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Why Does TV Continue to Reboot and Remake Properties When Their Success Rate Is So Anemic?

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | October 12, 2015 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | October 12, 2015 |

There’s an Uncle Buck series coming to television soon. There’s a Twelve Monkeys TV series that I believe has already aired (I don’t know anyone who watched it). There’s an American Psycho TV sequel in the works. Fantasy Island is being rebooted, again. Lethal Weapon and MacGyver seres are in the works. The A-Team is coming back. Fox is making a TV show based on Behind the Enemy Lines. Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is getting a TV series. Real Genius, Big, The Money Pit and the Devil’s Advocate have all had TV series that were put into development or currently are still in development. Amazon is developing Galaxy Quest.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg in the reboot/remake/film adaptation department for television. I’d understand it if remakes and reboots were actually successful. They’re not. Most of them never make it out of development. The ones that do rarely succeed into a second season, and even those that do manage to survive that long aren’t ratings hits. Take Battlestar Galactica out of the equation, and what has really, honestly worked? Not just with critics, but with viewers, as well?

i understand this in the movie world. There, it works. Even if the remakes are terrible, they’re usually profitable. And if they fail, they just remake them again (Fantastic Four, Nightmare on Elm Street). We’ll plunk down $8 out of curiosity to see a movie remake, but we won’t invest 13 hours or 22 hours into a TV remake.

Why? I have no idea.

Here’s all the reboots/remakes/film adaptations I could think of off the top of my head. How many have been unqualified successes? One or two, maybe.

So the question remains: Why does TV continue to try?

About a Boy — Middling ratings, lasted two seasons.

Battlestar Galactica — Huge success, ran for four seasons, and practically launched the Sci-Fi Channel.

Beauty and the Beast — Has been renewed for a fourth season on the CW, but I had no idea it was even still on.

Beverly Hills Cop — Never made it to air.

Bionic Woman — Cancelled after eight episodes.

Coach — Scrapped during production.

Charlie’s Angels — Cancelled after eight episodes.

Cupid — Cancelled after seven episodes.

Dallas — After a strong start, Dallas faltered and was cancelled by TNT after three seasons.

Fargo — A huge hit with critics, but a low-rated first season for FX.

The Firm — Cancelled after less than a season.

The Fugitive — A series remade into a movie revived as a TV series with Tim Daly, it was cancelled after one season.

Girl Meets World — Two seasons in, and it’s working well for the Disney Channel.

Hannibal — Great series! Nobody watched it. It was cancelled after three seasons, though NBC dragged it along two seasons beyond what the audience supported.

Hawaii Five-0 — Entering its sixth season. Decent ratings, but only old people watch it on CBS.

Heroes — Started soft on NBC and doesn’t have a chance in hell at a second season.

Ironside — Cancelled on NBC after nine episodes.

Kojack — I forgot this one even existed. It starred Ving Rhames, and was cancelled by the USA Network after 9 episodes.

Knight Rider — Cancelled after 17 episodes.

Limitless — A success for CBS, among a mostly older demographic.

Minority Report — Terrible ratings its first season, and it’s already had its episode order reduced from 13 to 10 episodes. Cancellation is inevitable.

Mockingbird Lane — Bryan Fuller’s Munsters reboot only aired the pilot, after the series had been scrapped.

The Muppets — Decent ratings out of the gate, but three episodes in, and the viewing public is quickly losing interest.

Prime Suspect — Cancelled after less than a season.

Rockford Files — Never made it to air.

Scream — Achingly boring MTV series that somehow managed a second season.

Twilight Zone — Aired for one season on UPN.

V — Cancelled after 22 episodes.

90210 — A modest success on the CW, it ran for five seasons.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.