New Classes That Make the Grade

tngOkay, so we’re simply not going to discuss the latest rumor about Ghostbusters 3, apparently confirmed by Bill Murray.  I simply can’t even process it yet.

It did get me thinking, however.  On one of the news sites I read, there were the usual comments from people who were just now learning of the movie’s premise – that it have some new, younger Ghostbusters at the helm.  One commenter summed a popular opinion up in eight words: “A new class is never a good idea.” Contrary as I am, I decided to come up with a few examples to prove it wrong.

But first, what makes a successful new class?  As you’ll see, I’m pulling examples from all genres, but I think there’s one common link that ups the chances: a respectable amount of time between the old and new classes.  That’s why most shows that literally have a “new class” – Saved By the Bell TNC, I’m looking at you – fail: because it’s often a delicate balance of charisma that leads to a successful TV show or movie, and most “new classes” or spinoffs are simply trying to capitalize on an already popular show.  A new, fledgling project will almost always look bad when a wildly popular property is still fresh in everyone’s minds.  There are exceptions to every rule, though, as you’ll see…

  • Degrassi TNG -I know; most of you have never seen either the old or new incarnations of this Canadian teen drama, notable for using actual teens as (sometimes shaky) actors.  This series did it right, though.  They waited a respectable amount of time – in this case, until the baby of a teen mother from the original series would be entering junior high herself – and they managed to integrate a few of the original characters in such a way that it was a respectable tip of the hat to the old series whilst still cutting its own path.  The old Degrassi shows with the core cast ran from 1987-1991; TNG began in 2001 and is still going strong, long enough for people to be whining about the ‘new’ new class at least twice.
  • Maverick – Okay, I might be fudging a little on the definition of “new class,” but the movie Maverick featured the original Mav, James Garner, in addition to the new and shiny Mel Gibson.  And it did so in a relatively clever way.
  • Saved By the Bell – No, I’m not talking about Saved By the Bell, The New Class. I’m talking about the original Saved By the Bell, which was kind of a “new class” (okay, fine, modified) version of Good Morning, Miss Bliss.  Those ancient eps of SBTB when the kids are in junior high and Hayley Mills was the teacher?  That was later syndicated as Saved By the Bell, but it was originally an entirely different show, set in a different state, no less.  But I’m going to count it, because there was still Screech and Zack and Mr. Belding.  But give them a few years to blossom into full-fledged teens, add some eye candy like Slater and Kelly, and a true teen phenomenon was born.
  • Angel – Remember when Angel was “just a Buffy spinoff”?  Sure, it had its share of crossover cameos, but soon it managed to stand on its own two feet, even as Buffy continued to pummel the airwaves.  Truly impressive, as well as breaking the “wait a respectable amount of time” rule.
  • Star Trek TNG -Star Trek was much beloved for many years before Patrick Stewart decided to “Make it so.”  For some, no new incarnation could ever earn its place in their hearts… and yet TNG did, for many.  The cult following of the old Star Trek lent TNG some immediate media attention and knowledge, but it had to earn its place regardless.  I don’t think I would be wrong in saying that TNG ultimately earned its place as an equal drama, and not just a “spinoff.”  I mean, people actually have debates about whether Kirk or Picard was the better captain – true debates, with each side populated equally.  No small feat.

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