The template-setting 1970s television series Kung Fu will be the next classic property to go the reboot route. A bidding war amongst networks saw Fox emerge victorious, granting it the rights to revive and update the action-adventure drama, which starred the late David Carradine, this time with a new female hero. Moreover, fans of The CW’s DC Comics Extended Universe shows may welcome the notion, since it will feature the involvement of its continuity godfather, Greg Berlanti.
Fox’s Kung Fu acquisition is a done deal and intriguing plans for the new approach are already in place for a reboot pilot, reports Deadline. Greg Berlanti and his repertory collaborator Wendy Mericle have been tapped as executive producers; an idea that’s fitting, since their work on DC TV continuity-launcher Arrow has long-utilized a narrative style directly resembling Kung Fu, dividing itself between scenes dealing with the immediate storyline in the present and flashback sequences – poetically pertinent to the present – set years earlier during the protagonist’s training period. Expect that signature style to remain in place.
The original three-season 1972-1975 Kung Fu series was a genre-mixing drama, setting itself in the 1880s American Old West, following the exploits of Chinese Shaolin Temple-raised American Kwai Chang Caine (Carradine). Wandering the Earth (as Jules from Pulp Fiction famously put it,) in America, Caine searches for the remnants of his tragedy-stricken family. He regularly relies on his years of martial arts and philosophical training to deal with bellicose weapon-toting saloon-dwellers, who often assail him in a racist manner (despite being a white man,) based on his clothing, Eastern aphorisms and passive demeanor, normally resulting in the would-be assailants being humiliated by his martial arts skills.
However, Berlanti and Mericle will take and updated approach to the Kung Fu reboot series, reportedly centering it on a female protagonist, named Lucy Chang. Like the classic series hero Caine, Lucy is a Buddhist monk and kung fu master who finds herself in America… except during the 1950s, a time that – considering who she is – should provide its own share of aggressors. Yet, like Caine, Lucy is also on a daunting quest, in her case, to search for the man who, years earlier, stole her child. She will pair herself with a mysterious man, named JT Cullen, a veteran of the then-recent Korean War, forming an alliance based on their mutual goals, all while coming to the aid of those they encounter along the way.
At this point, it is unknown if Kung Fu reboot protagonist Lucy is, in some way, related to classic 1880s-set character Caine. Yet, such an idea would not be without precedence, since Kung Fu has seen a few revivals based on that very premise. After the story of the original Caine was concluded in the 1986 TV movie Kung Fu: The Movie, later iterations shifted to a contemporary setting, first with the un-aired 1987 TV pilot Kung Fu: The Next Generation, which starred the late Brandon Lee as the classic Caine’s great-grandson, Johnny Caine. It was a poetic notion, since his father, Bruce Lee, is widely acknowledged for having originally pitched Kung Fu, only to have his concept stolen.
However, Carradine himself returned for a respectable four-season 1993-1997 run on syndicated series revival Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, in which he played the grandson of the classic Caine, also named Kwai Chang. He was pretty much the same character, except located in a modern urban city, teamed with his police detective son Peter (Chris Potter). Thus, the 1950s story of Lucy may yet fit into that same familial puzzle.
For Berlanti, Kung Fu is yet another project on his already-full plate which, amongst an array of others, includes existing canon-connected DC TV series Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow, soon to be joined by Black Lightning and, later down the line, Teen Titans series Titans.
Regardless, it will certainly be interesting to see how the “grasshopper” of a Kung Fu reboot attempts to grab a pebble from the hand of its proverbial master when it ultimately arrives on Fox.
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