Travel channel this past Sunday ( June 9) debuted the latest reboot of the iconic series Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, hosted by veteran actor Bruce Campbell. The show, documenting the kinds of oddball stories that Ripley’s (celebrating its 100th anniversary) has been documenting in syndicated newspaper cartoon strips for decades, has been revived several times since debuting in 1949. Campbell’s predecessors as host include Jack Palance, Dean Cain and Marie Osmond. Known for playing demon slayer Ash Williams in the Evil Dead movie franchise and, more recently, in the Ash vs Evil Dead series on Starz — as well as for roles in AMC’s Lodge 49 and FX’s Fargo (as Ronald Reagan) — Campbell also executive produces the new 10-episode Ripley’s. He chatted with Multichannel News about the new show and about the increasing opportunities to create and develop content across multiple platforms.
MCN: Your acting career spans more than 30 years. Do you feel this is the best time to be in the television industry, given the various distribution outlets and platforms?
Bruce Campbell: It is the best time to be in television. Thirty some odd years ago I did Knots Landing — it was my first TV show — and I was horrified as to how bad the writing and production was. Now TV’s the place to be. The best directors and the best writers are in television now. I don’t know how or when it turned. I think networks like AMC were at the forefront of creating original content that looked like movies.
MCN: Having said that, are you looking to develop other content for television?
BC: I’m going to set out to do a lot of scriptwriting. What I’ve learned is, you can’t get anything going unless you have something to get going. I can sit around all day waiting for scripts to come in, or I can be self-generating. I like to write what I’m interested in.
MCN: Having accomplished so much in television, could you have ever seen yourself hosting such an iconic show as Ripley’s?
BC: I’ve hosted game shows like Last Fan Standing, so it’s a [genre] I’m familiar with, but it’s fun to come back to it through such a solid brand as Ripley’s. Everyone knew about Ripley’s — that’s part of the reason I said yes. You mention the show and people remember how they saw other versions of the show, so I thought it was cool they were bringing it back. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is an institution.
MCN: Travel Channel has branded itself as the network for paranormal and supernatural-themed, unscripted content. What is the audience appeal for the genre?
BC: It removes us from our mundane lives when we can see something that is extraordinary and is not normal. When you see abnormal things it doesn’t mean it’s bad, but with shows like Ripley’s, you’ll never see anything like this in your life.
MCN: The Evil Dead franchise has endeared itself to a generation of fans, both through movies and through Starz’s original series Ash vs Evil Dead. Why is that franchise still so popular today?
BC: It’s impossible to answer the question of why The Evil Dead was so popular. Part of it is that the lead guy doesn’t have any special skills. There’s a lot of relatability — he’s not a hero from another planet, he doesn’t wear a cape; he can be killed instantly and he’s almost killed a lot. He’s one of the few good guys in the horror genre. Some of the [horror characters] that have carried on — Freddy [Krueger] or Jason [Voorhees] — are bad guys, while ours is a good guy in the horror business that you can root for.
R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.
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