Any old TV series that we still talk about today probably has some universal qualities. They are of-their-time while presenting characters and situations that leap across time and continue to feel relevant and entertaining years after the fact.
While it can seem almost sacrilegious to think about remaking or rebooting classic old TV series, it’s important to note the practice is nothing new. In fact, in many cases a remake or reboot can turn out even better. For example, everyone remembers the 1950s Perry Mason TV series, but few remember it started as a series of feature films 25 years earlier.
Remakes are not inherently bad, whether on film or television, and we believe these 15 Old TV Series That Netflix Should Bring Back are perfect picks for such treatment. When selecting, we tried picking series that were popular enough to warrant the attention and plausible enough to play well for today’s audiences. With that said, let’s begin!
15. Magnum P.I.
Magnum P.I. is what happens when the production house behind Hawaii Five-O doesn’t want to close its Hawaii-based location, so it conceives another series adjacent to the previous setting. Magnum P.I. even references the old series in its inaugural episode by mentioning Detective Captain Steve McGarrett by name. However, it could hardly be considered a spinoff since the previous series never set up Magnum’s characters.
Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) is a private investigator (“P.I.”) and a Vietnam veteran. He lives a life of luxury in a vast Hawaiian estate’s guest house at the invite of reclusive author Robin Masters (voiced on occasion by Orson Welles) in exchange for his expertise with security. His foil is Higgins (John Hillerman), an ex-British Army Sergeant Major who handles the other half of Masters’ security team. Adventures, and occasional Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote crossovers ensue. Plans to bring back Magnum and Company have been circulating for a couple of decades now, mostly associated with film adaptations. Now that TV is respected — in many cases more than film — it’s time to grab Bradley Cooper, slap a mustache on him, and start filming.
14. Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon hasn’t had the best track record on television. There have been many attempts — both animated and live-action — and so far, nothing has been able to make it past two seasons. The last serious effort was an ill-received Sci-Fi Channel original starring Smallville’s Eric Johnson as Stephen “Flash” Gordon. John Ralston was Ming the Merciless, and Gina Holden played Dale Arden, Flash’s love interest. It lasted for 22 one-hour episodes. Other notable efforts included an underrated animated series from 1979 (two seasons, 32 episodes) and another from 1996 (one season, 26 episodes) as well as one live-action series from 1954 (one season, 39 episodes).
While recent movements on a Flash Gordon film project do exist — Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service) is in talks to direct, Mark Protosevich (I Am Legend) will write — we’d rather see less budget and more thought paid to the franchise. Plus, who wouldn’t rather have a couple of 13-episode seasons instead of a measly two-hour film?
13. Have Gun, Will Travel
This classic Richard Boone-starring western ran six seasons, 225 episodes, and gave rise to some legendary writing talents – Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible), and Harry Julian Fink (co-creator of Dirty Harry), to name a few. Other big names associated included directors Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch), Ida Lupino (The Hitch-Hiker), and William Conrad (Two on a Guillotine and star of TV’s Jake and the Fat Man).
The lead character of Paladin (Boone) was a true Renaissance man — playing chess, dabbling in science, attending the opera — when he wasn’t at his home base of San Francisco’s luxurious Carlton Hotel or working as a mercenary for those who could afford his services. Efforts to bring Paladin back to life have involved John Travolta (in 1997), Eminem (earlier this century), and writer David Mamet (as potential showrunner, 2012). To date, nothing has gotten off the ground. Have Netflix, will reboot!
12. Get Smart
The original Get Smart launched in 1965 and had a respectable five-season run, clocking in at 138 episodes before taking its final bow. The comic timing of lead star Don Adams (as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86) and the chemistry between him and Barbara Feldon (Agent 99) transcended its generation, leading to a theatrical film in 1980 (The Nude Bomb) and a made-for-TV sequel (Get Smart, Again) in 1989. Additional efforts to revive it — a 1995 series misfire with the original pairing joined by Andy Dick as their son; then the fun, successful Steve Carell reboot feature film of 2008 — have not proven sustainable.
Getting new blood and a 30-minute format — or even a shorter 15- to 25-minute web series — would be worth looking into, though we are admittedly blank on who to pick to take over for 86 and 99. Suggestions?
