If you have eyes and ears or any combination of senses, you may have noticed a lot of recycling going on in the movies and TV coming out recently. There’s the endless sequels (Transformers) and pointless remakes (Baywatch) which are being blamed for this summer’s poor box office haul. And we’ve already talked about network TV’s current hot trend of rebooting or reviving shows to cash in on our sweet nostalgia.
Frankly, I’m exhausted just thinking about it all. And I’m not alone, since the trend doesn’t seem to have a consistent rate of success. Battlestar Galactica is still the gold standard of reboots, while the return of Twin Peaks is a shining example of how a revival can feel new and satisfying. In both cases, they were not trying reproduce exactly the thing that came before. And they also came back to our screens after plenty of time had passed, which I think matters for two reasons: it opens the show up to a whole new generation of fans rather than catering solely to the original base, and it opens the concept up for innovation because the original isn’t as fresh in people’s minds.
Logic seems to dictate that the whole point of a reboot or revival is the recognition factor. Why rehash an old idea unless it’s one you know people care about? That’s why Star Trek has been rebooted and Star Wars keeps getting sequels, but nobody has touched, I dunno, fucking Zardoz. But that is also a nakedly cynical and money-grasping point of view, because it’s stacking the deck with an audience before bothering to consider the artistic value of the endeavor. Fargo on FX took the name recognition, but used it to build entirely new stories in a universe that felt like the one the Coen Brothers had created. As an artistic exercise, it had merit. Even the rise of the modern anthology series seems like a safe way to build new concepts, all protectively couched within an umbrella of brand recognition. A sub-par season of American Horror Story won’t necessarily tarnish the brand or keep people from coming back for the next season, which is the TV equivalent of having the cake and eating it too.
On the other hand, trying out new concepts doesn’t guarantee the huge payday, which is perhaps why we’re seeing a dearth of mid-budget films in a sea of indies and blockbusters. And sure, cable channels, networks and streaming services like Netflix are throwing tons of cash around for scripted shows — but the landscape is becoming so cluttered with options that any guarantee of buzz (from casting, reviews, or yes, even nostalgia) to help a given show rise above the others becomes a valuable asset.
It’s all got me wondering: is there a way to split the difference? And I think there is: just rehash shows that were failures the first time around. See, that way you get to leverage an existing concept without investing as much time and resources into developing it from scratch by remaking/reviving/rehashing something that a) isn’t so beloved it could alienate people, and b) still has room for artistic license. It can’t be a boring property, obviously, but maybe it doesn’t have to be so beloved either. So, Hollywood: I’ve put together a short, targeted, carefully curated list of random shows that are perfect — and if you don’t recognize them, thats ok! Remember, they’re failures. Simply put: you have the chance to make these better. You’re welcome.
This sci-fi show aired on NBC for all of one season (1994-1995), meaning it left even less of an impression on the collective imagination than the original Battlestar Galactica or even Earth 2’s channel partner SeaQuest DSV. To be fair though, SeaQuest had the benefit of a talking dolphin in basically every episode, while Earth 2 made the mistake of hiring Tim Curry in a reoccurring part but only sticking him in like 5 episodes. Still, the premise has promise: A small expedition, lead by a wealthy woman with a sick kid, sets out to colonize an Earth-ish planet. Only they have to contend with the planet’s existing predominant species, one of which is has telepathic powers and the other of which has magic healing spit. So, you know, you get a lady leader AND immigration issues! Talk about topical! Also, Clancy Brown was in it, being fucking rad as always. He should definitely be involved in any reboot. Duh.
Never heard of it? I don’t know why not! It was exec produced by Sam Raimi/Rob Tapert (the guys behind Hercules and Xena, not to mention the awesome American Gothic) and starred the always incredible Gina Torres (Firefly). But forget pedigree — this is a show that is all about the plot: a stripper named Cleopatra awakens from her cryogenic sleep (induced by doctors after complications from a botched boob job…) over 500 years in the future, to find that robots have driven mankind off the surface of the planet and into an elaborate system of underground shafts. Also, genetic mutation is a black market business, and bared midriffs are apparently considered formal attire. Reboot it, revive it — hell, buy the rights and just air it as is and pretend it’s new. This is the show we need in our lives.
Whatever Happy Hour you think I’m referring to, I guarantee this isn’t it. For a brief stint lasting only a few short months in 1999, Dweezil and Ahmet Zappa hosted a variety/game show on USA. Weird Al, Lisa Loeb, Patton Oswalt, Chuck Woolery, and a coterie of other deeper-cut quasi-celebs showed up as panelists. The party games were bizarre (at one point, contestants had to identify candy bars based on cross-section pictures), and the prizes even more so. The dancing girls seem unnecessary, and while Dweezil is a great guitarist… let’s just say Ahmet isn’t half the singer Tom Jones is. A lot of the segments involved sing-alongs that encouraged home participation (and, let’s be honest, drinking). And yet, there is just so much batshit weird potential to the show, which feels like a themed bar night with a shoestring TV show budget and bartender hosts. It was ahead of it’s time. Give this one a full revival. I’m sure the Zappa boys would be down. Here’s a clip, for your edification: