The CW has announced that it will be doing a #reboot of sorts of the '90s supernatural series Charmed, something which pretty much nobody was asking for. That show aired on The WB for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006, and had a dedicated group of fans that moved on once it had wrapped up its rather lengthy run. But the television networks, being who they are, much prefer name recognition to a brand new property when developing shows, especially in the uber-competitive Peak TV era.
To The CW’s credit, their project is not a complete reboot, more like a spin-off or prequel series (you can read more about it here). Is that really the right show to bring back these days — one that was done well enough the first time around, when there are so many better ideas out there?
The fact is, that if the networks really have to dig back into the archives and pull out some shows with name recognition and/or nostalgia cred, there are quite a number of good options. Yes, I know many of you are screaming for a Firefly revival at this point (note that I said revival, not reboot), and we can all hope that maybe that will happen at some point (hey, Mr. Fillion doesn’t have anything major going on at the moment), but here are five more shows worth considering if the networks feel a need to do a reboot rather than take a gamble on a new property.
1. 'Buck Rogers In The 25th Century'
Originally Aired: NBC, 1979–81, 2 Seasons Totaling 37 Episodes
What Is It? Buck Rogers is, of course, the classic space opera hero who awakes from suspended animation 500 years in the future to match his 20th century grit against threats like the tyrant Killer Kane. On television, he is best remembered from this late '70s series starring Gil Gerard and Erin Grey that started out as a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi romp, then changed course in its second season to an ersatz Star Trek / Battlestar: Galactica hybrid.
Why Reboot It? Because it's Buck Rogers! And seriously, how is it that we do not have a decent series (or even movie) with this character by now, especially with all the advancements in special effects? The entertainment industry loves name recognition and Mr. Rogers is known worldwide. You don't have to do much explaining with this character and you can take him in any of a number of directions. The reboot could pay homage to the original comic strip and movie serial and take a similar tongue-in-cheek approach like the late '70s series (just hire some decent writers). It could also go the darker, Battlestar: Galactica reboot direction, but then we have more than enough grim sci-fi and fantasy on television at the moment, and a fun (but clever) space-based show might just be the right change of pace that the genre audience is looking for.
There are currently talks of a Buck Rogers movie, but I don't know that anything is moving too quickly on that front. I'm thinking that a TV adaptation with a decent budget would play well in the States and internationally and could be almost a sure fire hit if done right (i.e., not the snooze-fest that was Syfy's Flash Gordon). It seems like almost a travesty that neither Buck nor Flash Gordon has received a deserved revival in the current age when they are such iconic characters of the sci-fi genre. The time to change that is now!
2. Gene Roddenberry’s 'Genesis II'
Originally Aired: The first pilot aired in 1973 on CBS and the second pilot (Planet Earth) aired in 1974 on ABC
What Was It? This pilot for a TV series that never happened focused on scientist Dylan Hunt who, through an experiment gone wrong, falls into suspended animation for 150 years (shades of Buck Rogers). He awakes in a post-apocalyptic world where a group calling themselves PAX controls an underground system of “subshuttles” that can travel across the planet and they are trying to rebuild the world through peaceful means. A second pilot titled Planet Earth aired in 1974, which tweaked the idea a bit but followed basically the same premise.
Why Reboot It? You can’t get much better name recognition than Gene Roddenberry. This is a mostly forgotten gem that had quite a good concept and that could have been the next major sci-fi franchise if given the chance. Consider it a grounded Star Trek of sorts with the subshuttles providing the means to encounter the different societies across Earth each week, as opposed to the USS Enterprise traveling to different planets. PAX would be the equivalent of the Federation, though much less organized (in the first pilot at least). Dylan Hunt (played by Alex Kord originally) offered an interesting lead, as he was presented as a flawed character in Genesis II who brings far too much of his violent 20th century nature into this new world (Planet Earth subbed in John Saxon as much more of a Captain Kirk stand-in).
Keeping the original version of the Dylan Hunt character would allow for more dramatic potential and moral dilemmas with a storyline following his attempts to overcome his violent nature. The show could also work in plenty of standalone stories similar to the original Trek while also interweaving that over-arching story that the #scifi audience has come to expect. The premise definitely presents a wide range of possibilities and looks just as capable of sustaining an ongoing series today as it did when the pilot first bowed back in the 1973.
