ABC's 'Dirty Dancing' Remake Succeeded! ...In Making All Those Live TV Musicals Seem Not So Bad

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In pop culture terms, the new trend for major television networks throwing live musicals our way every few months feels like the ultimate in post-modern malaise; a glaring confirmation that, yes, America, there are no more ideas. It's over. We got too spoiled, and now we must pay.

Attempting to bear witness to these pseudo-theatrical debacles only makes the darkness descend further, for the message is clear and the message is this: not only are we out of ideas in 2017, the ideas being rehashed for us are typically presented in a manner that is distinctly crappier. Perhaps the networks think that we, as a nation of gif-making mockers and Twitter-based critics, simply don't deserve the undiluted joy of the originals. Perhaps they want us to make do with secondhand productions that neither capture the excitement of a real live theatrical play nor the flawless gloss of modern television productions, because our cynical eyes just don't deserve the effort.

Even after the nation suffered through 2013's constipated Sound of Music and the unintentionally comedic nightmare that was 2014's Peter Pan Live, the networks have continued making these live musicals. While improvements have been made -- 2015's The Wiz Live had the decency to throw some Cirque Du Soleil stuff in the mix, 2016's (still reasonably pointless) Grease Live made some efforts to impress, and Hairspray Live was elevated by appearances from Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson -- these oft-outdated musical "events" haven't been well-received enough to justify how many more we've got coming our way.

In case you didn't know, here's what the nation is facing in the coming months: The Wonderful World of Disney: The Little Mermaid Live on ABC this October, Bye Bye Birdie with J-Lo and A Christmas Story this December, Jesus Christ Superstar next Easter and, at some as-yet-undetermined-time, a live production of Rent.


Even with all this in mind, last night's not-even-live production of Dirty Dancing on ABC represents the pinnacle of TV that no longer cares what we, the audience, think of it. If the original Dirty Dancing didn't need to be 3-hours, it is unabashed madness to assume anyone would want this one to be.

1987's Dirty Dancing is a ridiculous film with a frequently insane script, but it remains much-beloved around the world because of its magical combination of '60s nostalgia, super-cute wardrobe, great soundtrack and, above all else, the electric chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze. It is, unequivocally, a film that never, ever needed to be re-made. And if anyone was going to insist on doing something so foolish,that entity should have been a major movie studio, not ABC.

Despite featuring some solid talent -- Sarah Hyland, Nicole Scherzinger and Debra Messing all do the best with what they're given -- this thing is almost entirely lacking in any sense. The warning signs came early. ET, speaking to Abigail Breslin in a recent episode, as part of a preview for Dirty Dancing, pointed out that the Little Miss Sunshine star had "absolutely no dance experience." Breslin herself admitted as much: "I was like ‘I wanna be like Baby. I wanna dance like that, but I’m the most uncoordinated human being on the face of the Earth, so it didn’t seem like a likely scenario for me.”

Yes, everyone, ABC cast a non-dancer as the lead in a movie about dancing. And that one little nugget of info serves to symbolize the essence of everything that happened on our televisions last night. Breslin tried her adorable best -- in many ways out-charming Jennifer Grey's whiny Baby -- but her lack of grace on the dance floor was a major stumbling block and a serious oversight on the part of the producers.

And as for Patrick Swayze's replacement, Colt Prattes? Swayze's shoes are simply too big for anyone to fill. And while Prattes has all of the abs, he's somehow lacking the sexual dynamism.

Truly, ABC's Dirty Dancing is a remake for people who want to see the original done with less dirt and worse dancing. And that's true, even after the added scenes where Scherzinger teaches Breslin about the power of her womanly groin. (No joke.)

ABC's Dirty Dancing has a weaker soundtrack too -- modern day covers of the golden oldies and DD classics (including, criminally, Swayze's own "She's Like the Wind") that made the original so special, with some bizarre musical interludes thrown in. Like the part when Baby's dad finds out she has spent the night with Johnny and responds by going to the dance studio and inexplicably singing Frank Sinatra's "They Can't Take That Away From Me" to himself on the piano. Also, did anyone want or need the final dance routine to be performed as a group vocal number where even the parents join in? The answer is no. Just... please, no.

There's a lot to complain about when it comes to the fad of live television musicals, but somehow, remarkably, last night's Dirty Dancing -- utterly confused about what it wanted to be -- actually made it possible to miss the productions that commit all the way. At least when things are live, the promise of things going wrong at any given moment is tantalizingly there. ABC's Dirty Dancing was all kinds of wrong -- just not in the fun ways.