Remakes, reboots, whatever you want to call them, seem to be more prevalent than ever in Hollywood but for as much as we may complain about them, it’s hard to deny that there have been some pretty good ones in recent years (Dredd and the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy spring immediately to mind). However, when it comes to television, reviving old shows seems to be a fool’s errand more often than not, as many rebooted series fail to make it past the first season.
Whether it’s because viewers don’t want to see new versions of shows like Ironside or Knight Rider, or there just being so many better options out there, it’s more difficult than ever for TV remakes to survive, let alone be any good. Fortunately, there have been a handful of revived series over the years that have been as good or even better than the show that inspired them, with the following 10 shows proving that not all remakes are destined to be terrible ideas.
10. Hawaii Five-0
The original Hawaii Five-0 was quite successful in its own right, running for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, making it difficult to imagine what a reboot could possibly offer that the original series didn’t. While police procedurals are hardly ever critical darlings, the Hawaii Five-0 reboot has been one of the better offerings on network TV since its premiere back in 2010. It helps that Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan both make for worthy successors to the original Steve and Danno and up until recently, the show featured two Asian actors — Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim — in prominent roles, which was something to be praised (though the news of the pair being underpaid compared to their co-stars definitely shouldn’t be). The show’s best years are arguably behind it at this point, but the fact that a Hawaii Five-0 reboot worked at all — let alone for 7+ seasons — is remarkable in itself.
The CW’s attempts to remake Melrose Place may have sputtered out quickly, but their Beverly Hills 90210 reboot fared much better, to the surprise of many. The show lasted five seasons and while 90210 owes a good portion of its success to nostalgia for the original series (plus guest appearances from that show’s cast members), it was actually better than it had any right to be. The show struck a nice balance between being a total guilty melodrama and outright ridiculous subplots, and the lineup of new beautiful and young characters were likable for the most part. In an era where TV reboots often fail to make it past the first season, the fact that 90210 stuck around as long as it did — and that it was not only tolerable, but watchable — is a noteworthy accomplishment.
As one of the longest lasting full-hour prime time dramas in American history, Dallas is practically TV royalty at this point, with the show captivating millions of viewers with its famous cliffhangers, most notably the “Who shot J.R.?” mystery. In other words, you’d have to be crazy to launch a reboot and think that it could possibly rival what the original accomplished. While the TNT reboot never came close to rivaling its predecessor, only managing to last three seasons before getting cancelled, the show still managed to carve out its own identity over the course of its brief run thanks to a winning mix of engaging storylines and assistance from various members of the original cast.
V is one of those science fiction properties that just can’t seem to catch a break. The original 1983 miniseries is regarded as one of the best miniseries of all time and even though it successfully spawned a sequel, V: The Final Battle, that concluded the story, there was demand for years to see a proper revival. We finally got one in 2009 with a new series on ABC starring Elizabeth Mitchell and Morena Baccarin and it was actually pretty good! Whereas the ’80s miniseries was an alien invasion story with a clear Nazi allegory, the ABC series took its inspiration from post-9/11 political fears and stigmas.
While uneven in terms of quality, V still delivered a unique sci-fi premise at a time when good sci fi TV shows were hard to come by (and besides, something had to fill the void left by Battlestar Galactica, which ended its run earlier that year). Unfortunately, V never really got a chance to take off, as the series only lasted 22 episodes before falling victim to the cancellation ax.
Both the UK and American versions of Shameless deal with dysfunctional lower-middle class families and you won’t feel good watching either; however, in the early run, you could definitely say that the British Shameless had its American counterpart beat. The first season of the US version, starring William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum, was much like the first season of The Office, in that it adhered too closely to its UK counterpart and didn’t have much identity of its own.
Fortunately, things improved considerably in the second season and while it’s had its ups and downs, the remake has arguably become the better of the two. The British version certainly has its moments, but it’s mired in characters who act more like characters than three-dimensional people, whereas Macy and Rossum, along with the rest of the US edition’s excellent cast, have delivered more nuanced performances that do a better job of balancing comedy and pathos.
5. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Does The Next Generation qualify as a remake? No, technically not, since it has a completely different cast of characters from the original series. Still, TNG was an important milestone in the Star Trek franchise’s history, as it proved that compelling stories could be told in the final frontier without the presence of James Tiberius Kirk or Mr. Spock. Premiering in 1987, The Next Generation seemed to have “bad idea” written all over it (Patrick Stewart reportedly thought it would bomb) but once it worked out its early kinds, the series became just as compelling as the original Trek and even improved it in some ways, most notably in the special effects department, which were considerably more sophisticated than they had been in the mid-60s.
Much of this had to do with the cast, which featured such standouts as Stewart’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data, and LeVar buron as Geordi La Forge, to name a few. While Trek fans are divided over whether or not TNG eclipses the original series, pretty much all would agree that both are worth watching and that’s more than can be said for a few of the Trek series that came later …
4. Doctor Who
More of a revival than a traditional remake or reboot, the 2005 relaunch of the classic British science fiction series Doctor Who marked an important turning point for the series that would see it go from niche cult classic status to worldwide phenomenon (okay, phenomenon may be a tad overzealous, but it’s safe to say that the show’s popularity has never been higher). Originally broadcast in 1963, Doctor Who is one of the longest running TV programs of all time but it’s definitely never been a consistent one in terms of quality. The show hit its lowest point in the ’80s, to the point where it was cancelled in 1989.
Sixteen years later, longtime Who fan Russell T Davies successfully lobbied the BBC to bring the show back, Christopher Eccleston was brought in to play the ninth incarnation of the Doctor, and it soon became clear that the BBC had made the right call. Eccleston was replaced with David Tennant after one season, the latter of whom is considered by many to be the best incarnation of the Doctor, but the show as a whole has successfully survived numerous recastings and creative switch-ups behind the scenes to become better than it ever was before the revival. With the series just having cast Jodie Whitaker as its first female Doctor, Doctor Who remains one of television’s most vibrant and well-loved sci fi offerings.
3. House of Cards
The name “House of Cards” has become synonymous with Netflix’s original programming block, as the series helped establish the streaming service as a destination for prestige dramas that could compete with the likes of HBO and FX, among others. However, what some viewers may not realize is that the Netflix series is actually an American remake of a BBC series from the ’90s. The British version of House of Cards starred Ian Richardson as a fictional Chief Whip for Margaret Thatcher during the last years of her tenure as Prime Minister and is considered to be one of the best political dramas of all time.
Understandably, there was concern that an American remake wouldn’t be able to live up to that legacy and while it’s debatable whether or not the story of Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood and his rise to power in Washington has surpassed the British series, it’s at least been on par with it. Either way, you really can’t go wrong with either version of House of Cards if intense political dramas are your cup of tea, to borrow a distinctly British expression.
2. The Office
The original UK version of The Office is considered to be one of the most important comedy series of the 2000s, so when it was announced that NBC was developing an American edition, there was understandable skepticism. And when The Office remake premiered in 2005, that skepticism appeared to be justified, as the first season adhered much too closely to the original show’s direction and lacked much identity of its own (the pilot was essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the UK pilot).
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for things to turn around, as the show really came into its own in the second and third seasons (arguably the best in the series) and despite a dip in quality toward the end, The Office managed to run much longer than its UK counterpart and is the preferred version of many (although the UK Office still has a loyal and passionate following). Whichever version of The Office you prefer, it’s hard to deny that the American edition is one of the best remakes in television history.
1. Battlestar Galactica
The original Battlestar Galactica was a late ’70s sci fi show released at a time when interest in the genre was at an all-time high thanks to the success of Star Wars just a year prior. The show spawned a single season and a 10 episode revival called Galactica 1980, but seemed destined to be remembered as a short-lived, hokey space opera until Ronald D. Moore came along with his concept for a full revival.
Whatever its faults, the original Battlestar Galactica had a sound premise — the last human survivors of a genocidal attack by a race of machines must seek a new home among the stars — and Moore recognized this. His Battlestar Galactica was grittier, darker, and didn’t pull any punches in its examination of politics, terrorism, torture, and pretty much any other moral dilemma you could imagine popping up in a story about the fallout of a nuclear holocaust. Though its final season went off the rails at a bit with increasingly convoluted mythology, the series is now regarded as one of the best science fiction TV shows ever and better than the original in pretty much every way.