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Sunday, January 8, 2017

PILOT REVIEW: Emerald City


Starring: Adria Arjona, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Ana Ularu, Mido Hamada, Gerran Howell, Jordan Loughran, with Joely Richardson, and Vincent D'Onofrio

Based on the "Oz" Book Series by L. Frank Baum
Developed by Matthew Arnold and Josh Friedman
Teleplay by Matthew Arnold and Josh Friedman, Directed by Tarsen Singh

Emerald City is the newest take on The Wizard of Oz and it feels sort of like the creators wanted to make a Game of Thrones version of the classic tale. It starts in present-day Kansas where we meet Dorothy (Adria Arjona). After a tornado, she lands in Oz but it's a very different Oz than the one we know from the iconic film. Along the way, we meet very different versions of the usual characters including, in the pilot, the Scarecrow (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), the Witch of the West (Ana Ularu), Glinda (Joely Richardson), and the Wizard (Vincent D'Onofrio).

This is an update of a story that we absolutely didn't need. It's trying way too hard to be edgy and dark but it's ultimately just the same story. Surprisingly for being such a different spin, it actually doesn't bring anything new. She's in Kansas, she lands in Oz, she learns about the witches and the Wizard, she meets the Scarecrow, she has a dog named Toto, she references not being in Kansas anymore, etc. I'm not saying the show needed to change the basic structure, but it just seemed like a wildly different style of the exact same story. Maybe it'll veer in different directions because it's hard to take a two hour movie and make it into a 10 episode series, but the pilot at least followed the same general direction without bringing much new to the story besides the obvious tonal shift.

There are so many reboots every year and I think the ones that actually work are either ones that play it safe (like Hawaii Five-0) or ones that truly bring something different, not just superficially. Emerald City does neither of those things. It certainly doesn't play it safe but yet it really can't offer a fresh take in the areas that matter (writing, point of view, etc). It's not appealing to The Wizard of Oz fans because it's too weird and it's not appealing to Game of Thrones fans because it's too dumb. So there's not really an audience out there, or at least I don't think there is.

No, I could not even bring myself to watch the second hour of the premiere.

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