In what is quickly becoming a weekly tradition around here, it's now time to announce that yet another popular film franchise is heading to the small screen. Up on the revival chopping block this week is the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker buddy cop trilogy, Rush Hour.
The first film opened in 1998 to good reviews, and made nearly $250 million worldwide on a budget of only $33 million. That kind of success obviously led to a sequel in relatively short order, which earned about $100 million more than the original, despite less flattering critical sentiment. Six years later, Rush Hour 3 was released, and the law of diminishing returns finally caught up with the series. Critics ravaged the threequel, and box office totals dropped off fast after a good first week. While talk of a fourth film has come and gone in the years since, it would now appear that Lee and Carter's next stop is a living room near you.
As you might imagine, Brett Ratner - director of all three Rush Hour films - is shepherding the TV adaptation of the franchise, and will serve as an executive producer. Of course, Brett Ratner being involved with a project is an aspect likely to turn many potential viewers off, most notably those who still haven't forgiven the man for what he did to the original X-Men movie franchise. Well, those folks may want to reconsider writing the show off, as it won't be Ratner that handles the day-to-day creative direction of the series.
Scrubs and Cougar Town creator Bill Lawrence has signed on as showrunner for the Rush Hour TV series, and will also co-script the pilot episode with longtime collaborator Blake McCormick. The actual plot of the series is expected to mirror the premise of the first Rush Hour film, and will focus on a by-the-book Hong Kong cop that gets called into action in Los Angeles, only to be reluctantly teamed up with an arrogant LAPD officer. Of course, anyone who's seen the movies will know that they become a very effective team.
Creatively, there are several ways that a Rush Hour TV adaptation could go. A first season could feature the two mismatched cops bonding over the course of the pilot, then move on to the common case-of-the-week procedural style, with some wacky comedy mixed in. On the other hand, Lawrence could choose to focus on a season-spanning case for the two detectives to solve - one occasionally broken up by side missions and wacky hijinks. Of course, Lawrence might decide to go Scrubs-level wacky, and have the show be a total farce; then again, that wouldn't really be in keeping with the spirit of the franchise.
Being a New Line property, the Rush Hour TV series is in development at WBTV, although no network is yet attached to the project. While an eventual pick-up seems very likely on the surface (especially with Lawrence's glowing track record as a showrunner), it's by no means a formality. Having A-lister Eddie Murphy attached wasn't enough to stop the small screen Beverly Hills Cop sequel series from ending up in development hell, even after it was seen as a sure thing by most industry pundits. If the Rush Hour pilot isn't up to snuff, we may very well end up digging yet another plot in the "shows that never were" cemetery.
One logical question some may have is whether Rush Hour stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker will end up being involved with the project in some way. No mention has been made of that happening as of yet, but with Ratner on-board, it's feasible that one or both actors might end up putting in a cameo appearance. (Although that would be kind of odd, seeing as they obviously couldn't reprise their previous roles.)
Here's hoping that whoever ends up being cast as Lee and Carter has the same amount of natural chemistry found in the Chan/Tucker pairing. Without that level of believable camaraderie, Rush Hour's TV adaptation is unlikely to ever hit the heights of its theatrical progenitor.
The Rush Hour TV series is in early development, and has no current premiere date.