Perhaps you have seen advertisements for YouTube’s exclusive series Cobra Kai, a follow-up to the 1984 film Karate Kid. Now, I have railed previously in this space against Hollywood’s creatively empty reliance on reboots and adaptations, but I will admit Cobra Kai piqued my interest.
Comedic spins on old properties produced hilarious results with 2004’s Starsky & Hutch and 2012’s 21 Jump Street, and the advertising campaign introducing Cobra Kai hints at a more tongue-in-cheek approach to the coming-of-age Karate Kid.
What’s more, that the villainous Cobra Kai dojo earns top billing in the title. Likewise, lead Karate Kid antagonist Billy Zabka dominates the ad blitz, suggesting his character, Johnny Lawrence, is the series’ lead. A sort of absurdist Rashomon take on the beloved movie is different enough to avoid my reboot wrath.
Something else in the advertising campaign — which includes a perfectly cheesy spoof of real strip-mall dojo marketing — caught my eye: a Hotmail (outstanding touch) account associated with Cobra Kai.
Seeing this, I decided I would be derelict in my duties as a journalist if I didn’t email. So, I fired off a note to the man himself, Johnny Lawrence, asking about Chas Osborne.
For those not as obsessed with campy 1980s fare as I, Chas Osborne is the antagonist of 1986 comedy hit Back to School. Zabka had quite a niche in the Me Decade playing athletic, preppy bullies, moving from the mats of the All-Valley Karate Tournament, to collegiate high-dive competition at Grand Lakes University.
Now, I figured Cobra Kai wouldn’t advertise a working email address without having some kind of response lined up — though I presumed an automated reply, like an embedded JPG marketing the show, would arrive.
I did not anticipate this:
Am I fully aware this personalized response came from someone in the studio’s marketing department, possibly even an intern in their early 20s? Yes.
Am I going to convince myself Billy Zabka, in character as Johnny Lawrence, responded directly with a nice little word play acknowledging the reference? Oh, hell yes.