News broke today that Netflix is ordering a new series based on The Magic School Bus series of children's books, having noted enduring interest in its '90s animated series from subscribers. This is exciting news, but the press release contains a few chilling details: the revamped show will be called The Magic School Bus 360° (this isn't 2005, guys) and will feature a "modernized" Ms. Frizzle.
Excuse me. Ms. Frizzle does not need modernizing. She has always been one step ahead of everyone else. Voiced by Lily Tomlin in the '90s series, she was basically an extra-dimensional time lord who could handle any crisis (dinosaur attack, surfing the acid waves of a student's digestive system) while always carrying out her prime directive of educating her charges. Assuming Tomlin is gracefully retiring from the role, who should take up the frizzy mantle of bus captain?
The statuesque Brit plays one of the toughest ladies on TV, Game of Thrones' Brienne of Tarth, and lacks the…let's call it…intense Jewishness we expect of Ms. Frizzle. It would probably be a step backwards for the tribe to have one of its most famous representatives voiced by a tall blonde English lady. But Christie projects real authority and she's about to be in Star Wars, dammit. Strike while the iron is hot!
She just exudes class. When you see her face, you know that Masterpiece is about to begin. This would be a very, very refined Magic School Bus, where they don't get in the bus much, mostly just stay in dusty libraries reading books about outer space instead. Laura Linney's Ms. Frizzle would stand at the front, smiling calmly, and turn her face to smile at the camera, but with just the right amount of subtlety. Laura Linney can invest any character with a deep well of humanity.
Christie's got the presence and Linney's got the class, but Natasha Lyonne has been there and done that. When the students get sucked up Arnold's nose and land in his digestive tract, she's not gonna panic. She's gonna calmly point out amylase enzymes catalyzing starch into sugars because she knows what is up. Plus, Natasha Lyonne is a husky-voiced Jewish-American icon. She can pick up Lily Tomlin's torch and run with it.
Career arc-wise, this would be a perfect fit. Lily Tomlin took the role of Ms. Frizzle as she entered into a new professional phase, transitioning from lead roles in movies back to smaller character work and television. Lisa Bonet has been in this business since the early '80s, but she has a whole new act awaiting her, and this is where it begins. Bonet as Ms. Frizzle would be a fairly relaxed and would maybe do a good amount of folky singing. She would also draw the Gen X audience, which is what any Netflix show needs to stay afloat.
Note: Julia Roberts can only be cast in this role if she has her perm from My Best Friend's Wedding, because that's the kind of curly hair America can believe in. Roberts might be a little obvious but Ms. Frizzle has the kind of manic I-can-do-anything energy in the '90s series that borders on the psychotic. So I want Julia Roberts, in her contemporary character actress mode, with mid-'90s hair and Erin Brockovich Oscar-speech egomania.
I know no one thinks Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is worth watching anymore, but Ming Na-Wen is basically in training for the Ms. Frizzle role over there. She's a cool-headed pilot of a plane they literally call "the bus." She's a master at keeping secrets which will be useful when Arnold gets nervous that the class is about to get sucked into a nebula and die and Ms. Frizzle needs to assure them of their safety. This would not be a happy-go-lucky Frizzle, but it's not a happy-go-lucky world. These kids need to learn science just to keep pace with modern society.
Yes, yes, I know. You can't believe you didn't think of it yourself. It's been staring you in the face this whole time. Of course Lisa Kudrow should be Ms. Frizzle. Job done, thanks guys.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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