing off in the middle of it.

What a shame. I'm still going to show my kids (when I have 'em...) the original Land of the Lost on DVD. It still has currency for children, I believe, and I hope that other people will do the same.

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