The Power Rangers franchise surely isn’t messing around this year, is it? I can’t walk three steps without tripping over some new announcement concerning the spandex-clad heroes that have filled my imagination since the early 1990s with adventure and charm. No sooner than I’ve let it sink in that Saban Brands has broken up with its longtime collaborator in the toy world, Bandai America, over their joint custodianship of Power Rangers, my brain is further scrambled by the news that toy company Hasbro is about to pick up the slack. Shortly after, we hear that not only will they be continuing to provide toys and merchandise for this enduring media franchise, but they’ll just go ahead and take that media part too. Goodness me, what is a fan to make of all these rapid changes?!
If I were to look on the bright side, I’d see the plethora of new potential that suddenly opened up with this deal, leaving Hasbro as the new owner of the franchise as a result of its wholesale purchase from Saban Brands. After all, I’ve been dissatisfied with their product for a while now.
And by “their product”, I’m speaking almost exclusively of the television series currently airing on Nickelodeon. It’s not funny when it wants to be funny. It’s only funny when it doesn’t mean to be, and not in a respectably kitschy “so bad it’s good” way. It’s not exciting when it should be, wasting the fabulous Japanese Super Sentai action footage it’s been spoiled by. It’s not touching when it wants to compel you. In fact, it more often will confuse rather than challenge or teach values to the young viewers in its target audience. It’s just an overall painful experience that remained a shell of its former self right up until I decided I could no longer hurt myself by tarnishing the memory of the great seasons that came before it, both in the distant and more recent past.
This new deal means, potentially, that we can start over. We can come at this stuff with a fresh set of eyes, open to a modern sensibility, ready to tackle a more savvy audience of kids and kids-at-heart, ready to be dazzled by what Power Rangers can do and be now, to a viewership that seems practically trained to go in loving the superhero fun the franchise could be serving them. Because, for however many people are watching and enjoying the series in its current state, they represent only a handful of those who could be checking out this title.
Now, it seems, the sky’s the limit on what could be done. Once Hasbro assumes total control on the creative side of the franchise, irrespective of whatever plans may have been put in motion before the deal officially went through, it feels to some that they could do almost anything. They could remake the show from the ground up, start a new franchise, or simply continue on making great new additions to the existing material that fans have loved for years and newcomers will delight in coming to know. Why then do I feel a bit apprehensive about leaping to join the celebration?
Well, it may have to do with the sense of deja vu that’s been sweeping over me. In some respects, longtime Ranger fans have already been through this. Haim Saban’s entertainment entity has sold the rights to the show before, when it seemed in its best interest to part ways with the property. Some years after Power Rangers continued with Disney, Saban returned with a bold directive for the retaken franchise. The fan community just about lost its mind with excitement, wondering what would happen next. We’re saved! It’s back in old hands! What a miracle!
And, in many ways, one could say that it has been. After all, without this move, we wouldn’t have gotten the amazing BOOM! Studios comics that fans have been raving about non-stop since they began, now reaching a milestone with their first major crossover event, Shattered Grid. In the interim, Shout! Factory continues putting out stellar home media releases of the entire Power Rangers library, and season after season of the Super Sentai franchise from which this unlikely phenomenon of a show was born. And I’m still not over the 2017 feature film from Lionsgate. It’s a memorable pit-stop on the long road that this series has traveled, surviving one potential pitfall after another over the years.
But then, I look at the TV show. What many would regard as the flagship piece of the franchise. The thing from which all the other things branch out from, essentially making the stuff we celebrate today possible. To say that it was a disappointment feels too small to accurately describe the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been taken on as a fan. The franchise is rescued from the jaws of death, brought to us on a new network with a fresh coat of paint. But it turns out that was some seriously substandard paint, applied with lackluster effort, barely covering the cracks on an old, rickety house that should have been torn down before anything new could be set in its place. A house of cards that seemed to lose another piece of its deck with every passing quarter-year. There was hope for a brief moment when Power Rangers Dino Charge premiered in 2015. By the end of that cast’s tenure, I realized it was just another speedbump. I think I’m starting to confuse myself with all these metaphors.
The point is, the show – the reason everything great about Power Rangers in the last few years exists – didn’t seem to be getting the treatment I wanted for it. Such mishandling came not by a temporary caretaker but by those who had created the thing in the first place. And it began right after the show had been revived from its seeming end. We thank them for the good stuff but scratch our heads at why the other stuff was so bad. I mean, how could we make so many mistakes on this? With all those big plans for the franchise moving forward, how could they have expected to capitalize when the main product was… that?
So, while we’re excited to see what new horizons have just stretched out before us as fans, I take a deep breath and crack just the tiniest smile. Power Rangers continues. What form it takes next will have my curiosity. It’s Hasbro’s job to recapture – and, more importantly, keep – my attention.
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