Back from the Dead: TV Revivals Won’t Go Away

Remakes, reboots and sequels, Oh my…Is this TV trend a hit or miss?
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Tracy Phillips
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Remakes, reboots and sequels, Oh my…Is this TV trend a hit or miss?

In Hollywood, dead doesn’t always mean dead. Dead characters pop back up all the time. Now, cancelled shows are, too. Perhaps more than ever, there’s a big trend in making old shows new again.

We can grouse about Hollywood being out of ideas, but there’s more to it than that. Because the Hollywood well isn’t dry. Quite the opposite, we’re flooded with so much on TV right now – over 300 original series will air this year, and we’ve lost count on the number of channels – that it’s too easy for shows to get lost in the shuffle.

The nostalgia factor is a huge draw, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fail-safe plan; in fact, the majority of remakes fail. Even ones that are dearly beloved and generate huge buzz can fizzle. Case in point: Netflix’s revival of Arrested Development rode a wave of massive enthusiasm, only to receive very uneven reviews.

But that doesn’t stop them (well, NBC smartly chose to can its proposed remake of Craig T. Nelson’s Coach). Several other reboots are currently airing this fall -- The Muppets, Heroes Reborn and The Odd Couple, along with two new shows based on movies, Limitless and Minority Report.

There have been a few winning reboots, such as FX’s Fargo; CBS’s Hawaii Five-O, A&E’s Bates Motel, and Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica (2004).

Some were so-so, like 90210 (2008), V (2009), Dallas (2012) and A&E’s The Returned (2015).

And then there’s the outright disasters (cancelled almost immediately): Ironside (2013), Charlie’s Angels (2011), Prime Suspect (2011), Melrose Place (2009), Knight Rider (2008), Bionic Woman (2007), The Fugitive (2000) and Fantasy Island (1998), among others.

Regardless of the track record, it’s a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.

Here, we weigh in on five upcoming reboots slated for 2016:

5. Gilmore Girls

While everybody is already freaking out over this one, let’s reiterate that the POTENTIAL Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls has yet to be confirmed officially. That said, there are enough details out in the press that make it seem as if a GG limited series could really, really, be happening, you guys!

A darling family drama with a loyal following, Gilmore Girls originally ran from 2000—2007 and was best known for its highly caffeinated banter between everybody’s favorite mother-daughter duo of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and their interactions with the quirky residents of the quaint little town of Stars Hollow.

Pros: Alexis Bledel, Lauren Graham, Kelly Bishop and Scott Patterson, plus Rory’s beau hunks, are all expected to return.

Plus, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino is back at the helm, y’all. (You know, allegedly.) And that’s great news, considering she wasn’t there for the final season (she left after contract disputes) to end the show the way she had originally intended. Having GG end without ASP just didn’t feel right, and now the Stars Hollow universe can be course-corrected.

Cons: Grandpa’s gone; co-star Edward Hermann, who played Lorelai’s dad Richard, passed away in 2014. Another beloved, albeit not crucial, member of the ensemble is expected to be MIA: Sookie St. James. That would be because her portrayer, Melissa McCarthy, has a massive movie career now (thanks, Bridesmaids!).

4. Prison Break

Described as “a bit of a sequel,” the Prison Break revival brings back the badass brothers Michael and Lincoln, played by Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell. Fox CEO and co-chairman Dana Walden had this to say when the limited event series was announced at TCA over the summer: “It picks up with the characters several years after we left them in the last season of the show. The brothers will be back. Some of the iconic characters from that show will be back. Over the ten-episode arc, it definitely will address some questions that were set up at the end of the series.”

Pros: Prison Break was always a riveting-but-limiting concept. If they can make it another high-octane thrill ride, they’ve got something.

Cons: Prison Break was always a riveting-but-limiting concept. Where do they go from here? Especially since it sure looked like Michael died the last time we saw him! They’d better have something great in mind, or viewers will make a break for it.

3. Twin Peaks

Who wants some cherry pie? The ‘90s cult obsession is back 25 years later as a Showtime limited series that’s a continuation of the story from the original, slated to air in late 2016.

Pros: Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and his damn fine cup of coffee are back, along with several other unnamed original cast members and some “big surprises.” It’s in the hands of series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, who are on board to write and executive produce the nine-plus new episodes. And chances are, even if you weren’t in on it from the beginning, you’ve no doubt heard about the obsession over “Who killed Laura Palmer?” so audience turn out should be flush with new and old fans alike.

Cons: The show was ahead of its time, was truly bizarre and was cancelled after just one season. While its status as the cult show of all cult shows stands, there are more dark and twisty shows on TV now than ever, making a return to Twin Peaks something of a gamble. Still, enthusiasm for this one is high.

2. The X-Files

“TRUST NO ONE.” The highly anticipated six-episode limited series from Chris Carter reunites TV’s super (odd) couple, Agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), with familiar faces in tow, including Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and The Lone Gunmen. And what would The X-Files be without the Cigarette Smoking Man? Get ready to get your spook on, beginning Sunday, Jan. 24 at 10/9c on FOX, following the NFC Championship Game.

Pros: “I want to believe”…that this will be great. There are a lot of reasons it can be—mostly because the chemistry between Mulder and Scully is still there, even if they’re on the rocks now. And it comes from a strong legacy as a pop-culture phenomenon, with a successful nine-season run that also produced two feature films and has a rabid army of obsessed fans.

Cons: The truth is STILL out there…does anybody even remember what the mystery is anymore??? Besides aliens.

1. Full House

Have mercy! The classic family sitcom that originally ran from 1987-1995 as part of ABC’s TGIF line-up is back in da house. A 13-episode sequel series called Fuller House (seriously) is slated to air in 2016 on Netflix. It will kick-off with a one-hour reunion episode featuring the core cast, including Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, Lori Loughlin and, yes, the crush-worthiest Uncle of All Time, John Stamos. Then its spins-off to feature Candace Cameron Bure’s character D.J. Tanner as the central figure with a similar premise as the original; she’s a pregnant widow with two kids whose sister Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) move in to help her.

Pros: The nostalgia factor is high. Expect a good sampling, at least initially, for the curiosity factor. And did we mention Uncle Jesse? John Stamos will produce and guest star the Full House sequel.

Cons: No Olsen Twins. Ashley and Mary-Kate are opting out, since the mini-moguls don’t act anymore (and are bazillionaires). Uncle Jesse isn’t a regular, so that may lessen the draw on a regular basis. It’s also on Netflix, so if you’re not a member of the subscription-based service, you’re out of luck. And let’s be honest, what charmed us in the 80s may not be as charming today.