Coming soon to television: Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn like you’ve never seen them before (or wanted to)

sawyer and huck old school

CBS is making a Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer television series. Sure why not? The characters are out of copyright, and it’s hard to come up with original ideas. Besides, taking an old-timey favorite that not many people have actually read and turning it into a historical family drama worked for Little House on The Prairie, and television runs on the premise that if something worked once, it should be tried again and again and again and…

Of course they’d have to to sanitize it–whitewash it, like that wall that is the only part of Tom Sawyer most of us know. If they don’t clean up, we’ll be stuck with characters like “Injun Joe” or a bunch of white people using the n-word and selling their slaves down da river.

Oh? What’s that you say? They’re setting it in these modern times? Um okay. That takes care of that.

One's a manipulative con man who's lost track of what's a lie and what's true. The other is a character on 'Lost.'"

Sawyer & Huck: One’s a manipulative con man who’s lost track of what’s a lie and what’s true. The other is a character on ‘Lost.'”

But that’s just the beginning. Tom and Huck are now twenty-somethings who open a law firm together in St. Louis that helps people who know one else will.

Really?

Tom is the lawyer, but Huck–not having much book learning–will be the investigator. And this is related to the books how again? We literally didn’t get the memo or press release, but according to Deadline:

Sawyer & Huck is described as a reimagining of the iconic characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn as adults in modern day America at a time that harkens back to the racial and class divides that inspired Mark Twain’s books.”

I know things are bad and all, and I can see some of the class stuff, but “harkens back” to the decades following slavery? And why do you need two white boy detectives as heroes in a show about racial and class divides? Wouldn’t it make more sense if one or both of them were black maybe? And what is the point of giving these two characters iconic names? Does anyone EVER read these books any more other than for school, and even then, didn’t Huckleberry Finn mostly get banned because having a bunch of white kids read it aloud saying the n-word all the time made people kind of uncomfortable?

If, like me, your first reaction is this sounds pretty terrible, possibly we could both be in for a surprise as the writers are from The Blacklist and the director, Anthony Hemingway, did Treme and Shameless, and these were not the worst shows ever. But where will this lead?

Beats me. But here are some spec script ideas I plan to be working on this weekend:

Ebenezer’s Millions – Picks up a few years after the events of A Christmas Carol, set in 21st Century Los Angeles just because. Retired businessman Ebenezer Scrooge is divesting, and after getting fed up with the bureaucracy of charities, he’s decided to look for worthy causes on his own. With the help of his assistant, Tim Cratchit, each week involves Ebenezer in the lives and stories of the people who come to him because they have no place else to turn. Harkens back to Dickens’ uplifting tales of the downtrodden and unfortunate.

My Sister Lydia! – In this modern setting, Elizabeth Bennett Darcy has it all – the perfect marriage, a beautiful home, and even well behaved kids. Plus, now she’s running her husband’s business as CEO of Darcy, Inc., while he works on developing his orchids (not a euphemism). Despite occasional run-ins with the Chair of the Board (her husband’s Aunt Catherine), life couldn’t get better; that is, until her wayward little sister Lydia moves in after a stint in rehab and another failed relationship. It’s a dramady of manners that will harken back to themes of class divide and family in Jane Austen’s work.

Welcome Back Holden! Ever wonder what happened to Holden Caulfield after the end of The Catcher in the Rye? Wanting to live a more “authentic” life, he wound up teaching in urban public schools, but always had problems with authority. After numerous conflicts with his principal, he’s fired and winds up at his old prep – the place it all started for him. Scholarships have brought in “diversity,” but the conflicts of adolescence remain the same. Harkening back to Salinger’s work, this one hour comedy-drama will focus on the difficulties of growing up in a world full of “phonies” while trying to remain true to yourself.

Marion Stein

Marion writes television recaps and reviews for the Agony Booth, and books you can find over at Amazon.

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  • The worst thing about Welcome Back Holden is that I can absolutely see it being greenlit.

    • Actually, I think that one may have copyright issues.

  • Betsy Murgatroyd

    Not gonna lie, I’d totally watch My Sister Lydia.

  • Allen W

    “Welcome Back, Caulfield.” The other way doesn’t sound like the original, *and* doesn’t follow the “Welcome Back, ” pattern of the original.

  • Kate

    “Wouldn’t it make more sense if one or both of them were black maybe?”
    Well that shows how little I know, I always thought Huckleberry Finn *was* black and assumed it was a book about an interracial friendship. I must have got my information mixed up somewhere.

    • 333 SC

      No, Huck was white. Nig**r Jim was black. The 2nd part is right though. It was a seriously brave book for its day.

      • 333 SC

        Huckleberry Finn, that is. Tom Sawyer was just lightweight fun.