Why Lifetime Is Rebooting 'Beaches'

The TV movie stars Idina Menzel and Nia Long and features classic songs from the original as well as new tracks.

When Lifetime announced that it was rebooting Beaches with Idina Menzel and Nia Long, the TV movie was met with a series of questions, among them: Why would the female-driven cable network rework the Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey classic?

The cable network's creative team told reporters Friday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour that they were daunted to adapt the Garry Marshall feature film but see new opportunities to reach younger viewers and tell a timely story.

"There's a whole young generation of kids who haven't seen Beaches," said Menzel, calling the reboot an "homage." "But if Nia and I can bring people to it … if it can open a new discussion about where women are and how we can balance our passions — career and family … things have changed, but it's another way to start a conversation."

The Lifetime film follows the serendipitous meeting of two kids on the Venice Boardwalk, who, though worlds apart in lifestyle, embark on an unexpected and lifelong friendship. CC (Menzel) is an aspiring singer trying to make it in Los Angeles until she is discovered by a director who gives CC her first big shot. Hillary (Long) is the daughter of a prominent civil rights lawyer who struggles to find her own destiny. Their friendship — even with its ups and downs — sustains them for decades.

In introducing the panel, Lifetime exec vp and head of programming Liz Gateley said the network's film, like the original, is about female friendship.

"The power of female friendship is helping women survive out there," said Gateley, referring to the country's political climate.  

Director Allison Anders said the Lifetime version updates the friendship at the center of the original, with other draws for new viewers including Menzel's rendition of songs like "Wind Beneath My Wings" and "Glory of Love" as well as new tracks created specifically for Lifetime. (The soundtrack is now available on iTunes.)

"You also have an African-American actress in the lead," said Anders. (Race is not explored in the movie.) "We live in a diverse world. … Nia is playing more privileged character than Idina, and that was a cool twist."

Summed up exec producer Alison Greenspan: "That debate of career vs. motherhood will touch a lot of women; it's a new angle."

Beaches airs Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m.