'​I'm too old for this fit...ness tracker': How the Apple Watch figures in the 'Lethal Weapon' TV remake

Mel Gibson is out and the Apple Watch is in, but is this fad for adapting movies into TV shows a bad idea?

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Let's hope Mel's mullet is kept for the proposed TV adaptation of action classic "Lethal Weapon".

Warner Bros

The planned new TV version of "Lethal Weapon" will reportedly see one of the leads nervously tracking his excitement levels on an Apple Watch. But is a remake of the classic Mel Gibson action movie series a good idea -- and are we heading for a new wave of Gibbo remakes?

Released in 1987, "Lethal Weapon" starred Gibson as damaged LAPD officer Martin Riggs, partnered with Danny Glover as family man Roger Murtaugh. A huge hit that spawned three sequels and offered a classic blueprint for the buddy-cop genre, it's the latest beloved movie to be reinvented for TV.

The Fox TV show re-introduces the mismatched pair of cops, with actor Damon Wayans stepping into the Murtaugh role. According to Den of Geek, the pilot episode updates Murtaugh's cautious nature by giving him an Apple Watch that he uses to keep an eye on his heart rate following heart surgery.

Wayans is best known as a comic actor, but humour has always been an important part of the "Lethal Weapon" series -- and Wayans previously proved his buddy-movie action chops when paired with Bruce Willis in 1991's "The Last Boy Scout", also penned by "Lethal Weapon" writer Shane Black.

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"Lethal Weapon" centres on level-headed family man Murtaugh dealing with his new partner's reckless and violent behaviour as they take down bad guys. But just during the four films Riggs learned to live and love again, moving the films away from the original concept as the contrast between the two main characters softened. I can't help feeling the TV show, like any show extending a movie over a lengthy run of episodes, will face a challenge in sustaining Riggs' edgy personality.

For now let's give the creators the benefit of the doubt -- or should that be diplomatic immunity -- about how well they can sustain the premise. A more immediate problem is that, according to Den of Geek, the pilot episode will open with an extended look at Riggs' life with his wife, showing how he became suicidal. Ugh. There's an old screenwriting maxim that, in scenes and in whole stories, the key is to come in late and get out early, meaning you show only the most interesting bit and leave out extended setup. The movie established that backstory by simply showing Riggs looking at a photograph and crying -- a moment powerful enough to win Gibson the role of Hamlet.

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That problem was shown by another recent TV show that adapted a cult movie. "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series" spent its entire first episode reprising the opening scene of the 1996 film, taking 45 minutes to leach the suspense and excitement out of a scene executed with considerably more style in just a few minutes in the movie.

This urge to dwell on backstory we already know is a problem we could be seeing more of: expanding classic -- and not-so-classic -- movies into TV shows is the television industry's latest wheeze. In the works or already on air are small-screen versions of big-screen outings such as "Tremors", "The Omen", "Westworld", "Big", "Friday the 13th", "Minority Report", "Rush Hour", "Shutter Island", "School of Rock", "Taken", "Training Day", "Uncle Buck"...the list goes on.

"Lethal Weapon" points the way towards one rich reservoir of potential remakes now the originals have been tainted by Mel Gibson's turbulent times in recent years. Following the huge critical and commercial success of "Mad Max: Fury Road", in which Tom Hardy took over the road-warrior role Gibson made famous, it seems the time is right for a slate of reboots that rehabilitate Gibbo's oeuvre. Picture it: Kanye West in a remake of "What Women Want". An all-female reboot of "Signs". Zac Efron is "Braveheart". Ladies and gentlemen, it's the dawn of the Gibsonaissance.