The “Dirty Dancing” remake on ABC, which aired Wednesday night, was perhaps doomed from the start. Why mess with a classic? (Seriously, though: Why?) Early promos did little to dispel the fear that the remake was a hot mess waiting to happen; reviews that came in right before the special’s airtime didn’t help, either.
The new version wasn’t totally reprehensible — Sarah Hyland, Debra Messing and Nicole Scherzinger are all charming, and J. Quinton Johnson of Broadway’s “Hamilton” is a talented but underutilized new face. Still, the original “Dirty Dancing” — with its memorable lines and delightful rom-com trappings — remains the girl ABC told its iteration not to worry about. Try as the network might, the “Dirty Dancing” remake failed to capture the poignancy and heart of the original, preferring to whack its audience over the head with character exposition and the feminism that felt so fresh and subversive in the original film.
As with all one-time-only TV events these days, Twitter showed up to watch the glorious trainwreck firsthand. Let’s recap some of the cringe-ier moments.
All the out-of-place singing numbers
Johnny sang. Baby sang. Lisa sang. Dr. and Mrs. Houseman sang! Seriously everyone sang, presumably to flesh out the program so it would take up a full three-hour television block, and hardly any of it was memorable. “Grease: Live!” this was not.
The unexpected drama with the Housemans’ marriage
Jerry Orbach’s and Kelly Bishop’s characters never offered any indication in the original film that behind their picture-book marriage was a dried-up sex life and the threat of divorce, but thats what Baby’s parents were up to this time around. The resolution at the end — they decide to stay together, nearly get caught by their kids while having sex, and even join in (singing!!!) the iconic final dance number. While it was nice to get a little more shading in of these characters, this plotline felt rushed.
The lack of chemistry between Baby and Johnny
Pretty much all of the Twitter commentary seemed to agree on one thing: Abigail Breslin and Colt Prattes did not steam up the dance floor.
The missing Schumachers, the wallet-stealing elderly couple
Their whole part in the plot was subbed in with Katey Sagal’s character, a “bungalow bunny,” framing Johnny for stealing her Rolex. The Schumachers were robbed (pun absolutely intentional).
The lackluster dance moves
In the original, dancing was everything. In this version, Breslin —although she tried — just wasn’t hitting those mambo steps with the same gusto Jennifer Grey did.
The remaking of classic songs …
It is a truth universally acknowledged that “Hungry Eyes” and “She’s Like the Wind” should not be messed with.
… and the mishandling of the original film’s iconic lines
How do you make an unexpectedly delightful line about a watermelon so forced? How?!
The awkward Baby-as-adult framing
Because nothing is sacred, the whole remake was framed around a 1980s Baby, now a grown-up, seeing “Dirty Dancing: The Musical” on Broadway and reminiscing about the summer that changed everything. At the end — surprise! — she encounters Johnny Castle, who directed the production. Then, Baby’s kid and husband make an appearance, to show Johnny that she’s all grown up and cool now. Exit the theater, zoom in on Breslin’s face, and finish on a classic freeze frame shot.
It all begged the question: But why?
Alas, even with the industry’s current thirst for remakes, on Wednesday night we all learned some things are better left alone.