11. Twilight Zone
Rebooting The Twilight Zone is an idea that comes up every decade or so. It’s been tried in both 30- and 60-minute formats. The franchise also received a feature film treatment in 1983 — marred by an onset helicopter accident that claimed the lives of star Vic Morrow and child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen.
The first big television revival occurred two years later, running for three seasons and an impressive 110 episodes. (The original barely beat that number with 156 episodes across five seasons.) A second revival followed in 2002 with Forrest Whitaker appearing on screen in the Rod Serling “host” role, but was done after 22 episodes. A third revival was announced in December 2012 with Bryan Singer attached, but nothing has become of it.
Any reboot of The Twilight Zone would need a serious host figure in the Serling tradition. With M. Night Shyamalan out of the mix due to his involvement on the Tales from the Crypt reboot, there aren’t many writer-directors we can think of to do it, so it might be a good idea to go with an actor that can bring the creepy. Our shortlist: Kevin Spacey, Steve Buscemi, or Michael C. Hall.
This detective series has been tried a number of ways over the years – radio, television, feature film comedy, modernized 21st Century reboot. Its first incarnation was in 1949. The radio series starred Jack Webb as Detective Sergeant Joe Friday. Webb created and portrayed the character for decades. Dragnet enjoyed a 314-episode run on the radio; a 276-episode run during its seminal 1950s TV series; 98 episodes in the 1967 revival; 52 during a short run from 1989 to 1991 (starring different actors, characters); and 22 episodes in 2003 and 2004 with Ed O’Neill as Friday. Additionally there was a 1954 feature film, a 1966 made-for-TV movie (both with Webb), and a 1987 theatrical comedy starring Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday, nephew of the original, and Tom Hanks as his partner, Pep Streebeck.
A Netflix reboot might consider returning to the show’s roots, opting for a 1950s period setting and focusing on one primary case for a season of 10 or 13 hour-long episodes. We would say try modernizing it, but the O’Neill version did that and failed miserably. As for a guy to fill the Friday role, you want someone tough who doesn’t have to show a lot of range on account of the Detective’s deadpan demeanor; but you also want someone you can realistically get for a multi-season run. Dolph Lundgren isn’t doing anything, is he?
9. Miami Vice
Anthony Yerkovich’s police noir Miami Vice logged 111 episodes and announced to the world the star power of Don Johnson as the stylish ass-kicker James “Sonny” Crockett. He was joined by the über-cool Philip Michael Thomas as Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs. Series executive producer Michael Mann tried resurrecting the series for the big screen with a 2006 feature film, but it ultimately fell flat, earning just $163 million worldwide on a $135 million budget — a disappointment by the standards of most Hollywood execs.
When Vice first hit television screens, it was praised as being the “first show to look really new and different sense color TV was invented” by People magazine. The 2006 feature film was a by-the-numbers crime-drama with no distinguishing vibe, doubly disappointing since it came from the guy behind Manhunter, Thief, Heat, and The Last of the Mohicans, not to mention a driving force behind the visionary series.
For a reboot, we believe success would depend more on what’s going on behind the camera instead of in front of it. Go with young, talented actors for the Crockett and Tubbs’ roles and direct most of your budget toward landing a visionary up-and-comer like 71‘s Yann Demange or Creed’s Ryan Coogler for the director’s chair (though in the latter case, perhaps a name change to Philly Vice would be in order).
In 1968, Richard Hooker published a little 211-page novel entitled MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. Hooker was actually the pen name of two men – military surgeon Dr. H. Richard Hornberger and writer W. C. Heinz. From such humble beginnings, one could not foresee a property that would grow to encompass one Academy Award-winning motion picture and an 11-season, 256-episode run on the small screen.
Bringing M*A*S*H back would require a timeline and location shift, moving events to, say, Iraq around 2003. The dangerous location and threat of terrorism would lend a new M*A*S*H opportunity to capitalize on the dramatics the original did so well, while playing into the same biting sense of humor that comes from trying to stay sane in a situation that is anything-but. At the show’s heart, you would need a strong ensemble cast with great chemistry and humor. Just leave off the laugh track, please.
