'Karate Kid' TV Sequel, Starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, a Go at YouTube Red (Exclusive)

Karate Kid Still 1984 - Photofest - H 2017
Photofest

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."