Parents out-of-town, no one to watch them but their irresponsible no-good uncle. Yes, it’s Uncle Buck, but not the one you remember, with the amazing John Candy, but the remake…on TV no less…and no, not the 1990s disaster, but another one this year.
Created By: Steven Cragg & Brian Bradley
Air Date: First Season Ended | Cancelled
When I heard they had remade Uncle Buck into a TV series I immediately called Sacrilege. Uncle Buck is one of the greatest comedies of the 80s and one of John Candy’s greatest characters. This is one of those films you tell people to watch if they want to get to know the work of this big funny man who left us so early.
Because of this, remaking it seems like a fool’s errand. No matter what they did they wouldn’t be able to recapture the magic of the original Uncle Buck film, because not only did it have a wonderful and hilarious actor playing the titular character but the decade it was made in made it extra special as well. The 80s were a mix of gritty dramatic and action films, sappy romance stories with Patrick Swayze and slapstick-centric comedies, and Uncle Buck fit right at the intersection of these and came near the end of the decade. It had tenderness, but also an edge of darkness but with such a comedic spark that it became truly special.
It’s not too crazy to think of a remake, because in many ways we’ve seen the Uncle Buck formula many times over the past couple of decades, just replacing the ‘Uncle’ for another character, be it another family member or a friend of the family. There have been dozen of Uncle Bucks if you really think about it, because on its own it’s a very solid premise and bound to be successful if you handle it properly, and it’s the only solid thing the TV series stands on. Sadly, it doesn’t handle it very well and the result is a complete train wreck that feels like an insult to John Candy’s memory.
One of the reasons Uncle Buck works so well is that it paces itself, giving you ample time to meet Buck, his flaws and strengths, his relationship with the kids and their individual personalities. It lets you create a bond with the characters so that when things happen—funny, dramatic or tender—you’ll react accordingly.
The TV series crams the entire film into its first episode, and while you can see its attempts to make you care, it fails completely and everything feels forced. By the end, when the Mom character asks Buck to stick around—for what will feel like a constant retread over the course of the season, I’m sure—none of the relationships in the series feel real.
While Mike Epps plays a very charismatic Buck, there is absolutely no chemistry in this cast, which doesn’t help things along. The first episode wasn’t even remotely funny, and not only did I not laugh, but I kept looking at the play-time to see how long I still had to go before this disaster ended.
Another reason the series fails is that in making the cast black (or African American for the politically correct among you), they somehow made characters fall into tired stereotypes. Buck is the stereotypical black hustler, good for nothing and always on the look for a get-rich-quick scheme. His girlfriend becomes the stereotypical “Oh-no-you-didn’t” overbearing black woman and so on for the rest of the cast. They’re all cardboard cut-outs of some of the most often seen stereotypes on TV and that didn’t help the series endear itself to me.
If you’re doing Uncle Buck, add your own spin to it, don’t try to replicate the entire thing verbatim, because you will fail. Uncle Buck is special for its own reasons, and the writers had to find a way to make their own product special, to make their adaptation stand out on its own. Right now it’s so far off the mark that it’s not even in the film’s shadow. It doesn’t even belong in the same genre.
The Uncle Buck film is pure comedic genius, the series is just sad…it desperately tries to capture the film’s magic in a single episode, forcing and ultimately ruining everything. It’s no wonder they cancelled the show after a single season. I only had to see the first episode to know how bad it was.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch the film and cleanse my palate!
1/5 – OH HELL NO!