Reruns, Sequels & Remakes, Part XIV

Reruns, Sequels & Remakes, Part XIV

"The Hustler,'' with Paul Newman several decades older, has returned as "The Color of Money.'' Jack Paar (I kid you not) hosted a TV program the other evening consisting of clips from his old show. The 1960s Beatles hit "Twist and Shout'' (originally recorded in the 1950s by the Isley Brothers) shot back onto the pop charts this past summer. The Monkees, a singing ensemble assembled by Hollywood to ape the Beatles, have recently reassembled and are hotter now than they were 20 years ago.

It seems all to be coming back to us these days, back to the future, or at least the present: "Perry Mason,'' "Psycho II,'' "Still the Beaver,'' "Return to Mayberry,'' and"Rocky XVI.'' Plus President Reagan is determined to return us to those rock-solid values of yesteryear. Great Caesar's ghost, if this keeps up, there'll be nothing original from the 1980s for the unimaginative folks of 2001 to resurrect.

We Americans are fond of pontificating on how the Japanese are the world's foremost imitators, duplicating our products in every detail — except in the places where they made improvements. If our Asian allies are proficient mimics, it is because they patterned themselves after that other great nation of plagiarists, copycats, revivalists, and cribbers: these United States.

The ancient penchant for counterfeiting predates our young republic, and all other political entities as well (remember that man was created in God's image); but the land of the free (and the home of Xerox) has evolved the tendency into a pathological art form.

It began innocently enough. Our Constitution, while an impressive and quasi-unique document, borrowed liberally from the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke.

Likewise, our laws, customs, and culture have been largely imported from the four winds: England, Africa, Europe, etc. The first "great American novel,'' ``Huckleberry Finn'' (which many still be regarded as the greatest), was a sequel to "Tom Sawyer''— and not Mark Twain's last such derivative opus, by the way. In that distant era, the encore was often better than the original.

As decades passed, however, originality waned. In manners, letters, and fashion we frequently deferred to our former oppressors, the British. We former colonists even followed their lead in snatching colonies, when we could.

Before long, our nation was caught up in Europe's entangling alliances, something our forefathers had warned against. We entered World War I a bit late but determined to make it the war to end all wars. Peer pressure also got us into World War II. If they ever come out with Part III, it will most certainly be the sequel to end all sequels.

Today, popular culture is awash with to-be-continueds, series, postscripts, and more. As surely as night follows day, "Peggy Sue Got Married'' piggybacked on the success of "Back to the Future.'' "Knots Landing'' spun off from "Dallas.'' If a little sex and violence sells, why won't a lot of lasciviousness and mayhem work even more?

ABC made the Colbys in the spitting image of "Dynasty'' and, behold, it was redundant. One of the many events marking the bicentennial of the Statue of Liberty last July featured 200 Elvis impersonators.

And could there ever be any form of human endeavor more insipid and purposeless than the current fad of "lip-syncing'' rock stars' hit tunes?

And, of course, reruns are now playing at the White House. The early 1980s Reagan recession seemed like "Death Valley Days'' to many of the newly unemployed. At the same time, the President was intent on bringing back the Cold War, a favorite 1950s' drama.

Of late, the chief and his freelancing cast in the basement have been rehearsing hard for a repeat performance of the 1970s' Republican soap opera, Watergate. Once again we are hearing that familiar refrain, "What did the President know and when did he know it?''

Given our long traditions of nostalgic reproductions, it was inevitable. For years the news media had been trying to affix the Watergate label to subsequent scandals ("Korea-gate'' and "Lance-gate'' in Carter's tenure), but it never stuck.

Now that the scribes have a humdinger of an authentic revival on their hands, there are so many "gates'' left open, none can be sure which to go through.

But, heck, this is America, so how does this sound: Ayatollah-you-so gate?