Let’s face it. Hollywood loves a good remake/reboot/revival as much as it likes original programming. So why not ask Hollywood for revivals that we would actually want to watch?
As Doctor Who has proven, polishing up your effects and modernizing your scripts can give your old show a new lease on life. I found eight shows that I would happily watch a reboot of, given the right 21st-century polish and production values, and gave my reasons why now would be a good time for a production company to snag the rights. And soon maybe we'll be watching the next Doctor Who ...
... whose effects once looked like this:
The Incredible Hulk / Wonder Woman
There are hours of comic book-based television to enjoy on the air right now, but it wasn’t the first time Hollywood had turned to the funny papers. The 1970s had a slew of superhero shows, and Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were two of the better ones to appear.
Wonder Woman gave us the best female lead on television until Scully helped open the The X-Files, and The Incredible Hulk was quite poignant in places, thanks to the performance of Bill Bixby; seriously, one episode of The Incredible Hulk put a lump in my 9-year-old self’s throat.
Both shows didn’t have many special effects, but the ones they had suffered from constant reuse, from Diana’s transformative twirl to slo-mo swapping out Bixby with the suitably muscular Lou Ferrigno.
These two deserve to compete against other comic-book shows. Diana could serve as a sweet-natured counterpart to the angsty Jessica Jones, and The Incredible Hulk, who helps people while looking for a cure for that pesky gamma-irridation problem, was made for a story-of-the-week/mytharc format.
The Outdated Special Effects:
Neverwhere was a short six-part BBC series, and boy, could it use a remake. Written by Neil Gaiman and later adapted into a novel, Neverwhere is about London Below, a land beneath the real-world London. Richard Mayhew comes to the aid of a mysterious girl, Door, and for his pains, he is rendered invisible in the real world and visible only to the denizens of London Below. He ventures downward to get his life back, where he encounters bazaars, rat speakers, beasts, assassins, angels, and eventually, Door.
I read the novel first, and it filled my head with wondrous locations. The TV show in no way lived up to my expectations. Worse, it was made in 1996, but the sound, the lighting, the effects were dated even as it was airing. (See for yourself.)
So why update this now? Because when Gaiman’s American Gods is undoubtedly successful, Hollywood will be looking for another Gaiman property. Neverwhere is otherworldly yet of this world. I see plenty of opportunity for new storytelling.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 3:20]:
You've been warned.
Dear gods, it’s the 80s.
That’s what I think when I revisit Max Headroom, the dystopian series where television dominates the lives of the citizenry. And some of their delivery methods (concentrated advertising, memory implants, etc.) have gone awry and become weaponized. Journalist Edison Carter and colleagues uncover the shady-doings of the executives who run the country.
In the TV movie that preceded the show, Carter is injured in a motorcycle accident (and the last thing he see is “Max Headroom,” maximum headroom, on a ramp above him). Fearing a loss of ratings, the CEO of his network has a techie upload his consciousness into a computer. Thus, digital character Max Headroom is born to spread chaos and social commentary across televisions everywhere.
No thanks to its camerawork and lighting, Max Headroom looks painfully dated. But with episodes that include terrorists who work with the media, there’s a strange prescience that could speak to modern audiences.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 27:41]:
The 1977-1978 comedy Quark was a better concept than it was an actual show. Our hero isn’t the captain of an important starship: Quark heads a garbage scow. The characters include Ficus, who is half human/half plant; Gene/Jean, a person with male and female chromosomes who flips gender; and Betty 1 and Betty 2, a woman and her clone (and no one knows which is which).
Science fiction comedies are rarities on television, but as Red Dwarf and Futurama have proven, when they’re done well, they’re brilliant. Quark has all the building blocks of funny. It just needs the right architect. Now that the highly-anticipated Galaxy Quest has been put on hold, Quark could fill that particular gap in sci-fi comedy. And my soul.
