Why THE PUNISHER on FOX is NOT the BEST idea

"Hey. does this smell funny?"

To bring you up to speed: FOX has given the order for a Put Pilot based on THE PUNISHER, aka Frank Castle, the Marvel Comics gun happy ex-Vet vigilantecreated during the Dirty Harry era. He's had three movie adaptions, none of which shook the earth very much, registering only a collective "Meh" on the Richter scale of Hollywood. In the proposed new TV show, Frank will be a COP by day and a vigilante by night, helping those he finds within the court system who have been wronged or for whom justice has fallen short. Part procedural - Part Death Wish.

Devin over at BadAssDigest makes good points about the concept and I share his sentiment. But I'm more bothered. It's not a secret that Hollywood has had a hard time getting a good grip on him and now network TV wants to give it a whirl.

This is Not The Best Idea. It's good. It's just not the best. I know that these wheels are in motion, so it becomes almost moot to go on about the four broad problems I have with this… but I will.

1) The new series immediately sets up a lot of "easy outs" for the very challenges the character presents when transitioning him to TV.

The Punisher is fairly moody loner (hard to be social, make friends and/or have a possible love interest when you're hidden away in the sub-basement of an abandoned warehouse) and at his core, he is not a nice guy. He's a homicidal vigilante who hunts drug dealers, mobsters and such with exacting finality. He kills. He kills to cleanse the world and (according to some) somehow, deep down, repent.
"I really wish you'd told me your trick to get out bloodstains...."
The challenge would be to make us care about him anyway. Sopranos, Dexter, Breaking Bad, The Shield. Those shows, all found their way of making us care - of pulling us into the lives - of otherwise reprehensible people.

All those shows are on cable. The Punisher, as is, isn't built for 9pm Network primetime spotlight. Network TV heroes, to a degree, need to be rather "Likable". That's justifiable and understandable. So, if The Punisher can't do the job, maybe Police Officer Frank Castle can fit that bill.

2) And with that shift, it changes TOO MUCH and becomes a whole other thing.

Look, if you're just taking something and twisting into something else, why not just call it something else? Make it a new show. Create a NEW brand. Why twist an existing property just to shoe horn adversaries and weekly protagonists in more easily. This new show isn't The Punisher, it's "The Officer Frank Castle Show".

Frank with the only friends he needs.
Conceivably, Police Officer Frank Castle could now have a quirky partner. Perhaps now, he doesn't have to bee SoO cold blooded. Officer Frank could have a sassy and or corrupt police chief to answer to. Officer Frank could secretly work in tandem with a spicy District Attorney potential love interest (that will likey meet an untimely end to remind the viewer A) this guys is involved in nasty stuff and B) hey, we're edgy and C) we can't have Officer Frank be tied down or this becomes MOONLIGHTING).

It's like making BATMAN a LAWYER or putting STAR TREK UNDERWATER.

Interesting IDEAS but ultimately… something else entirely.

Officer Frank helps people and in the process puts bad guys away. The Punisher meticulously exterminates entire drug cartels.

One by One. By himself. Sounds original to me.

The title to this article is wrong. Maybe it should read "Why making The Punisher a 9-5 Cop isn't the best idea", because that's the issue.

3)This new character dynamic also means a lot to other aspects as well.

How does he keep his identity a secret? He'll have to kill every bad guy who sees his face. Will he have to wear a mask now? A scarf and hat? (Oh wait, that's somebody else.) His wife, daughter and son were killed in broad daylight, I assume there'll be changes to that.

Cop by DAY, The Punisher by NIGHT? Silly. When does he sleep? I guess he's the only city cop not interested in overtime? Wouldn't they be watching him like a hawk after losing his family?

4) Lastly and possibly the least original part of all this. This show concept (as described) has the format of almost any male demographic TV show from the 70's/80's.

BJ owened and "operated" the monkey too.
"Hero helps people who are beyond help via normal channels and need someone outside the norm or outside the law completely." Seen that. The A-Team, The Incredible Hulk, The Equalizer, Stingray, The Six million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, BJ And The Bear, Highway to Heaven, etc. And you know what the those shows also had in common? Zero character growth. All the stories were about other people, strangers who came and went but afterwards were somehow better off.

Who knows, this show might have plans to play this angle better than those other shows…. but why bother? It's not new, fresh or different. It's become a predictable trope. The "weekly person with a problem" concept is as "easy out" as it is tired and stale. The legal procedural, in general, has hit the saturation point in it's own right.

Perhaps Devin is right, (he has been before) and maybe all this is a YEAR ONE type arrangement, that could help - if that means one day he'll go underground. Which is cool… but …Then the show would just become what the concept was originally. So why not just do it right the first time?

And BTW, I don't in any way see The Punisher as some awesome sacred cow character concept to be saved from the hands of creative tweaking. I recognize that he's a relatively flat idea and that, yes, such characters are a real challenge. But is this facing that challenge? Because, you don't beat a game by changing the rules (well, unless you're Kirk).

Disney owns both ABC and Marvel now, so ABC had first crack at this and passed, likely because it didn't "fit" there. FOX scooped it right up. Better. But not perfect. Look, NBC once passed on THE SOPRANOS and we're better off for it. What a different show that would have been, right? This is kinda the opposite. FOX should shift this to FX, which is dying for something like this anyway, and reformat it to better reflect the original character.

A BETTER IDEA.... (possibly)
Worst die-cut cover ever.

There is a structure that fans have been asking for, or talking about for some time. I know this because I've had it in my head and spoken to others about it. It's like a vision we all share. I'll shape it up a little, but almost always, it goes something like this:

"Punisher War Journal"
Move the show to F/X (in a perfect world, pay cable, really), only eight to twelve episodes per run, and do it right. Ditch the police angle. Avoid all potential silliness (i.e. Jigsaw). A Year One approach, where we follow his simultaneous decent and rise.

First arc, the show is about taking down small bad guy after bad guy, working his way up, and through, an illegal organization, but eventually realizes he has to step it up to take down the big dogs. Second arc, more like WISEGUY, take the first issues from Marvel's series Punisher War Zone, where frank goes undercover to infiltrate a "family" and we follow as he systematically destroys them from within.
Strive to realistically depict how one man would do this. The behind the scenes work, research, planning his tactical assaults. The multi or mini arc format can be used to constantly change the "Big Bad", within seasons, to keep things from being too stale.

"I don't think I'm doing this right...."
Throughout all this: Frank has one main friend, Microchip, a tech and weapons assistant who comes and goes - but never on missions. Micro is always a bit concerned about Franks well being. Frank doesn't talk much but The Punisher makes these tapes, War Journals, he calls them. That would be the voice-over to slip us into his head, plans, motivations, his fears, regrets, mistakes. Frank Castle is a trained, methodical, ex-military specialist and war Vet. Show that. Put his pain in a bigger context.

Ultimately the show I describe would seek to answer: How long can one man wage a prolific, homicidal little war of vengeful justice, before he snaps?

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