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Piers to Hollywood: Get out of the stone (washed) ages

By Katie McLaughlin, CNN
updated 11:15 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Piers Morgan thinks Hollywood should stop rebooting 80s franchises
  • Many 80s films, by contrast, took place during the era when filmmakers of the day grew up
  • Today, the people green lighting projects came of age in the 80s
  • "Dirty Dancing" is being remade, but original choreographer Kenny Ortega will direct

(CNN) -- Last week, in a segment called "Only in America" on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," Piers Morgan begged Hollywood to end its love affair with the 1980s.

He expressed his disappointment in the fact that not only did "21 Jump Street" earn $35 million at the box office opening weekend, but a sequel is already in the works. Referring to Hollywood's vision as "backward," Morgan said that the movie industry relies too heavily upon familiar characters and plot lines in order to tap into that "quaint nostalgia factor... that drives all Republican candidates to try and prove they're the most like Ronald Reagan."

Morgan predicted that if the trend didn't stop soon, in 30 years he'd be forced to endure "Jersey Shore: The Movie" or "Growing Pains" in 3D.

Premiering in 1988, \
Premiering in 1988, "The Wonder Years" spanned 1968-1973

But what about the people who grew up in the '80s and watched movies and TV shows about the '50s and '60s, such as "Stand by Me" and "The Wonder Years"?

Piper Weiss, editor at Yahoo! Shine, told CNN that '80s movies waxed nostalgic about the '50s "because the directors then grew up in the '50s and were starting to come of age and have real power in Hollywood."

Today, history is repeating itself. Now the people who grew up in the '80s are the Hollywood heavyweights green lighting projects.

"If you were a young, naive child in the '80s like I was," said Weiss, "you thought of Reagan and jellybeans when you thought of the '80s. You didn't really understand the things that you understand when you're an adult."

Weiss, 33, pointed out that people, like she, who were small children in the '80s were "too young to know that there were good and bad things to pop culture" because they hadn't reached that age of awareness yet, so as far as they were concerned, "everything was super awesome."

Weiss suggested that maybe Morgan, whose 47th birthday is today, can't relate because he had already reached that "awareness" age by the '80s.

"We have such a fondness for it," said Weiss, "but it's because that was a time of pure, unfiltered, uncynical enjoyment of pop culture."

Weiss suggested that her generation is coming of age in terms of power, whereas perhaps the generation ahead feels a little insecure.

Will Ferrell in \
Will Ferrell in "Anchorman"

Remember, while a lot of '80s films were throwbacks to the 20-30 years before, the '90s and early 2000s were dotted with '70s remakes and re-imaginings, such as "Boogie Nights," "Almost Famous," "Anchorman" (By the way, Ron Burgundy's coming back -- a sequel was announced earlier this week) and TV's "That '70s Show." That generation wanted to distance itself from the '80s in a lot of ways, and people once again started wearing bell-bottoms and boot-cut jeans.

Weiss, who noted that she's beginning to age out of the demographic that Hollywood is targeting, said it's easy to feel neglected.

Sean Phillips, executive producer at Yahoo! Movies, agrees with Morgan and also thinks Hollywood needs to generate some new material.

People "go for the warm," but at the same time audiences have wised up, said Phillips, who noted that "Footloose," for example, bombed at the box office. Phillips is also averse to Hollywood's turning old TV shows -- not just "21 Jump Street" -- into movies. He said that audiences may get excited when they see the poster, but for the most part it insults their intelligence.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum at the \
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum at the "21 Jump Street" premiere.

Phillips calls "21 Jump Street" a remake "in name only." It wouldn't necessarily be associated with the original TV series, save for the cameos. For one thing, the movie is a comedy; the series was a drama.

It appears there are two camps on how to approach and appreciate remakes: Some want literal interpretations that serve as amped-up versions of the originals (e.g. "Charlie's Angels"), and others prefer movies like "21 Jump Street," which barely resemble their yesteryear counterparts.

Weiss lsaid that for a remake to work it needs "some sort of meta-element or link." She said that, while she thought Hollywood butchered "Arthur" -- because Dudley Moore cannot be replaced -- she has high hopes for a potential "Ghostbusters 3."

"If you're gonna remake Ghostbusters, I would like not just for Bill Murray to have a cameo, I want him to be the star, along with Harold Ramis and Dan Ackroyd." People shouldn't be afraid to "watch people age in a remake," she said.

There's also the issue of actually getting people to movie theaters. Familiar titles and warm-and-fuzzy memories can help sell tickets.

Weiss noted that there's a corporate reasoning behind doing remakes well "and not just making people buy tickets because they're suckers."

A \
A "Dirty Dancing" remake is in the works.

When "Dirty Dancing" got green-lighted for a remake, some diehard fans of the 1987 Patrick Swayze/Jennifer Grey classic firmly objected. But their pain may have been alleviated by the fact that Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the original, is directing the new version.

The film industry is relying on so-called name brands in order to get an older demographic that might not be as willing to part with its money for movie tickets.

It also serves as a nice was to clue in younger generations about the past.

"It's kind of fun to have a reason to introduce our pop culture past to kids today and make them more media-literate in terms of how their stuff has been influenced by the stuff we grew up with," Weiss said.

Weiss pointed out that "21 Jump Street," "Arthur" and "The A-Team" are more like "one-offs" designed to introduce a slicker version of the same old brand.

The trend can be found in fashion as well. T-shirts with '80s fonts are big, as is neon -- lipstick, shoes, handbags, Katy Perry's hair; even fluorescent household appliances are flying off store shelves.

Another reason why the '80s is coming back is because the era was so hi-tech, comparatively.

"Movies went from low-budget auteur to big blockbusters," said Weiss, "and that coincides with where we're at now, as depressing as that sounds. We're almost like the Super '80s. ... We're what Max Headroom dreamed things would be like. It's almost like we're in an '80s do-over with new and improved fantasy technology."

Watch Piers Morgan Live weeknights 9 p.m. ET. For the latest from Piers Morgan click here.

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