A ‘Citizen Kane’ TV Series? It Almost Happened
<SMASH CUT TO “To Be Continued!”>
Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but the core idea, a serialized version of the classic Orson Welles film Citizen Kane, widely regarded as one of the greatest ever made in the history of cinema, is not. If a proposed deal had gone forward, we could have seen Citizen Kane as a TV show. But things didn’t quite work out, and now the concept is part of a lawsuit between the producer and the rights holder.
The Hollywood Reporter has the details. Producer Keith Patterson wanted to turn Kane, and potentially other classic films owned by RKO Pictures, into television series. In his suit, he claims he “agreed to material terms” with RKO. But the contract was never signed on RKO’s end, and allegedly when Patterson pressed them on that issue, they tried to renegotiate their deal, hence the pending legal battle. THR’s account quotes Patterson’s complaint, which also reads “[RKO executives] explicitly concurred with Mr. Patterson that the updating of Citizen Kane was an important, and long overdue, project.”
Um, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one. Not that I can’t imagine a Citizen Kane television series or even a remake. But the idea that updating it is “important, and long overdue”? That I don’t know. Much of what makes Kane a masterpiece is rooted in the time, place, and technology in which and with which it was made. A Citizen Kane of 2017 would have to be incredibly different. (For one thing, Kane probably wouldn’t lose an election because of a sex scandal.) Then again, a Citizen Kane television series that was as formally daring as the Welles film was in 1941 wouldn’t be a bad thing. Peak TV could use a few more visual rule breakers.