The 1980s are remembered for big hair, leg warmers and neon colored clothing set to a soundtrack of David Bowie and Michael Jackson. But it was also filled with 1960s nostalgia and reboots.
The Monkees were on a revival tour in 1986, Sam and Dave’s “Soul Man” sold Campbell’s Soup, and the California Raisins sang Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
And then there were the television reboots. There was “The New Leave It to Beaver” (1983-89), The New Monkees (1987), The Munsters Today (1987-91), and The New Lassie (1989-92).
And there was “The New Gidget” (1986-88), which was the last film or TV show about Frances “Gidget” Lawrence, the surfing girl midget. While three made-for-TV movies filled the gap (Gidget Grows Up, Gidget Gets Married, and Gidget’s Summer Reunion), “The New Gidget” (1986-88) comes 20 years after the first Gidget (1965-66) TV show graced the small screen.
Following the made-for-TV movie “Gidget’s Summer Reunion” (1985), the television show follows married Gidget (Caryn Richman) and Jeff “Moondoggie” Griffin (Dean Butler) working as a travel agent and architect. Gidget’s niece Dani (Sydney Penny) lives with the couple while her parents, Gidget’s sister Anne and brother-in-law John, live overseas. William Schallert plays Gidget’s father, Russ Lawrence, and reminds Gidget that Dani’s exploits aren’t too different from her own as a teenager. Gidget’s old friend LaRue (Jill Jacobson) runs the travel agency with her in Santa Monica.
While the leads are the same from the pilot to the TV show, Gidget’s niece goes from blonde Kim (played by Allison Barron) to brunette Dani (Penny). LaRue also changes from a more sassy and knowledgeable character played by Anne Lockhart to more of a dumb blonde (from what little I was able to watch).
Gidget starts the show looking at the camera and addressing the audience and the episode’s story will begin. But every time the show comes back from a commercial break, Gidget is there talking to the audience again.
The opening theme for the show:
Some plots include Gidget’s niece starting a homemade T-shirt business so she can buy a laserdisc and stereo set, or taking a boat tour given by Alan Hale and finding Bob Denver (both of Gilligan’s Island) on a deserted island.
Hale and Denver play themselves and when Gidget’s niece realizes who Alan Hale is and shouts that Gilligan’s Island is “Fully radical!”
While I found Gidget starring Sally Field delightful, “The New Gidget” was terrible. I was able to binge endlessly watching all 32 episodes of the 1960s Gidget, but I struggled to get through the few episodes of “The New Gidget” posted online.
Caryn Richman is perky and happy enough to be Gidget, and honestly probably resembles Kathy Kohner the most out of any of the actresses, but the lines written for her to deliver are terrible. But I just can’t get past Dean Butler, Almanzo “Manly” Wilder from “Little House on the Prairie,” playing Moondoggie. Honestly, most of the Moondoggies were all wrong throughout the series. James Darren was the only one who felt right.
Fortunately (or unfortunately if you like the show), only two episodes of “The New Gidget” are posted online (that I could find) and it’s not on DVD or any subscription streaming service. You can buy it bootlegged off a website like iOffer, but I’m not sure this is worth $20.
“The New Gidget” somehow lasted two seasons compared to “Gidget” (1966-68) only lasting one. Since this was the last Gidget made to grace the silver screen or television set, it’s a shame it couldn’t have been better.
There hasn’t been a new project since “The New Gidget” ended in 1988. In 2004, Columbia Pictures commissioned screenwriter Erica Beeney to write a new “Gidget” for 2005, but nothing has been announced since, according to Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies by Thomas Lisanti.
However, I’m not sure how a new version of “Gidget” would translate in today’s world. Would it be a nostalgic look at surfing in the 1960s or would she be sending filtered SnapChats to Moondoggie and making FacebookLive videos about what the surf was like today?
To me, only a handful of the Gidget projects were well-made, so I’m happy with sticking with the film and TV reruns.
Watch a full episode of “The New Gidget” here:
- “Gidget” (1959) starring Sandra Dee, James Darren, Cliff Robertson
- “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961) starring Deborah Walley, James Darren
- “Gidget Goes to Rome” (1963) starring Cindy Carol, James Darren, Jessie Royce Landis
- An Interview with Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, the real Gidget
- “Gidget Grows Up” (1969) starring Karen Valentine
- “Gidget Gets Married” (1972) with Michael Burns
- “Gidget’s Summer Reunion” (1985) starring Dean Butler
- Gidget TV series (1965-66) starring Sally Field