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Wood Working: Movie, TV show remakes, ugh, with few exceptions, just nauseate me

Over the years I've fulminated about the media remaking famous and infamous movies and TV shows.

My message has always been that the first one was the best and so why not show it over rather than forcing on the audience a pale imitation of the original.

The last time I fumed was when I watched the new version of "3:10 to Yuma" -- Oh, Van Heflin, where are you now that we really need you?

If you've ever seen on stage or the cinema Robert Preston playing Professor Harold Hill in "The Music Man," would you like to watch Matthew Broderick doing it 30 years later?

Matthew Broderick, indeed.

That was akin to shoving Stewart Granger aside and casting Martin Short as Scaramouche.

Or Steve Martin replacing Jose Ferrer as Cyrano de Bergerac, or Steve Martin replacing Spencer Tracy in "Father of the Bride."

The brains in Hollywood actually did that.

They also cast William Hurt -- William Hurt, the guy who looks like he's already dead before the whale got him -- as Ahab in the remake of "Moby Dick."

The list goes on, Ricky Schroder shoved poor little Jackie Coogan off the stage in "The Kid." They also cast Richard Thomas as the young soldier earlier played by Lew Ayres in a remake of "All Quiet on the Western Front."

Recently TCM has been showing old movies based on the Leslie Charteris character, "The Saint."

When we were kids, the Saint was played by the suave and elegant George Sanders ("Rebecca," "All About Eve").

The Saint movies being shown today were also made in the 1940s, but star the suave and elegant Tom Conway, he of the pencil-thin mustache.

He's pretty good. He's actually George Sanders brother in real life. But it still gripes me to see Sanders shuttled aside.("Hey, bro, how'd you get my job?")

Of course there are exceptions.

Over Christmas we watched a TV show I had never seen and was shocked to see how bad it was compared to its remaking of a series.

Let's start by admitting I am a huge fan of "The Waltons," a series the religious networks have been re-showing for the past year or so.

I love this show and have taken lots of razzing from people who watched it once or read about it and have no idea what it's about.

(Sort of like people who say lutefisk tastes bad when they've never tasted it. BULLETIN! Lutefisk does not taste at all, unless you count melted butter and salt and pepper).

Anyway, I love the kids in the show, I love the nutty Baldwin sisters. Most of all, I love Grandma and Grandpa, played by Ellen Corby and that loveable old communist Will Geer and their son John, played by Ralph Waite and his wife, played by Miss Michael Learned.

These folks are good at what they do and if you watch long enough you see them grow into their roles.

So I anxiously awaited watching the Waltons pilot at Christmas.

Earlier, I had watched a movie called "Spencer's Mountain," written by Waltons creator Earl Hamner.

It was OK, with Henry Fonda as John, Maureen O'Hara as the wife and James Macarthur as John-Boy. But it was set in the Great Northwest, which seemed all wrong compared to rural Virginia.

So, armed with a bowl of popcorn and a diet Coke, I sat down to watch the original Waltons.

Guess what?

It was terrible, a wonder the show ever got off the ground.

The plot is familiar.

The family on Christmas Eve awaits for the arrival of John Walton who has taken a job in Richmond.

It's snowing.

The roads are blocked. This is a typical Walton scenario.

What then, was wrong?

The casting, that's what.

The Baldwin sisters were all wrong, too loony.

Ike Godseyi, the storekeeper plays it as a sleaze ball, with slicked down hair.

Grandpa? He's played by Edgar Bergen. Edger Bergen? I expected him to start whittling a puppet called Charlie McCarthy.

Miss Michael Learned is replaced by Patricia Neal, who looks like a socialite plunked down next to a sawmill. She over-underacts as usual, as if she were embarrassed to be on TV.

What's left?

The kids, the same as the ones on the TV series. They are great, as usual, and Hollywood showed some brains for a change getting rid of the chaff and concentrating on the wheat.

And so I forgive you Richard Thomas for "All Quiet on the Western Front." You're a great John-Boy.