Would a Reboot Harm the Naked Gun Legacy?

The comedy TV show Police Squad first appeared on the ABC network in the USA almost 40 years ago. The series was a parody of many 1950s, 60s, and 70s TV cop shows and movies, and featured Canadian actor, comedian, and producer Leslie Nielsen in the lead role as detective Frank Drebin.

The show aired in the wake of the hugely successful 1980 disaster-parody movie Airplane!, which was written and directed by the same team. Despite its now legendary status, Police Squad was cancelled after just six episodes. Apparently, the fast-paced humour was considered too demanding for the average US TV viewer.

The Return of Frank Drebin

Fortunately, it was not the last we saw of Frank Drebin, as Nielsen reprised the role for the 1988 movie Naked Gun. From that moment on, the franchise became a box office smash hit and continues to influence popular media today.

As well as further movies, the franchise has branched out across several other platforms including gaming. For instance, the Naked Gun: ICUP point-and-click adventure video game was released on iOS and Android in 2012. A few years later, in 2017, the Naked Gun casino slot was launched by Blueprint Gaming Ltd and is currently part of the Jackpot King network of community prize pool games. It’s evident that the movies have amassed avid fans over the years and they’ll take any opportunity to engage with beloved characters such as Drebin.

In case you haven’t seen the original movies, they’ve recently been added to the Netflix library.


Paying Homage

The Naked Gun movie series has also provided inspiration for future generations of comedians. In 2012, the British television comedy series A Touch of Cloth was launched. Its creator and writer, Charlie Brooker, was a fan of Police Squad and the influences are clear throughout. Yet, unsurprisingly coming from the man behind Black Mirror, it has a darker tone more reminiscent of the gritty British police dramas of the 1990s and 00s.

Later in 2016, the US TV show Angie Tribeca first aired on TBS. The show was created by Steve and Nancy Carell and was a parody of police procedural dramas. It starred Rashida Jones in the title role, with Hayes MacArthur, Jere Burns, Deon Cole and Andrée Vermeulen supporting. The barrage of one-liners, ironic jokes and visual humour was clearly an ode to Police Squad and the Naked Gun.

Reboot in the Works?

More recently, there have been talks of a new Naked Gun movie from Paramount in the works. Renowned action star Liam Neeson is set to star with Seth MacFarlane tentatively pencilled in as director. Producer of the original movie, David Zucker, first discussed a reboot back in 2013 and work on a script began in 2017.

There was no further news until 2021 when Neeson announced he had been approached by Paramount and MacFarlane. Neeson has dabbled in comedy in the past and is enthusiastic about the prospect of teaming up with MacFarlane again after the pair worked together on Ted 2 (2015) and A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014).

Rebooting a classic is always a big risk but the longevity of the original films and TV shows proves there is a market for this style of 80s slapstick comedy. However, there’s a real danger that a reboot could taint the legacy of the classics. Tweaking the format for the modern generation while retaining the essence of the franchise will be one hell of a challenge, but with Zucker and MacFarlane on board, the project has every chance of hitting the right spot.

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