Reboot: Why The New Hot Thing In Television Still Feels Old

Television executives seem to think that the guarantee to success is to remake something that was hot a few decades ago - without realizing that these remakes usually flop. The NY Times tries to find a method to their madness.

Which remakes did they pick for the upcoming television season?

Among the most prominent projects under consideration as new series next fall are these familiar names: "The Rockford Files" on NBC; "Charlie's Angels" on ABC; and "Hawaii Five-O" on CBS.

Sigh. Why, just why? The article goes on to explain the problems that arise when updating the classics:

The issue of how much to remake and how much to reinvent has dogged previous efforts at bringing back familiar shows and characters. Fans and those who merely have heard of the old hits have tended to turn up for the initial episodes (and for two hours' worth of a movie rendering), but have not stayed around once they got a whiff of what the new version was really like.

"The identity of a hit TV series is so intimately tied to the original stars, style and attitude that made it a hit in the first place that any deviation from that creates a real sense of aesthetic dissonance," said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University.

"This may be one case where an established brand is more a liability than an asset. In television, it's a much safer approach to rip off an old idea than to try to remake one. It's a perfectly plausible plan to develop a new TV show about three beautiful women fighting crime in fabulous clothes; maybe not such a good idea to call it ‘Charlie's Angels.' "

Generally speaking, for every good remake, there's enough horrible ones to kill the idea outright. Doctor Who turned out well - 90210, Melrose Place, and Knight Rider should have all been left in the time capsule.

Dodai mentioned Three's Company, which was awesome but probably would not survive an update in tact. They'd kill off the Ropers, change the title to Threesomes and ensure the female leads were generally drunk or in a hot tub. And while the other Jezebels mentioned some truly awesome shows (Today's Special, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Get Smart, One Day At A Time, Ghostwriter, Square One) most of them would probably be too interesting to garner executive level attention.

However, there are a few shows that would lend themselves well too an update. Here are a few I'd like to see:

It's a Real Different World

Original Concept: A Different World, the Cosby Show spin-off that inspired many black students to pursue a Historically Black College or University (HBCUs).

Sample Scene:

Update: In the grips of a recession, and with a whopping one out of three students dropping out of college before completion, the landscape at Hillman would look very, very different. The new series should revolve around the co-ed dorms, where the broke and jobless congregate around the shared Xbox. Would love to see a character that is Dwayne Wayne and Whitley Gilbert's daughter.

Captain Planet: The Kyoto Protocols

Original Concept: Captain Planet, the first multi-cultural show about ecological issues. Gaia was fly, and everyone wanted one of those rings.

Sample Scene:

Update: Captain Planet: The Kyoto Protocols would explore why the hell the planet is still in peril - our slacker ass governments and consumers that would rather buy their way green instead of following the old-school principle of reduce, reuse, and recycle.

21 Jump Street: How High?

Original Concept: 21 Jump Street, bane of Johnny Depp's existence and a popular show heavy on cameos and after-school special style PSAs.

Sample Scene:

Update: While I kind of want to spend the rest of the week watching all the old episodes on YouTube (with their 80s awesomeness), 21 Jump Street: How High could easily replicate the old model of cool teenagers pretending to be cops. Just give them some new social issues to play with, like meth labs, Oxycontin, Adderall, and PTSD for young soldiers. And a Johnny Depp 2.0 would be nice. (The bad/good news is: a new 21 Jump Street is in the works.)

Dude Ranch

Original Concept: Hey Dude, the old Nickelodeon show about kids living on a dude ranch.

Intro Clip (all the sample clips were altered):

Update: This one was all Intern Madeline's idea, who wrote

"Honestly, I miss Hey Dude on Nick, featuring a very young Christine Taylor. That show was great. It could have some sort of Wild West conservation angle now, or be an organic farm, or an eco-tourist ranch that features the hijinks of the crazy rich city folk who come to learn how to get in touch with nature. And don't tell me there isn't a way to update it to include some underaged hotties with overdeveloped pecs and crazy martial-arts skills-there is always a way."

Agreed.

Why Studios Keep Cranking Out TV Remakes, Despite the Flops
[NY Times]
Infographic of the Day: Is College Really Worth It? [Fast Company]