Does America need a new TV series about a middle-aged Karate Kid?

To cleanse the palate, “middle-aged” is being generous. Ralph Macchio’s 55. He’s been AARP-eligible since Obama’s first term.

Whether we need it or not, we’re gettin’ it.

Iconic The Karate Kid film franchise is getting small screen treatment with Cobra Kai, a 10-episode half-hour series set for YouTube Red in 2018…

Logline: Thirty years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, a down-and-out Johnny Lawrence ([William] Zabka) seeks redemption by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai karate dojo, reigniting his rivalry with a now successful Daniel LaRusso ([Ralph] Macchio), who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi. The show is about two men addressing past demons and present frustrations the only way they know how: through karate.

They could have called it “Karate Grandpa,” as one Twitter pal suggested, but that might have been too hammy even for this concept. Anyway: YouTube Red? How did a “Karate Kid” sequel featuring the two stars of the original movie not end up on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, or one of the cable networks? A nostalgia trip this trippy will do brisk business among fortysomethings. It’s money in the bank.

Turns out that explains how it ended up on YouTube Red:

The series landed at YouTube Red following a competitive bidding process that sources say also included offers from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and AMC after Macchio and Zabka pitched the series all over town. Macchio appeared in all three original Karate Kid features, while Zabka had roles in the first two. “They were enthusiastic and fun,” YouTube global head of originals Susanne Daniels tells THR of the pitch meeting. “I don’t know whether they had rehearsed it, but they played the parts of their characters well. More than anything, it was just amazing to see them together again.”

Daniels, who said Karate Kid still resonates with YouTube users today, noted that the series comes as part of an effort to age up YouTube Red’s demographic from 18-34 to the more advertiser-coveted 18-49 set. “It had all the elements you look for in a strong show. It had heart, it had laughs, it had drama, it had characters with strong points of view. All of it was there in the pitch,” Daniels said.

YouTube wants to muscle in on the market for subscription streaming video and establish itself as a new player in producing original content. It needed a big gimmick to make people take notice. Voila.

A “Karate Kid” sequel about two childhood enemies negotiating their friendship in middle age could have been interesting but this franchise is too endearingly cheesy for serious drama. It’s an expectations game and the expectation is that Daniel will end up crane-kicking Johnny in the face again, hopefully sooner rather than later. So the writers are embracing the cheese: They’re pitching this as a comedy, with the makers of “Harold and Kumar” and “Hot Tub Time Machine” (another production that played 1980s culture for laughs) set to write and produce. There are several 80s or near-80s revivals floating around lately, all of which have fun with the conventions of the era and/or the original production: “Full House,” “Twin Peaks” (right, right, 1990), soon “Roseanne.” “GLOW” on Netflix is a reimagining of a 1980s cult show; “Stranger Things” is a riff on 80s-style Spielbergian sci fi. The 80s are coming back to the big screen too, most recently with the “Top Gun” sequel. The closest analog may be “Ash vs. Evil Dead” on Starz, another TV series that revives a beloved 80s film franchise while adding a wry, campier tone. A “Karate Kid” reboot was a natural development.

I fear, though, that a “Ferris Bueller” sequel may be next, which is a line America mustn’t cross. The eternal teenager must not see decrepitude. Matthew Broderick’s integrity in the face of a major payday is the only thing standing between us and disaster.

Via Ed, here’s a viral video from a few years back which suggests one way the new series might go. With Zabka as co-lead alongside Macchio, the new series will obviously give Johnny greater depth than the first film did. It’d be fun to watch the two characters trade hero/villain hats. Exit question: If they’re going to reboot William Zabka classics, why not start with the excellent and underrated “Just One of the Guys”? The trans theme is timely, too. I’d watch the hell out of that.

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