7. Quantum Leap
Through five years and 97 episodes, viewers got to know Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Admiral Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) as the time-traveling do-gooders, who through a mistake of science, were forced to leap from one era to another “setting right what once went wrong” for a number of people before getting a chance to go home. Beckett was the actual leaper, while Calavicci was the hologram of a real person tuned into only the doctor’s brain frequencies. That meant Sam could see him, but no one else could. Meanwhile, everyone who looked upon Sam saw the image of the person he occupied.
With each leap, Beckett got closer and closer to his final leap home; but when that leap finally came in the series finale, he found he had the power to control his jumps and decided not to go home after all, instead opting to continue his missions throughout time. With a Netflix revival, we would suggest having something happen to Sam that only a new leaper could fix. Perhaps Beckett finally fails and dies while in his alternate form. It’s the new leaper’s job to find Sam and stop the tragedy from occurring. Maybe he succeeds; maybe he doesn’t. Just cast Nathan Fillion in the lead, give the man a traveling hologram companion, and get this show on the road.
6. Buck Rogers
It’s hard to describe how dated and awful the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers in the 25th Century has become. Originally intended to capitalize on the space opera craze of the 1970s and ‘80s, this revamp of the classic comic strip character now suffers from bad FX and scripts geared too closely to the Saturday morning cartoon crowd. While there have been some half-assed attempts to revitalize the franchise over the years, creators have seldom hit the right note.
The group that came closest was TSR with its series of comics, novels, and RPGs in the 1990s. The stories were suitably adult-oriented, though still palatable to the PG-13 crowd, and the Mars-, space-, and sometimes Earth-based settings were suitably dazzling. With a budget and the right crop of actors, Netflix could have its first Battlestar Galactica here. Picks for cast would include New Girl’s Jake Johnson (for the humor and likability); Captain America: Civil War’s Chadwick Boseman (because you could take him seriously as an action star and why-do-these-guys-always-have-to-be-white?), or Charlie Hunnam (because badass). For Wilma Deering, we like Naomi Harris or Emilia Clarke.
5. Dark Shadows
Sorry, Johnny Depp fans. The 2012 Tim Burton Dark Shadows film missed the mark. It shouldn’t have, especially if you look at the phenomenal work Burton and Depp did on Sleepy Hollow. But to paraphrase everyone’s favorite little green Jedi, blow it they did. However, that doesn’t mean Dark Shadows as a franchise has lost its touch. There has already been one worthwhile reboot in 1991 that ran for 12 hour-long episodes. While it is worth seeking out on DVD, it could have lasted longer if it had tried to break new ground.
As wonderful as the acting and production values were — seriously, Ben Cross taking over for Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins was a stroke of genius — you couldn’t help feeling you had seen it all before; and if you were a follower of the 1966-71 soap opera, you had. That effort was followed with a second revival attempt from the WB in 2004 that never made it past a filmed-but-not-picked-up pilot.
For a new Dark Shadows, Netflix should take a few chances. Tell new, unpredictable stories. Don’t make it all about Barnabas Collins. Punch up the horror elements more than Burton did. We wouldn’t even be entirely opposed to a new cast of characters in a modern setting with completely new stories, nor would we be against a historical drama that focuses on Collinwood circa 1795. Just deliver the goods on blood, suspense, Gothic settings, and creatures of the night.
4. The Green Hornet
Get this straight: the Seth Rogen comedy version of The Green Hornet never happened. It doesn’t exist. While we will happily acknowledge the 1966-1967 television series for Bruce Lee and its camp value, the 2011 feature film was a complete misfire, from a miscast Rogen to a wasted Christoph Waltz and a tone that was far too lighthearted to be suspenseful. What is especially disappointing about the results of that film – for Hornet fans – is that we had been waiting since the 1989 NOW Comics series for a feature film adaptation to do the Hornet and Kato justice.
We had suffered through the excitement of casting rumors. At one point, George Clooney, Greg Kinnear, Mark Wahlberg, and Jake Gyllenhaal were in some form of negotiation for the lead while Kato went through a shorter list of Asian actors (Jason Scott Lee, Stephen Chow, and Jet Li). Then, we discovered Kevin Smith would be writing the script. Then, we found out Smith was no longer associated with the project. In all, around 20 years of anticipation passed before we got what we got, and for the last several we’ve been trying to get over it. The remedy: hour-long action crime drama, only light traces of humor, a female Kato like NOW gave us with Mishi and a style more akin to this 2006 short film.
