‘Dennis the Menace’ To Receive Dark YA Reimagining from Beano Studios

Cinema and television are into comic book adaptations these days. With so many great comic franchises out there too, it’s unsurprising that creators are interested in bringing them to the screen. Perhaps that’s why Dennis the Menace is set to receive a brand-spanking’ new live-action series.

According to Deadline, Beano Studios is developing a live-action series based on the DC Thomson-owned property. Matthew Barry, a writer on Netflix’s Greg Berlanti-produced Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, has been tasked with penning the series.

Dennis the Menace has been adapted a few times for the small screen in the United Kingdom. The premise, which follows the titular character, his dog Gnasher, and their friends as they get up to no good in the fictional Beanotown makes for perfect children’s viewing. The new version will be somewhat different, though.

Deadline notes that the upcoming adaptation will be dark and daring, similar to Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The goal is to revamp the long-running property for a sophisticated YA audience, much like Sabrina the Teenage Witch’s transformation from kids’ fare to edgy entertainment.

That’s an intriguing idea for Dennis the Menace. The comics and their previous screen incarnations are essentially about a problem child who causes trouble to amuse himself. The stories are goofy fun, but maybe there are some bolder ideas to be mined from such a property. The concept lends itself to a more twisted take.

The new adaptation will reportedly follow Dennis and his chums as teenagers as they get into trouble with the police. The tone of the show has been compared to Skins, a popular UK series about teens taking drugs and getting jiggy with it. I’m willing to bet that the new Dennis and his gang of miscreants will get up to worse than carrying out pranks.

One can only assume that this older adolescent version of Dennis will smoke cigarettes and get his end away. He’ll have some existential woes too, as is the nature with YA fare of this ilk. His mates will all be troubled in some way, and Gnasher might rip out the postman’s throat with his teeth. If they really want to capture the British teenage experience, he’ll drink a bottle of White Lightning in the middle of a local astroturf football park.

I’m personally interested in seeing how Pie-Face gets reimagined. In the comics, he’s just a simple dimwit who likes eating pies. He has the potential to be given a hardcore stoner makeover in this show. He also seems like the character who seems most destined to experience a personal tragedy. That’s something to look forward to.

Dennis, meanwhile, will likely be the traditional YA archetype who’s troubled but boasts plenty of redeeming qualities. Stick him into a youth detention centre and have him get into fights with corrupt wardens. He should also have a romance with some uppity lad or lass who tries to fix him, but this poor soul can’t be mended. He tries to avoid trouble, but it always finds him.

The Dennis character has always frustrated his poor old mam and dad. Maybe the show will dig into the dysfunctional family dynamic even further. Dennis’ father used to hit him with a slipper, but that disciplinary method was phased out of the stories after the UK government made it illegal for parents to hit their disobedient offspring. The live-action series should bring back the slipper and court controversy.

In the last decade, Dennis the Menace has been tamed quite significantly. Gone are the days of pea-shooters, slingshots, and the character actually being menacing. Barry and co. going all-in with a show about trouble-making is the perfect way to stick it to the system. Maybe they won’t replace his slingshot with semi-automatic weapons, but he might be an insufferable rascal again.

Some Beano fans might baulk at this news, but consider this point: Dennis the Menace has been around since 1951. There’s no harm in trying something different to appeal to modern viewers. The innocent mischievousness of the comic strips and cartoons are key to their evergreen appeal, but it’ll be interesting to see what Barry and co. have in store.