January 31, 2014

The Year of The Ruby Slippers: These Five Networks Aren't in Kansas Anymore by Nora Stasio, Fairy Tale News Reporter

Editor's note: Nora's column is packed with a fabulous array of information about some, frankly, bizarre potential TV series about Oz. And by "bizarre," I don't mean in a cool way. (I urge readers who haven't delved into the Oz series to please do so.) Artists, of course, have every right to create whatever they want, and everyone else has a right to respond to it as he or she wishes. But some of  these ideas seem very bad to me. I recognize that some of you will disagree with me, so join in the conversation. In the community of fairy tale lovers, these kind of developments matter. Oh, and let's be clear: In Oz women are usually the heroes--and sometimes the villains.

On August 25th, 2014, the classic film The Wizard of Oz will celebrate its 75th birthday, and it looks like five major TV networks are taking notice. Reliable sources are reporting that NBC, CBS, The CW, Syfy and also Lifetime will be dancing down the yellow brick road (albeit NOT arm in arm) in search of prime-time success in 2014. Could it be merely the "bandwagon effect," or have we truly entered "The Year of The Ruby Slippers"? (Or perhaps it has something to do with Oz, the Great and Powerful making Disney a great deal of money last year.)
By John R. Neill, the great illustrator of Oz

NBC has commissioned Matthew Arnold, creator of the mystery drama series, Siberia, to develop an Oz-themed drama entitled Emerald City. It's being described as "a dark reimagining" of the timeless tale with a Game of Thrones feel to it. 

Here's the interesting part: The description for Lifetime's upcoming series Red Brick Road sounds strikingly similar to Emerald City's. It's also supposed to be an edgy drama, and also in the vein of Game of Thrones, and set in the Land of Oz. But at the moment, these descriptions are hardly more than Hollywood rumors, as both of these projects are at a very early stage in development. Who knows, in the end, how different they might turn out to be?

Ozma and Dorothy, by John R. Neill

 While not much is known yet about Emerald City, a little morsel of a plot for Red Brick Road has been revealed. If you recall, in the iconic 1939 film, among the swirling bricks of the yellow brick road, there is also a swirling red path. Where does this road lead to, and what would have happened if Dorothy had followed it? Who might she have met instead of the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion? Red Brick Road will take us down that unknown path, and show us a darker side of Oz.

Up next is Warriors of Oz, the Syfy channel's take on Dorothy's classic journey, a "fantasy-action series" that won't feature Dorothy in the starring role. It seems the little farm girl from Kansas has been replaced by burly, weapon-wielding male lead. He'll be teaming up with three male companions to defeat the wizard, who, in this version, has enslaved the creatures of Oz.

Glinda, Dorothy and Ozma, by John R. Neill

The gender-bending is understandable in some sense -- Syfy is mostly a male-oriented network. But it's bound to be a controversial choice. Why couldn't Miss Dorothy Gale be a tough, weapon-wielding warrior, fighting evil alongside three male companions? All I can say is, I'm hoping this little endeavor turns out better than Sharknado did. (Then again, a lot of people liked Sharknado.)

The CW's adaptation has also been given an interesting name: Dorothy Must Die. It's apparently based on a Young Adult novella by Danielle Paige that hasn't even come out yet (though the prequel book No Place Like Oz just came out). Heroes creator Tim Kring, and Executive Producers Adam Armus and Norma Kay Foster are all on board to develop the project.

But why must Dorothy die? Obviously, it's because she's become the "fascist dictator of Oz" (no joke). But there's a new Kansas girl in Oz, and she's planning to bring Dorothy down.

If that synopsis sounds odd, rest assured, I've saved the weirdest one for last. Let me ask you this: Have you ever sat down to read L. Frank Baum's timeless masterpiece, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and thought to yourself, "Gee, if only there were a modern day medical TV drama adaptation of this"? Well, if you happen to be that one, very strange person, then you're in luck.

