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A 'Father Knows Best' movie, by way of 'Baby Mama'

April 14, 2011 |  3:23 pm


EXCLUSIVE: "Father Knows Best" may seem like a paragon of 1950s Americana, but Fox-based production company New Regency believes there's an update to be found in the classic sitcom.

The firm has been developing a new version of the story for the big screen. Now producers are set to bring on Michael McCullers, director of "Baby Mama," to write a new draft and direct the updated version of the comedy, according to a person who was briefed on the production but not authorized to speak about it publicly. A Fox spokeswoman declined to comment.

When the project was first announced, news accounts described it as telling a multi-generational story about a father of a suburban family with a modern parenting approach who's thrown for a loop when his own father, with a different attitude, comes to live with them. (The debate, then, is over which father knows best.) The film is expected to look at the evolving nature of the American family the way the initial television series did with an emerging suburban middle class more than half a century ago.

McCullers' previous work, of course, deals with another parenting issue -- surrogate motherhood -- though it also engages in questions of modern parenthood. The director is also a "Saturday Night Live" veteran who wrote several of the "Austin Powers" movies.

The original "Father Knows Best" began as a radio program in 1949 and morphed into a television series that ran from 1954 to 1960, starring Robert Young and Jane Wyatt. It told of the Andersons, an idyllic family (two parents, three children) in which Dad, an insurance agent, patiently offers sage advice that nearly always helps his children.

The on-screen Midwestern family has been updated and updated over the years with families that are somewhat less than perfect, from "Roseanne" and "Married ... With Children" 20 years ago to ABC's current dysfunctional-family comedy "The Middle."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Father Knows Best." Credit: Screen Gems / Kobal Collection

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These decisions baffle me. They take a property and change nearly everything about it but keep the title the same. They figure the name is a "brand" and people will respond to it. But the main demo for movies today is under 25 and they've likely never heard of "Father Knows Best." So ... what's the point?


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