Wax on, again.
Three decades after The Karate Kid, original stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka are heading back to the dojo. The duo are set to reprise their roles as underdog Daniel LaRusso (Macchio) and bully Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) in a 10-episode straight-to-series follow-up called Cobra Kai for subscription service YouTube Red.
The series, set to bow in 2018, is set 30 years after the events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament and revolves around a down-and-out Johnny who, seeking redemption, reopens the infamous Cobra Kai dojo. It reignites his rivalry with a now-successful Daniel, who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi (the late Pat Morita). The half-hour comedy follows the duo addressing demons from their past and present frustrations — through (what else?) karate.
Josh Heald (Hot Tub Time Machine) as well as duo Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg (Harold and Kumar) will pen the script and exec produce. Macchio and Zabka will co-exec produce. Hurwitz and Schlossberg will direct much of the series. Will Smith's Sony Pictures Television Studios-based Overbrook Entertainment will exec produce with James Lassiter and Caleeb Pinkett overseeing for the company.
Macchio and Zabka are expected to make an appearance Friday at YouTube's portion of the Television Critics Association's summer press tour in Beverly Hills.
"Like everyone who grew up in the 1980s, the three of us are enormous fans of The Karate Kid,” Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg said in a joint statement. "Cobra Kai will be a true continuation of the original films — packed with comedy, heart and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry, and we’re thankful to our partners at YouTube Red, Sony Pictures Television and Overbrook for their shared enthusiasm in making our dream project a reality."
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.
Asked specifically why they were ditching the familiar Karate Kid title in favor of Cobra Kai, Daniels said it was driven by the story. "If The Karate Kid was Daniel’s story, Cobra Kai is equal parts Daniel and Johnny’s story. Also because this is a series and not a movie, we really wanted to reimagine how the story was told. Changing the name made sense as part of that."
Sony's Columbia Pictures distributed the original 1984 feature that went on to become a pop culture staple and spawn two sequels as well as a 1994 revamp with Hilary Swank and a 2010 reboot starring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. The latter revival, produced by Smith, Overbrook and Columbia Pictures, grossed $359 million worldwide on a budget of $40 million. All told, the franchise has grossed more than $619 million worldwide.
“Continuing the story of The Karate Kid has been a passion project for all of us, and when Ralph and Billy said yes, we knew it had become real,” said Glenn Adilman, exec vp comedy development at SPTS. “We are thrilled that YouTube Red felt the same thing the minute they heard the pitch and then stepped up with this series commitment.”
In the years since the film's 1984 debut, Macchio has remained busy with roles in My Cousin Vinny, among others. He next recurs in HBO's upcoming David Simon drama The Deuce. Zabka, meanwhile, had a recurring guest role in How I Met Your Mother and earned an Oscar nomination in 2004 for his live-action short film Most. Macchio is repped by Untitled, Buchwald and Hansen Jacobson. Zabka is with Advanced Management and attorney Eric Feig.
Hurwitz and Schlossberg are with CAA and Hansen Jacobson; Heald is with Paradigm and attorney Howard Abramson. Cobra Kai is the largest TV foray to date for the CAA-repped Overbrook.
Cobra Kai joins a roster of originals at YouTube Red that includes Step Up, Mind Field, 12 Deadly Days, Sing It and more.
Reboots and revivals continue to be in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming platforms look for proven hits in a competitive landscape that includes more than 450 scripted originals. Key reboots and revivals in the works include NBC's Will and Grace — already renewed for another run — as well as ABC's Roseanne, both of which bring the original stars back for more.