3. Perry Mason
Perry Mason is one of the most prolific, enduring characters in both literary and television history. Author Erle Stanley Gardner penned 82 original Perry Mason novels, starting with The Case of the Velvet Claws in 1933 and closing with the posthumously released The Case of the Postponed Murder in 1973. The character was immediately popular, getting six feature film adaptations throughout the 1930s – films Gardner hated so much he vowed to never let the character be filmed again unless he had creative control.
He would get his way with the 1957 TV series that starred Raymond Burr and ran for nine seasons of 271 hour-long episodes. Burr would reprise that role sometime after CBS dropped the ball on the shortly lived The New Perry Mason in 1973. It was off the air by the following year because viewers just couldn’t accept Monte Markham in the part that Burr had owned for so long.
In the 1980s, Burr joined NBC for a string of well-received made-for-TV movies. Twenty-six were made prior to the star’s death in 1993, after which four Perry Mason Mysteries aired using different actors playing different characters in the same universe. Since then, Mason has been on the shelf. A glimmer of hope emerged when Robert Downey, Jr., became attached to the project in 2011 with the idea of doing a period piece feature film set in Mason’s original 1930s timeline. Iron Man is still on board, technically, but the project has been labeled as “in-development” with no new news since 2014.
2. Unsolved Mysteries
After scoring a big success with Making a Murderer, Netflix should set its sights on bringing back this spooky true crime series. We don’t care if they do it in a season-long block of episodes at once, or if they break from that norm and air one episode a week. The all-at-once drop could make it difficult to sprinkle in the updates that usually accompanied an Unsolved Mysteries episode, but as long as we get the creepy music and a host reminiscent of the late Robert Stack (and later the now-deceased Dennis Farina, who hosted five years on the Lifetime reboot), it’s a can’t miss.
Suggestions to fill Stack’s trench-coat, anyone? Our personal favorites, not to be all Matrix-y, would be Lawrence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving. You could also open it up to unsolved crimes around the world.
Cheers was the quintessential sitcom of the 1980s. It did 11 seasons, 270 episodes, and went out on top. When NBC wanted to attract eyeballs for its struggling show Seinfeld, what did it do? It scheduled “the Sein” for Thursday nights right behind the bar where everybody knows your name.
Cheers was one of those rare shows that could go through major casting shifts and emerge even stronger. When Nicholas Colasanto (Ernie “Coach” Pantusso) died, Woody Harrelson stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. When Shelley Long (Diane Chambers) went off the rails and decided Hello Again was a better career choice than the nation’s top sitcom, Kirstie Alley took over like a champ.
There to help were casting mainstays George Wendt (NORM!), John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin), Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer, who would do 11 seasons of his own on the hit show Frasier), Carla Tortelli (Rhea Perlman), and, of course, bar owner Sam Malone (Ted Danson). How could you possibly follow that?
Three words: Blue Mountain State. Hear us out.
As many of you college graduates are aware, there comes a point in life where you have to grow up. Thad Castle (Alan Ritchson) has reached that point after an injury sidelines his NFL career. With his substantial paychecks from a few years with the New England Patriots, he makes an offer to buy the Cheers bar from a retiring Sam Malone (Danson in a guest spot).
Sam sees in Thad bits of his younger self – immature, womanizing, forced out of his sport prematurely. He’s been wanting to sell the bar, but not to just anyone. It has to be a party willing to give Cheers the same TLC he did for so many years. Someone who will breathe new life into the place, grow with it, and bring people together. He decides Thad is that guy.
Enter a new cast as well as some guest spots from surviving Cheers characters and some other favorites from Blue Mountain State, put Eric Falconer and Chris Romano (BMS creators) in charge, and you’ve got a show.
Old TV series never die, and we think the ones mentioned above are ripe for a revisit. Who better to helm the efforts than the company revolutionizing the way we consume content? Unfortunately, a list like this always has limitations which means some deserving show gets left off. Share your picks in the comments section below, and while you’re at it, feel free to agree, disagree, and/or tell us how crazy we are!
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