3. 'Land Of The Lost'
Originally Aired: NBC Saturday Mornings 1974–76, 3 Seasons Totaling 43 Episodes
What Is It? You know the story behind this one: “Marshall, Will, and Holly, on a routine expedition, and the greatest earthquake ever known" causes them to fall through a inter-dimensional portal and into the closed universe known as the “Land of the Lost” populated by dinosaurs, the lizard-like Sleestak, the monkey-like Pakuni, and more.
Why Reboot It? Sure, this series was super-cheesy, even for its SFX-challenged era (though they did do a bang-up job on the dinosaur stop motion). It also had plenty of cutsey and/or angsty family-skewed stories, and sometimes you just wanted to put a muzzle on the ever-whining Holly, but Star Trek veteran David Gerrold had been brought aboard early to flesh out the mythology of the Land of the Lost and also to establish an overarching theme for the series.
That became the strength of the show and helped it rise above being just another kids’ entry on Saturdays. The pylons that tied together and controlled the land, the tragic history or the Sleestak, the many visitors that passed through this universe and more all made for some interesting stories and a nice break from the family-centric episodes. Plus, Gerrold brought science fiction writers such as Larry Niven, Norman Spinrad, Ben Bova, and more into the fold to pen some to the episodes.
Those strengths are what the reboot should key on, and today’s CGI could easily bring the world of the Land of the Lost to life. Many of us have fond memories of the show as one of the few decent sci-fi entries airing at a time when the genre was considered anathema on television. Done right, a reboot of this show could turn into a great genre series.
4. 'The Starlost'
Originally Aired: Syndication, 1973–74, 1 Season Totaling 16 Episodes
What Is It? This mid-1970s TV series was set on the multi-generational colony starship named Earthship Ark that is comprised of multiple dome enclosures, each housing a different society from Earth. The ship was sent out to space to save the last remnants of humanity from a dying planet, but an accident caused it to go into emergency mode and cut off each dome from the rest of the ship. Now, hundreds of years later, the people have forgotten their original mission and live their lives in their isolated domes. But three people discover the interior of the ship and the truth of its mission and also learn that the Ark is on a perilous course.
Why Reboot It? This show had a promising concept as evidenced by the award-winning script for the pilot — written by sci-fi legend Harlan Ellison — and it aired in syndication where Star Trek had become a huge hit at that point in the '70s. It also starred Kier Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), and Trek's Walter Koenig stopped by for two episodes playing an alien. However, the technical limitations of television at that time couldn’t quite realize the show’s ambitions (despite having Douglas Trumbull on board as SFX consultant) and the studio had a much more dumbed-down vision for the series. Plus, they cut the budget and switched from film to video tape (like classic Doctor Who) at the last minute, making it even more difficult to follow the show’s original plan.
Ellison’s initial script was recently adapted to comics (IDW’s Phoenix Without Ashes), proving that there was a good idea in place when this thing started. With the technical advancements since the original aired (leaps and bounds above 1970s SFX), this idea would work quite well on television today. It could do dome-of-the week stories, which would be less costly and give it somewhat of an episodic feel, similar to Star Trek: TOS, while also working in an overall story arc, and it could potentially give us that grand space-based epic that the sci-fi audience currently craves. (Note: apparently the series has slipped into the public domain and all of the original episodes are available for viewing on YouTube).
Originally Aired: NBC, 1979, 1 Season Totaling 10 Episodes
What Is It? This short-lived series offered a modern-day take on the old movie serials and it combined three ongoing segments into each episode: the action/adventure Stop Susan Williams, the sci fi/western The Secret Empire, and the supernatural tinged Dracula 79.
Why Reboot It? OK, I know that this short-lived, late-70s entry is not well-known and really hasn’t developed much of a cult following, but stick with me here. In many ways, it was well ahead of its time with serialized episodes and season-long story arcs, and it would work perfectly in the current television environment. There are any of a number of well-known sci-fi characters from the old serials that could lead this show off (such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon as mentioned above). Plus, it could mine the old pulps and comics — a ton of those characters are in the public domain these days. It could also be used as a try out for original ideas with the ones that register well with audiences possibly spinning off into their own shows or sticking around to headline this series.
And since it can reboot itself in part or completely each season (a la American Horror Story), it’s quite a versatile format. There’s so much that could be done with this concept that it’s almost criminal nobody has given serious thought to a reboot. And it doesn’t even have to be tied to the original series in case there are any rights issues with using the Cliffhangers name. Come up with a new name and put in two to three good installments each week and you have a potentially breakout show. If anybody is interested in getting a Kickstarter-type campaign around something like this, I’m definitely on board to give it a shot.
So if the networks are dead set on doing reboots, what other shows would you like to see come back?