A modest proposal about U.N.C.L.E.’s future

U.N.C.L.E. insignia from a second-season episode

The future of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., if it has one, needs to be different because of changes in the movie and television industry.

Traditional over-the-air networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox) face increasing pressure and programs face tight windows to prove themselves or get canceled.

U.N.C.L.E.’s last try as a feature film in 2015 wasn’t a big hit. A sequel always was a long shot and with each passing year the odds get longer.

U.N.C.L.E.’s best chance at a revival may be as a series on streaming television. Marvel Studios is extending its universe of characters to series on Disney Plus. An initial effort, WandaVision, is getting a lot of attention, with outlets doing episode-by-episode recaps.

Corporate leaders such as those at Walt Disney Co. (Marvel’s parent company) and AT&T (parent company of Warner Bros.) are going all-in on streaming.

U.N.C.L.E. is a Warner Bros. property. So if U.N.C.L.E. went streaming it would be ticketed for AT&T’s HBO Max. In 2021, AT&T is using Warner Bros. films as a loss leader to drive traffic to HBO Max. The movies show up on the streaming service and theaters (those that are open) at the same time. The films stay on HBO Max for about a month.

Of course, where U.N.C.L.E. is concerned, things are never easy. If Warner Bros. is even interested, how do you cast about for a showrunner to oversee an HBO Max version of U.N.C.L.E.? Is there someone out there who can retain the core of U.N.C.L.E. while updating it for modern audiences?

U.N.C.L.E. had an overall optimistic center (agents of all nationalities, an American was paired with a Russian). The original series, though, in its fourth season showed that could be adapted to darker storylines.

Also, do you recast? Answer: Likely. The most recent movie was actually filmed in the fall of 2013. It’s hard to maintain momentum with actors audiences haven’t seen in the roles of Solo and Illya for years.

One of those actors, Armie Hammer, is fighting for his professional life because of controversy involving a sex scandal. Who knows if the other, Henry Cavill, is still interested. You get the impression he’s waiting around to see if he can be cast as James Bond in the future.

What’s more, if a showrunner was new to U.N.C.L.E. (a strong possibility if such a streaming show happened) that person would likely want to cast the leads. A fresh start makes sense.

The streaming route raises a lot of questions. But hoping for a sequel to the 2015-released film seems like a dead end. For U.N.C.L.E. to have a future, streaming may be the way to go.

8 Responses

  1. If they do a series they’ll tick the woke boxes…Personally I’m sad they didn’t make a second film.

  2. No race or gender swapping, please.

  3. Here’s the curious thing. Most of these popular fandoms started out as small screen efforts anyway They did quite well. Viewers were satisfied with hour installments. Sometimes stretched into two-parters. Storylines and action sequences were reasonable. And because of budget restraints, and to be successful, required that character relationships take precedent. Unique talent helped pull that off. (And as I always say in these comments, the shows lacked a certain self-consciousness which means the overwhelming effort to be “great.”) They just “were”… fun weekly installments of escapism!

    It wouldn’t be a bad thing to go back to streaming. MFU the Movie in 2015 disappointed original fans because it so revamped itself, that it was only using the title anyway. Changed the premise, the core characters, their interactions, and distracted with overwhelming action, missing the point of the series. Which was a comfortable invitation given to viewers for the show to be invited into their homes every week! It was something to look forward to!!

    We can see what happened when ST:TOS did the same thing for it’s premier movie. But regained popularity when the subject returned to it’s roots. Fans and viewers want to see a story about (fictional) people they’ve come to know exceptionally well. And if they’re very lucky they will be treated to a good story built around that expectation, one that can (or will) include newest viewers as well. Which might even make them curious about an original. There is plenty of “retro” (classic) TV on the airwaves today, because people are (also) turning to quality productions as well as having a choice of contemporary shows too.

    It’s all about alternatives, and that’s where streaming offers a big advantage. It would make me subscribe. I hope they take the time to find really appropriate actors who can redevelop an authentic chemistry. Let’s put the money in that direction this time!

  4. Why did Pacificsun’s comment disappear? Just so I know for the future, no worries!

  5. Why are my comments not awaiting moderation (not sticking at all)? What have I done wrong? Thanks.

  6. Pacificsun: I was not aware your comments had disappeared. It was nothing I have done.

  7. Second reply: I saw three comments from you when I logged on just now. I approved all three.

  8. MFU should have come back as a cable series and not the big budget one shot movie in 2015. I don’t dislike the movie, but they could have been closer to the original concept as a cable series. [And back then, I wanted Jon Hamm as Solo 🙂 )

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