ABC Bets On Nostalgia With Remake Of 'Dirty Dancing'

May 24, 2017
Originally published on May 26, 2017 2:20 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now we're going to have the time of our lives.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DIRTY DANCING")

COLT PRATTES: (As Johnny Castle) What's your name?

ABIGAIL BRESLIN: (As Baby Houseman) Baby.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Oh, yes. Get out.

SHAPIRO: ABC is hoping that nostalgia provides a feel-good moment tonight. Its remake of "Dirty Dancing" airs, starring Abigail Breslin as Baby.

CORNISH: Now, network TV loves its singing and dancing specials, but we're going to cut to the chase here. For many people, there's only one "Dirty Dancing." You cannot put Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in a corner.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: No, you definitely cannot.

SHAPIRO: Oh, Linda Holmes.

CORNISH: Look at this.

HOLMES: Hi, Ari and Audie.

CORNISH: Welcome to the studio, the host of NPR's pop culture blog Monkey See. So Linda, the original film came out in 1987. Why do we still care about it 30 years later?

HOLMES: Well, a lot of people when they talk about "Dirty Dancing" will talk about the dancing and the kind of this love story with this teenage girl. But it is a story that also has some serious elements. There's a story really between her and her father, who is played by Jerry Orbach in the movie. It's really wonderful. And there's also a very serious story about a woman who has an illegal abortion. There's a lot of kind of heft to this story, and yet they also pull off a really effective kind of coming-of-age love story.

SHAPIRO: And yet all that I remember of the movie is the lift.

HOLMES: Oh, yes. Well, many people remember the lift. Many people will recall watching Patrick Swayze in the black pants dancing the first time that you kind of get to meet him. I spontaneously came of age at that moment.

And I think that for me, the most important piece of that movie is that it does have a genuine awkwardness, particularly to Baby's kind of early interactions with him. My favorite part is where she first meets him at a party, and she suffers from a little bit of typical nervous young person energy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DIRTY DANCING")

PATRICK SWAYZE: (As Johnny Castle) Yo, cuz (ph), what's she doing here?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) She came with me. She's with me.

JENNIFER GREY: (As Baby Houseman) I carried a watermelon. I carried a watermelon.

HOLMES: We have all been that girl. We have all been the person who says...

CORNISH: Yeah, shaking your head, walking away.

HOLMES: I carried a watermelon.

CORNISH: Why did I say that? All right, so the remake airs tonight on ABC. What kind of hopes do you have for this because there have been all kinds of, like, sequels and in-betweens and other kinds of theater-like releases?

HOLMES: It's also pitched as a musical. Like, they're technically singing, supposedly.

SHAPIRO: But this is not one of those live musicals that NBC, Fox and others have been doing.

HOLMES: Right. This is just a filmed thing. Mostly it's just the movie. It's just that it's also with singing. It's very strange. I think that I have hopes for it in the sense that it's a story a lot of people recognize. I like Abigail Breslin.

It is so specific in tone - the original movie. And the performances are so important - that Patrick Swayze performance and the Jennifer Grey performance - that it's going to be hard to duplicate. I'm not going to lie.

SHAPIRO: Do you think it's a story that aged well? If a kid today watched the 1987 original, would they be like, yeah, or would they say, hey, mom, dad, what did you see in this?

HOLMES: I think anyone can appreciate "Dirty Dancing." It's one of those things that's protected from being dated by the fact that it was already a period piece when it was done. Those things tend to age a little better because they're already through a kind of a nostalgic eye.

SHAPIRO: My last question is, how have we gotten this far in the conversation without hearing the song "I've Had The Time Of My Life"?

HOLMES: I stay away from it, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Really?

CORNISH: Well, on that note...

(LAUGHTER)

CORNISH: ...Queue it up. Linda Holmes hosts NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Linda, Thanks so much.

HOLMES: Thank you, guys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TIME OF MY LIFE")

JENNIFER WARNES: (Singing) And I owe it all to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.