Just Add Mary: A Reboot Wish List

There are some television shows, movies, etc., that should arguably be left untouched, and the idea of a reboot or revival can be upsetting to some fans, or in fact downright appalling. (Just ask fans of the original Battlestar series.) Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes, on the other hand, a revival or reimagining allows for explorations of ideas and themes that were perhaps limited in the original airing, or provides an opportunity to revisit beloved characters after a break, reengaging the original audience and inviting new viewers into an established, often iconic franchise. What 90s-era teenager isn’t over the moon at the prospect of seeing Mulder and Scully back in business? How many current teenagers are watching with some interest as the Internet explodes over a two second, badly-lit clip?

Whether the X-Files reboot is a failure or a success remains to be seen, but there have been plenty of examples of both in recent years. Sometimes these ventures work out brilliantly (just ask fans of the NEW Battlestar series). Sometimes, they’re destined for failure from the beginning (which NBC should keep in mind as they consider a Lucy Lawless-less Xena). But in this era where everything from Jurassic Park, 24, and the SCREAM series is being remade, reshaped, and revived, the question comes to mind: What’s next? And more importantly – what role could Mary McDonnell play in them? Here are my suggestions:

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1. Breaking Bad: Why mess with perfection? That’s a valid question, and – as an avid fan of the show – I have to admit that I see no real reason to retell that story when it was told so brilliantly in the first place. But an amazing gifset on Tumblr featuring Skylar White as the cancer-ridden, meth-cooking protagonist made me think twice – if Katee Sackhoff can play Starbuck, if Lucy Liu can play Joan Watson, why can’t Mary McDonnell play Wanda White? This idea stems from several desperate desires: one, to see more female-driven shows on television; two, to see a greater variety of complicated, richly drawn, and unapologetic female antagonists; and three, to see Mary sink her teeth into a truly villainous character. The story of a burnt-out woman struggling to support her family on a teacher’s salary and turning to drug dealing as a means of paying for her medical care after being diagnosed with cancer is an interesting role to begin with (and we know that Mary has experience playing teachers and cancer patients!). This woman’s descent into darkness, though – her pride and mania slowly overtaking her moral conscience – is the real story, and it’s that sort of antihero that we see men playing so often on the small screen these days, and women playing so rarely. Mary is an actress who could truly do it justice.

2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: I can’t take credit for this idea – for years, people in the fandom have talked about how wonderful it would be to see Mary starring as Martha in an adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, either on stage or onscreen. Personally, I’m rooting for a stage adaptation, but this would make a wonderful film, too, and the right director could bring out the sharp surreality of the various relationship dynamics using cinematic tools not available on the stage or at the time of the 1966 film. Mary’s recent performance in The Cherry Orchard was a great example of a character living in her own reality at the expense of the people around her, and Martha is in some ways the other side of that coin, vicious and lashing out where Lyubov was overly dreamy and generous. Of course, the role of Martha would require juicy, bitter chemistry with the actor playing George – what’s Edward James Olmos up to these days?

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3. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Does this count as a reboot? Perhaps not – it’s hard to revive a franchise that never really died. Regardless, Fantastic Beasts is beginning production, and it is certainly a new imagining of the Wizarding World – not only is it set in the 1920s, but it’s our first glimpse of the American Wizarding society. We’ve all speculated that there’s a little magic behind Mary’s aging process, so it hardly seems a stretch to picture her in glamorous, flapper-era witch robes, mixing potions in an apothecary, raising unicorns and crossing paths with young Newt Scamander as he chronicles rare and fantastic magical creature (which, come to think of it, is a phrase that may have been used to describe Mary before).

4. James Bond: Bond, of course, is immortal in more than one way, but as we sadly realized in the latest movie, his brilliant, witty, and deliciously take-no-shit British handler “M” is not. The title lives on, though, and while I’m sure Ralph Fiennes – who adopted the title following the death of Judi Dench’s incarnation – would do a fine job, there’s more than enough testosterone in these movies. As rumors swirl about who will be cast as the new Bond now that Daniel Craig is done, I’m much more interested in who will be playing M, and think that Mary is just the tough, feminine, no-nonsense presence to reign Bond in and keep Britain in one piece. Mary lived and worked in England for a time, so the accent shouldn’t be a problem for her, and let’s be honest – if these Idris Elba casting rumors pan out, how sizzling would that combination be?

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5. High Society: Mary’s game. Jean Smart is game. The fans are game. This show shouldn’t have been taken off the air to begin with, but I think we can forgive that error if NBC decides to bring Dott and Ellie back for a reunion special. Nearly twenty years have passed since we last saw our beloved socialites, and just think of what nonsense they could have gotten up to in the meantime – what shape is Ellie’s liver in? Did Brendon ever move out and escape Ellie’s advances? How many marriages – and divorces – have there been between the two? Did they ever suck it up and get the face lifts (my guess is yes)? How will they be spending their golden years? These are all important questions that need to be answered, and let’s be honest – if they can revive The Muppet Show, they can revive High Society.

6. Independence Day (bonus): They’re already remaking it, and we didn’t actually see Marilyn Whitmore die onscreen, now, did we?

What do you all think – do you agree or disagree with these choices? What other roles would you like to see Mary bring back to life during this revival surge?

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