CBS is producing just such a series, and it's simply entitled Dorothy. She most likely won't be dying in this version -- saving lives is more like it, as a young doctor in New York City. All the characters will apparently be parallels to characters from the book. Unlike the other projects I've mentioned, this one will draw most of its inspiration from Baum's book, instead of the MGM movie.

Are you just as confused as I am, or are you intrigued by some of these upcoming re-imaginings? Which ones will you tune in for? Or are you concerned that too much creative liberty might lead to the "bastardization" of the classic American fairy tale we've all come to know and love? I'm a bit concerned, myself. There's no place like home, if you ask me. Sometimes its best not to stray too far from it.

Leave us a comment with your opinion! 

Bio: Nora writes, "I have been a lover of creative writing and fairy tales for basically my entire life! I recently graduated Cum Laude from Rutgers where I completed a minor in English, with a focus in Creative Writing and Shakespeare (I majored in Psychology)."

7 comments

  1. 'Dark and serious' seems to trump 'light and funny' nowadays. So be it. Rather than check these out, I'll be watching an old episode of Shelley Duvall's Fairy Tale Theater.

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  2. What bugs me the most is that Baum's books have plenty of material to work with. There's a whole backstory (never explored, just described) in the books, of how Oz was created by the fairy Lurline, how there was an hereditary ruler, how four witches overthrew him and his line (Ozma being the last), and how two good witches wrested half of Oz from them. I'd love to see that dramatized some time!

    That being said, I actually like the concept of the Red Brick road. Oddly enough, that sounds like something Baum would have come up with. How it is executed may be another matter, but the idea is a good one!

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  3. Wow. I'm going to have to agree with the "jumping on the bandwagon" theory and say it seems like folks are just piling on because fairy tales are popular and they think they can make money. That being said, I said something similar about Frozen before it came out, but after having finally seen it recently, I actually liked what they did with the story. The twists they gave to the original made me think of something we would see on EC, and I really liked it. (The story, that is--I did have some other issues, but I liked the story). However, I'm not overly excited about the sounds of these shows (or the Oz animated movie that is also coming out this year). But Dorothy being replaced by a macho action guy is especially disappointing. Dorothy could be an action girl...

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  4. I'd read the entire Oz series though I don't remember most of it (it was close to 40 years ago). None of those descriptions really grab me though I would likely give the more fantastical ones a try. Medical drama? Uh, no thanks.

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  5. I've read all 14 of the original Oz books by L. Frank Baum. I thought they were a wonderfully inventive series of children's books. However, I too am concerned. My main problem is with the dark, "grown-up" versions. I feel this misses the point of Oz in the first place. Baum wrote those books as a counter to the darker, more gruesome aspects of the Grimms' fairy tales (not all Grimm tales are dark, but the ones that are certainly make it known). Oz was meant to be a lighter story within the context of its time. My other concern is my primary concern with most fairy tale media these days. They all seem to be hinging on familiarity with "classic" tales and never draw deeper from the world of folk and fairy tales. I'd like to see someone delve more into the Oz books because they're a well of fantastic material, but I fear these shows will largely just riff on the MGM movie. However, I'm sure I'll give some of these a try. But my concerns remain.

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  6. I haven't read the Baum books and I want to keep an open mind but I have my doubts.

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  7. I've read all of the OZ books, and all of these remakes sound pretty bad to me. Maybe Emerald City could work . . .but I don't really see how. There is plenty of both dark and light in the original Oz books. How about Ozma's backstory as a girl turned into a boy by a dark witch and kept as the witch's captive? That one is pretty dark, but like all Oz stories, it has a beautiful ending - maybe tv can't handle that. Even on Dorothy's second journey to Oz, she runs across a sorceress-queen who wears different heads depending on her mood. I used to think that was pretty scary when I read it as a kid. So, I think some of these tv show creators could stay close the originals and be slightly dark if they want to be, as long as they end up with some humor and light as well.
    And the medical drama - just wrong.
    Dorothy as a burly dude with three henchmen - why?
    Sorry, those are my emotional reactions to those ideas. Hopefully, some of the network will get some feedback before they get too far.

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