January 19, 1996 in Seven

Please … Can’t We Just Leave It To (The Original) Beaver?

Jayne Cannon Charlotte Observer
 

I didn’t complain when they made a movie based on “The Brady Bunch.” I didn’t protest when “The Addams Family” hit the big screen - twice.

And when “Dragnet,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Dennis the Menace,” “The Little Rascals” and “Car 54, Where Are You?” were turned into feature films, I didn’t open my mouth, even to laugh. Especially to laugh.

But I can’t - I won’t - sit still for this. This is sacred TV ground they’re treading.

This is The Beav.

Universal Pictures is looking around the country for boys between the ages of 7 and 13 to play Beaver and Wally Cleaver, Eddie Haskell, Lumpy Rutherford and other kids of mythical Mayfield. The producers say they want to make a “contemporary comedy about life as seen through the eyes of young Theodore (Beaver) Cleaver.”

My advice to them: Leave It to (the Original and Still the Best) Beaver.

You know what they’re going to do, don’t you? First, they’ll hire some kid who’s a dead ringer for Jerry Mathers: freckles, jeans, a plaid shirt and that little tan jacket. (At least I think it was tan. Beaver was a black-and-white kid, and we ought to keep him that way.)

But he won’t be Beaver. He’ll be some younger brother of Macaulay Culkin who’s never even seen “Leave It to Beaver,” and he’ll be a scene-stealing, camera-mugging one-liner machine.

As for Ward and June, well, forget it. They’ll update them, too. June will still wear pearls, but not while vacuuming. She’ll wear them to the office with a Donna Karan suit and silk blouse. They’ll make her a corporate attorney or something. Ward won’t be the kind, gentle and wise dad you used to know. They’ve been cutting back down at the office, and well, Ward isn’t working these days. He’s still wearing his cardigan and tie to the dinner table, but in the ‘90s, there’s no more pot roast. Red meat, you know. The Cleavers are into pasta.

Remember the chocolate layer cake June always sliced for the boys when they came home from school? Well, that hunk of cake’s a single-serving, low-fat SnackWell’s now.

And what about Wally? Well, he’s still concerned about Mary Ellen Rodgers and getting his football letter. Only in the ‘90s version, he’ll be trying to get condoms before he and Mary Ellen take off to the prom, and he’ll be getting calls from State U boosters offering a sports car if he’ll sign a letter of intent.

Remember how Wally and The Beav used to lie in their beds atnight, whispering about the day’s events? No more. The boys don’t share a room anymore. But their brotherly bond hasn’t been broken entirely. They beep each other now, and they e-mail often.

Eddie Haskell? He’s in counseling now, trying to correct that personality disorder that made him suck up to parents and bully little kids. We shouldn’t laugh at Eddie now. We should try to understand him. Same goes for Lumpy Rutherford. He’s Clarence now, and he’s going to Overeaters Anonymous. He’s joined a gym, too.

Are these people you want to see a movie about?

The problem with updating “Leave It to Beaver” is that it’s a timeless show, and timeless shouldn’t be updated.

The original Beaver hit TV in 1957, but the show wasn’t about the ‘50s. It was about families and their problems and it was gentle and funny and simple. But for today’s audiences, would that be enough?

It might be too dull, so we’d have to spice it up.

We’d need drugs, just to be realistic about what goes on in schools today. Maybe Larry Mondello is selling crack on the playground at Grant Avenue Grammar School. We’d need sex, because that’s realistic too. So maybe we’ll deal with the sexual tension between Mary Ellen and Wally. Will they or won’t they?

And how about a little marital infidelity? You know, June’s spending a little too much time on a big case, and Ward’s getting awfully chummy with that hot young divorcee next door. And he’s drinking a couple of extra cocktails while waiting for June to get home, too.

TV came close to a Beaver update about 10 years ago with “The Wonder Years,” which let us see life in the late ‘60s through the eyes of adolescent Kevin Arnold. I always thought Kevin was the next generation’s Beaver.

If the 1990s need a kid to give us a view of the world, that’s fine. But they should get some other family.

I mean, gee, I don’t want to be a creep or nothing, but leave Beaver alone.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email