I’m convinced, now, that 60% of shows are being commissioned not by a human, a skeleton wrapped in flesh and blood, but by an algorithm, a pulsing blue computer in a bunker server room beneath the depths of Disney. Executives – who previously read scripts, and gave feedback on them, and had ideas and thoughts – now exist only to descend into the temperature-controlled hangar where the Commissioning Computer lives. “Enter,” the computer says in an eerie voice, at once inside their brains and not: “Do not be afraid.”
The executives shake on the spot. They used to mean something; they used to have jobs, and power. They used to get good tables in restaurants and work out with that 18-month waitlist personal trainer Keanu uses. Now they feed a pile of scripts into an IBM computer and wait for it to calculate a hit. Whirring. The gurgling sound of a router connecting to the ether. A digital-sounding clunk.
“Reboot buddy-cop-but-with-a-dog drama Turner & Hooch,” the computer says. “But make it a 12-episode series this time.” The executives do not understand. “W–who can play Turner?” they ask the computer. “Who can possibly emulate Tom Hanks’s peak-80s charm?” The machine glows red with rage. “Josh Peck from Nickelodeon legacy series Drake & Josh,” it spits.
We could sit and talk about how rebooting, prequelling, extended universing or series-optioning a movie is a particularly 2021 malaise, but weirdly this latest effort (Wednesday, Disney+) isn’t the first version of a Turner & Hooch TV show: in 1990, after the semi-unexpected success of the 1989 original, Disney tried to get a pilot off the ground with Back to the Future’s Biff, Thomas F Wilson, in the Hanks role, and Beasley, the original Hooch, as Hooch. Obviously, my fellow Hooch-heads will realise this involved severely retconning the original movie – where Hooch heroically died of a gunshot wound – to instead keep him alive.
This time, Peck’s Scott Turner, son of Hanks, is a neat-freak cop who inherits his father’s mutt after his death six months prior. “He adopted him last November,” Turner is told. “He said: ‘It’s almost like the original Hooch came back.’” Canonically I think this means that, after Turner & Hooch (1989), Tom Hanks’s Turner compulsively adopted a series of different French mastiffs, calling them all Hooch, until his death (2021), at which point his son, also called Turner, adopted one of the Hooches. Philosophers call this “Trigger’s Broom”.
I’m prevaricating, because there’s not much to say: it’s a family-friendly fine-enough TV show where one of the main jeopardies is “I hope my dog doesn’t make a mess”, but the dog always makes a mess, and it has a lot of scenes where Josh Peck slips on a carpet while chasing a dog to the soundtrack of a compilation of dog sounds lifted from various rap songs. The dog can sniff clues out, somehow, and bit by bit is making him loosen up and fall in love. Does it need to be a dozen episodes long for that to happen? I don’t know, but the computer is glowing menacingly at me now. “Yes it does,” it tells me, firmly, and who am I to argue? I must comply, computer. And ask that you never do a dark reboot of Big.