TV Fanatic Asks: When Should a Network Revive a Show?

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We are seeing a growing trend with network bringing back older shows.

For example, this fall a new version of Hawaii Five-O is on tap. This is generally refer to this as “reimagining a classic." However, in a lot cases, the opposite is the result and one's memory of a series is destroyed forever.

So, why do the networks continue to trot out these recycled programs? The short answer is: they don’t all fail. But many have failed to hit the mark entirely.

What makes the “reimagining” works for some and fail for others? I believe there are some key elements that will give any reimagined show a good chance of succeeding. Especially if you look at what has worked and failed.  Here are some prime examples:

Battlestar Gallactica is really the holy grail. BSG succeeded against the odds. Creatively, it used the old show's cylons as “early models” (cleverly showing them in a museum) and the classic “viper class” fighter as an “old reliable model."

Battlestar Gallactica Picture

Further, it worked in the unique names from the original as call signs for the pilots. The one area it could have truly failed was the overuse of CGI and special effects. BSG could have easily allowed modern special effects to drive the show. Instead, it showed great restraint in not over using the effects and actually created effects that looked like it had human error in it with cameras going out of focus and being giggly during CGI shots.

This is the show all revamped or reimaged shows want to be.

V is in the middle of the road. It has done well enough to come back in January, but not as well as the network would like. When ABC started advertising V's return last November, it stirred up a lot excitement. However, after its four episodes ran, the ratings never recovered after a long hiatus.

It had better success after a serious change in production and writing staff before it came back in 2010. Part of what gave the show any chance of succeeding was that it was smart enough to keep the original concept of “Lizard aliens coming to Earth disguised as humans” without overly complicating it too much.

However, despite its best intentions, it is being crushed by too much over thinking of the story line. The incredibly slow pace the over-arching story has been taking, and, after better than a dozen episodes they have barely shown the visitors in their “natural” form. The production and writing staff changes helped, but it still has room to grow if they want to increase their viewers.

Looking Happy

Knight Rider is a great example of failed potential. The two-hour pilot met with big ratings. It did a great job of paying tribute to (and mentioning) its past. Not only did they mention the original car, but it had David Hassellhoff make a cameo as the original Michael Knight (and the new Michael’s father) at the end of the pilot.

Sadly, when the series aired they seem to have forgotten what made the show work the first time around and made two key mistakes.

The first major mistake was when it took the concept of “one man can make a difference” where Michael was helping individual people with large problems and it tried to turn it into more of a “secret government operation” with Michael working for the government.

The second major mistake was that with this new “government agent” story, it had more than twice the cast of the original, not to mention all the extra staff at “home base” that just roamed in and out of the scenes. This caused Michael to not feel like the hero he should have been.

I think the writers realized this a little too late as the last several episodes they trimmed the cast down to four and tried to get back to the more basic idea of “one man can make a difference." However, it was a little too late as the series had lost more than half the viewers.

From the big successes to the worst failures, we can see some key elements to all these shows. First, remember and pay tribute to your roots. Second, if it worked the first time, don’t try to fix it. Third, don’t over think the whole thing.

For example, Hawaii Five-O is starting with a lot of potential. From what I have seen in the trailer, it seems to remember at least one iconic thing about the original show, as the preview has Alex O’Loughlin saying “book’em, Dano."

With Alex O'Loughlin as Detective Garrett and Scott Cann as Detective Danny Williams, it has some strong talent, which gives it a greater chance to succeed.

After all, O’Loughlin is “drool worthy” according to my wife and given how long the original series ran, mixed with the upswing in cop show popularity, I think CBS may have a hit on its hands if it doesn’t over think the entire thing.

Jim G. is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.