The two part finale of Power Rangers RPM airs this Saturday on ABC (for those lucky enough to have an ABC affiliate that actually airs the series).
RPM is the 17th (yes, 17th) season of the Power Rangers franchise. And while the series is far from the peak of its popularity in the mid-90s, it is still a big draw in countries around the world like Germany (where full season DVD sets have been released) and the Philippines (where a dubbed version airs every weekend). Not to mention, the action figures by Bandai still fly off the shelves.
But RPM’s finale this Saturday not only means the end of what many fans are calling one of the best seasons yet, but it could also be the end of the Power Rangers as we have known it.
The Power Rangers burst into American pop culture in 1993 airing on Fox Kids until 2002. Disney then took over the series, first making it the marquee show on ABC Family’s morning block, then moving the series to its Toon Disney channel while also airing repeats on ABC’s Saturday morning block. Many ABC affiliates either aired the series in odd timeslots or not at all.
During the Disney era, cancellation rumors persisted every year, but they never came to fruition until this year. Disney rebranded Toon Disney as Disney XD, a network for boys 6-12, the target demo of Power Rangers. Instead of the series becoming a major part of the new venture, there was no trace of it when the network was launched.
There was no word on where or when Power Rangers RPM would premiere. A full, rough-cut trailer popped up online in February exciting fans with its unexpected content, and finally Disney announced the new season would air exclusively on ABC Kids Saturdays beginning in March.
So okay, it would only air on ABC. No big deal.
Until an article is published in the New Zealand Herald on the day of the RPM premiere quoting Production manager Sally Campbell saying “at this stage we will not be shooting another season.”
Former RPM executive producer Eddie Guzelian, who was let go midway through production of the season, told RangerCast that he was told “flat out” that Jungle Fury was to be the last season and that he had nothing to lose by being “ambitious” and to “swing for the fences,” which is exactly what he did… and then apparently got fired for it.
Fast forward to October when Bandai issues a press release announcing a “new” Power Rangers toy line based on the first season of the series, which will begin airing remastered episodes in 2010.
So as of Christmas Eve 2009, there will be no new Power Rangers produced in the near future. But really, for all we know Disney announces next Summer that production will begin on Power Rangers Card Sharks based on the 2010 Sentai series to air in 2011.
Still, this pause can provide Disney the opportunity to reset the Power Rangers franchise which has proven to still make lots of money worldwide and can make even more money if Disney actually puts in some extra effort.
It is very interesting reading Eddie Guzelian’s interview because it seems as though Disney really was aiming for a different kind of Power Rangers, a sort of reboot that would appeal to older audiences while keeping the main demo, kids, entertained.
RPM has been a huge step in the right direction; everything from the post-apocalyptic setting prompting dire, more dramatic story to a reinvigorated production to actually being able to actually say the word “die” (twice!) in an episode, none of which was present in a season before.
With the huge popularity of PG and PG-13 action/fantasy film franchises out there like Transformers, the new Star Trek and even Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter show that it is possible to create something that can appeal to all ages and whole families while being credible in the industry and be a big money maker (which is all a big conglomerate cares about right?).
Power Rangers has all the makings of just that. A big reboot or reimagination along the lines of what NBC Universal has done with its “reimaginations” could really take Power Rangers to the next level. NBCU has had varying success; from the hailed Battlestar Galactica to the widely panned Bionic Woman as well as the polar opposite productions of the captivating Tin Man and the lackluster Alice.
An interesting comparison to make is how SciFi and Ronald D. Moore took a kitschy 1980s cult show and turned it into an Emmy and Peabody Award winning series. Power Rangers, which draws laughs and jokes even from fans, can go down a very similar route.
Take the current season of RPM. If you haven’t, watch the first episode “Road to Corinth,” and then imagine it as a primetime series, even on SyFy. Imagine it with half the effort and budget of a show like Battlestar Galactica or on NBC, the Bionic Woman and Knight Rider re-dos. Shockingly outstanding already the way it is produced, a primetime treatment of the first episode could draw much attention from even non-science-fiction fans.
Kids and adults alike are enjoying Comic-con-worthy projects, and Comic-con itself is quickly losing its “nerdy” image and becoming a trendy annual event for the general public.
Power Rangers in the right hands… in dedicated, devoted, and caring hands, could make that leap to the next level very easily. 2010’s reairing of Mighty Morphin could just reinforce the laughs and jokes by having a cheaply produced 1990s series airing almost two decades later as if it was shiny and new. But it could also bring back the nostalgia for fans that grew up with the series and give Disney that opportunity to make the most of this (at the very least) one year hiatus and think about the profitable and very viable options they have with the franchise.
Eddie Guzelian and 2nd half executive producer Judd Lynn (Power Ranger veteran) seemed to have the right idea. RPM was a huge step in the right direction. But if Disney can open their eyes, they can make that leap and usher in a new era for Power Rangers. A bright future, though still just a dream for fans including myself, is possible. And I have hope.