Can ABC Succesfully Make ‘Little Women’ Modern?

Source: Columbia Pictures
Source: Columbia Pictures

In a year where every network seems to be planning an iconic movie reboot, ABC is also working on bringing a classic book to the small screen. The channel is reportedly developing “a modern take” of Louisa May Alcott’s famed novel, Little Women.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, ABC has handed out a script commitment to the potential show, which is being envisioned as a limited series event. Most are familiar with Alcott’s book, which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869 and chronicles the lives of the four March sisters— Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy— as they grow into womanhood. Per THR, the new take will center on the siblings in a more contemporary setting. It will follow the girls as they come of age against the backdrop of a military scandal that causes their family to lose its fortune and position. As they grow up, the sisters will find themselves “at odds with the conservative and traditional society in which they live.

Though the project is still in its early stages, it already has at least one cast member attached. Natasha McElhone is reportedly on board to star in the series in her first small screen role since Californication. She will also executive produce the show. Jordan Roberts (Big Hero 6) will pen the adapted script for the Little Women remake and also co-executive produce alongside Essential Media’s Simonne Overend (Rake), Ruby Films’ Alison Owen (Temple Grandin), and Julie Anne Robinson (The Last Song, Suburgatory). Robinson will direct the series as well.

This is far from the first time Little Women has undergone a screen adaptation. The BBC has adapted the story twice, first in the 1950s and then again in the 1970s. It was also turned into two animated television series in the 1980s. The book has also made its way to the big screen several times. The earliest versions were released in 1917 and 1918. A Katherine Hepburn-led version was also released in 1933, followed by a 1949 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and a 1978 flick with Meredith Baxter. The most recent film adaptation came in a 1994 version starring Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, and Claire Danes.

Bringing a beloved novel to the screen is always tricky — particularly one that, like Little Women, has already undergone many versions, the last of which earned an overwhelmingly positive critical response and remains a fan favorite. Making matters even more complicated is figuring out how to bring the story into the present without completely losing its core authenticity (as so many contemporary reboots are prone to do). While it remains unclear exactly how up-to-date the new show will go, fans of both the original book and the 1994 movie will surely have their doubts about ABC’s plans to fashion the story into a modern day take. After all, many of the book’s most crucial moments are rooted in the original time period, from small ones like Meg giving Mr. Brooke her glove as a sign of courtship and Jo’s typewriter to big ones like Beth’s illness.

Hopefully, the network will take that into account and create an updated version that will appeal to longtime fans of the story, as well as new viewers.

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