Leslie Nielsen was a known, straight-up character actor before appearing in Airplane – his tiny appearance in The Kentucky Fried Movie aside – and this baggage was part of what made his comedy roles work so well for audiences at the time.
But only a part. The rest was the unwinking, authentically dramatic acting he practised, ironically pitching his straight face and dry delivery against a ludicrous context and content.
This goes for Nielsen's stand-out comedy role too, as Lt. Frank Drebin in the utterly fantastic Police Squad and its Naked Gun spin-off movies.
But plans to reboot the Naked Gun series seem to have missed the point entirely. Variety say Thomas Lennon and R. Ben Garant are writing a new movie to star Ed Helms as Drebin.
Not only does Helms bring comedy baggage – and a particular type too, seeming closer to Clouseau than Drebin – he's not demonstrated the dramatic chops necessary to pull of the same tricks as Nielsen.
So if this Naked Gun is to operate anything like the old one, I fear it might be about to shoot some blanks.
Or maybe the new concept is remarkably different, Helms is the right man for that approach and we can forget about comparisons to Nielsen… but that sounds unlikely, right?
Anyway, what are the odds on an OJ Simpson joke or five?