When Nerd Lunch proposed this reboot challenge, a lot of possibilities crossed my mind both from the big screen and the small screen. Small Wonder. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Breaker High. Well maybe not the last one. But just for the heck of it I decided to type “old TV shows” into my Google search engine and see what would come up. I clicked on the first link and scanned a huge alphabetical list of television shows. I had just started looking when one title smacked me between the eyes.
If that title doesn’t create interest I don’t know what will. The premise of the very short lived Stephen J. Cannell show from 1991 is this: Barry Tarberry is a Wall Street con artist who escapes government prosecution and flees to the Caribbean. In the Caribbean he meets up with a ghost pirate called Black Jack. They both discover that they are eternally damned to hell unless they save 100 souls to compensate for their evil ways. Also Barry drives a black spy speedboat around the islands to help fight crime. I know, totally awesome.
I think the basic premise of the show is fantastic. I like shows that have a specific goal and hint that the existence of the show is finite, so jump aboard and watch every episode! I do think that almost everything else needs to change. If anything I think this show needs to be a bit more street level and a whole lot darker. Here is what I propose.
First of all the title of the show would be changed from “100 Lives of Black Jack Savage” to just Black Jack. The new title would be named after the main character, Jack Smith a career criminal known on the streets of New York City as “Jack” or “Black Jack.” I see Jack as pretty much a carbon copy of Mel Gibson’s character Porter from the movie Payback. A badass criminal who generally doesn’t take no for an answer and has the hint of a heart of gold somewhere within his chest cavity.
The setting of the show will take place primarily in the dark under belly of New York City instead of the colourful Caribbean. Jack will be involved in some sort of “sacrilegious” criminal endeavour that evolves into a mysterious white light moment with commanding voices that will inform Jack of his situation regarding the saving of 100 souls and how he will be contacted by his partner in his quest for the salvation of his soul. Obviously Jack will initially dismiss this event as poppycock until he is contacted by his ethereal partner who will remove all doubt of his situation.
Now as much as I would love for Jack’s ghostly partner to be a pirate I don’t think that this modern take on the show would make sense. I see “The Ghost” as being more of a mysterious grifter type personality. A kind of sneaky Steve Buscemi character called Max or Gus or something. It’s not exactly clear what Gus (ok Gus it is.) has done in his previous life that needs redeeming but what is clear to Jack is that he knows much, much more about their situation that he is currently willing to reveal. Essentially Gus is to Jack much like Al was to Sam in the TV show Quantum Leap. Gus knows who they have to help but it’s up to Jack expedite the solution however he seems fit.
Essentially I see this show as the odd couple trying to save their own bacon one soul at a time. Gus the Ghost wants to get the ball rolling on the soul saving as quickly as possible while Jack wants to find out more about the mystery his situation while solving their problems in his own special way. Besides the fact he’s a career criminal suddenly trying to do the right thing while trying to maintain his street cred can be a bit difficult.
Obviously there should be a myriad of recurring characters that appear. Jack’s former business associates. The local law enforcement. The pretty female do-gooder would be obvious. More importantly the real theme of the show would be the relationship between Jack and Gus. Jack is trying to figure out what the real story behind Gus and their whole situation is while Gus just wants to save his behind. Many adventures abound that dwell in both the supernatural realm and the gritty streets of New York City. Sadly, without a black spy speedboat.