Re-casting `Gilligan' for the new age of reality

Also: Shaking trees for Partridges


August 29, 2004|By Roger Catlin | Roger Catlin,HARTFORD COURANT

The Simple Life may have been nothing more than a reality variation of Green Acres, and The Apprentice and its imitators not so far removed from the late '50s drama The Millionaire.

A reality version of The Beverly Hillbillies has been stalled in its attempt to get on TV (though CBS execs hint it may be produced in secret, much as the current UPN reality show that met with initial controversy, Amish in the City).

But a couple of cable networks are moving full speed ahead on reality TV remakes of classic shows.

In Search of the Partridge Family, which makes its debut next Sunday at 9 p.m. on VH1, attempts to reassemble a new version of the TV show cast that also produced such hits as "I Think I Love You" as well as teen idol David Cassidy.

Elsewhere, eight castaways have been selected for The Real Gilligan's Island for TBS, to be broadcast in November.

Mike Fleiss, creator of The Bachelor, is working on the project with Sherwood and Lloyd Schwartz, the original creators of Gilligan's Island, the popular series that ran from 1962 to 1967.

"We're going to create a very compelling reality unscripted series," says Mark Lazarus, president of Turner Entertainment Group. Each role from the original sitcom will be recast by real people, "a skipper, a first mate, a millionaire couple, a movie star, a professor and a Kansas farm girl," he says. "And, you guessed it, there will be no phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury," he says, to quote the original theme song. "We will challenge them to find a way off, with many twists and turns.

"Casting really is what makes or breaks these reality shows - the initial idea and casting," he says. Lazarus says more than 10,000 people applied during the two-month search.

A familiarity with the original shows is what gives the reality-remakes a boost, says Brian Grade, president of entertainment for MTV and VH1.

Four members of the family - from Keith and Laurie Partridge to Shirley Partridge, mother of the fictional family band (but not the two youngest members) - will be recast from volunteers to sing and eventually perform in actual scenes from the original sitcom, which ran from 1970 to '74, "thanks to the magic of green screen technology," Grade says.

Co-producing In Search of the Partridge Family is the series original star, David Cassidy, who will also appear on the show with former cast members Danny Bonaduce and Shirley Jones.

Cassidy and Bonaduce, the former Partridge brothers, traveled to Orlando, New York and Minneapolis looking for their doppelgangers. Eight finalists for each character will be flown to Los Angeles, where they will compete for the roles in the seven-episode series. Cassidy says once they're found, they'll be coached - in acting and singing.

The winners unveiled in the final show will rehearse for a sitcom pilot that will be on VH1 late in the fall.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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