Also, now would be the perfect time for a healthy dose of comedy to go along with our conversations on gender identity issues, thanks to the character of Gene/Jean.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 6:30]:
Acclaimed science fiction writer Harlan Ellison wrote the bible for this short-lived Canadian show about a massive colony ship, separated into dozens of biospheres. But the biospheres had been sealed off from each other, creating pockets of divergent development. Meanwhile, the navigation system is damaged, and it’s up to three people from an Amish-like community to save the remnants of human civilization.
Again, another awesome concept. But unlike Quark and other shows with terrific premises, The Starlost was genuinely scuppered by its effects: According to Wikipedia:
Originally, the show was to be filmed with a special effects camera system developed by Doug Trumbull called Magicam…. The motion of both cameras was synchronized and scaled appropriately, allowing both the camera and the actors to move through model sets. The technology did not work reliably. In the end, simple blue screen effects were used, forcing static camera shots.
The failure of the Magicam system was a major blow — as the Canadian studio space that had been rented was too small to build the required sets.
Now that effects are cheaper, it would be wonderful to see the incomparable Ellison’s original vision. Since he’s 82, now would be the time to get his input.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 18:54]:
Many of the shows in this article have wonderful concepts, even if their scripts couldn’t live up to their challenges. Space: 1999’s premise, on the other hand, is ludicrous: The crew of Moonbase Alpha become unwitting passengers on an unlikely space station, 'cuz the moon breaks free from Earth and floats away into a black hole.
But Space: 1999 earned its place on this list for a reason. It wasn’t about heroes fighting the obvious bad guy. The protagonists aren’t in control of their fate. Each week, the crew spends their time dealing with the problems in front of them, and usually the problems are ethically challenging. For example, in one episode, an AI offers to send the Moonbasers home...but only if one of them stays behind with it. That's a tough subject, even in 2016.
So why reboot this now? Barbara Bain was 44 when the show first aired. It’s about damned time for science fiction to get another mature woman in a leading role.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 1:36]:
The Time Tunnel
If done well, time travel can be done beautifully. But we already have Doctor Who. Why remake a show that covers the same concept?
Because despite it being purely science fiction, The Time Tunnel was very much grounded in reality. The time travel project was made with government funding…and has government oversight. Our protagonists are two scientists lost in time, but General Kirk, who heads Project Tic Toc, can monitor them from the present, give advice, and when called for, send help back to the lost scientists. Help includes sending them a doctor, who goes back to the past while recognizing he can never return to the present.
Considering how aware modern audiences are of the work our governments do—for better or worse—it would be nice to see hard-working government officials enriching our lives. (P.S. I miss you, Stargate.)
Note: A pilot was produced in 2002 but was not picked up. Firefly was.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 8:53]:
For realz: It’s a floodlight.
I loved the BBC series Blake’s 7, despite its tragic late 70s/early 80s production quality. It was like the crew of the Enterprise, if the Federation were evil and the characters hated each other. When we first meet telepath Cally, she tells our hero, “May you die alone and silent.” Jenna the pilot knows how to use her feminine wiles to her advantage. In one of my favorite hours of television, the cold-hearted Avon tries to hunt down and kill his shipmate Vila.
Our hero, a freedom fighter who has been sent to a prison planet on trumped-up charges of child molestation—yeah, the BBC went there—escapes with a few other Federation-hating misfits and steals an alien ship. The Federation, headed by the sexy, powerful, and evil Servalan, wants the ship for itself, and it wants Blake and Co. dead. Seriously, Blake’s 7 was dark before dark was trendy.
Sadly, rumors of a Blake’s 7 remake have been greatly exaggerated. But if the BBC, or any network, want a property ripe for a reboot, they should look no further.
The Outdated Special Effects [start at 47:55]:
A look at other reboots
Reboots that are currently in pre-production:
The Greatest American Hero
Lost in Space
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
Reboots that are currently airing:
Shows that have already been remade, with varying degrees of success
The Bionic Woman