It seems like everywhere we look, someone is remaking old TV shows. CBS has just aired the first episode of their MacGyver reboot. In October comes HBO’s Westworld, a second attempt to turn Michael Crichton’s sci-fi thriller about homicidal cowboy robots into a TV show. In June, the latest iteration of Voltron: Legendary Defender was released on Netflix. And last December, the crew of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 raised over five and half million dollars through their Kickstarter campaign to bring the show back. We could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Obviously, there’s a huge audience out there for TV reboots and nostalgia-fueled TV shows – just look at the success of Stranger Things this summer. Recently, we did a list of classic TV shows that could use the Michael Bay’s treatment. Now we bring you a (mostly) science fiction-flavored list of 15 1980s Sci-Fi Shows That Need To Be Rebooted.
15. War of the Worlds (1988 – 1990)
Remember that time when Martians tried to conquer our planet? If not, don’t worry: neither do the characters on the TV show War of the Worlds. Based on the 1953 sci-fi movie produced by George Pal, the show continues its story three decades later. Apparently, general public has mysteriously forgotten all about their devastating global war against the alien invaders, while the US government has hidden remains of the Martians and their technology.
In the War of the Worlds TV show, Martians are able to possess human bodies and jury-rig strange devices using our own technology. Not unlike the Skrulls from Marvel Comics, the Martians embark on a covert campaign of subterfuge and conquest. It’s a great concept for a paranoid sci-fi spin on our current political climate. Due to low ratings, the show was completely retooled in its second season, changing its protagonists, aliens and the very setting that the story takes place in. But not even these drastic changes could help War of the Worlds: the show was cancelled after its second season. Maybe 2016 – three decades after the last attempt – is the perfect time to reboot the series?
14. Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future (1987 – 1988)
The first two Terminator movies were undoubtedly great, but don’t you wish we could have seen more of its post-apocalyptic future? Sure, in 2009 we got Terminator Salvation but, come on! Well, in 1987 a little Canadian-American sci-fi show did something just like that. Its title was Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future, and we dare you to pronounce its title without shouting it out dramatically.
The show is set in the 22nd century, in the aftermath of the Metal Wars. From his city of Volcania, Cyborg Lord Dread (David Hemblen) rules over the remains of mankind with his robotic soldiers Bio-Dreads. However, they face a growing opposition from a group of freedom fighters led by Captain Power (Tim Dunigan).With a writing team headed by J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future featured an interesting mix of a kid-friendly and surprisingly mature storylines. The series aired for just one season, but maybe Straczynski will bring it back?
13. The Highwayman (1987)
You know what kind of a TV show we need? How about one featuring a futuristic eighteen-wheeler that can turn into a helicopter. Eat your heart out, Mad Max Fury Road! The Highwayman was created by the TV producer Glen A. Larson, inspired by the success of his earlier TV show Knight Rider as well as other similar vehicles-and-vigilantes shows from 1980s such as Street Hawk (vigilante on a futuristic motorcycle) and Airwolf (vigilante in a futuristic helicopter).
The titular Highwayman of the show (played by Sam J. Jones – Flash Gordon!) works for a shadowy organization granting him some kind of extra-legal powers for hunting criminals. The world of the show is somewhat nebulous, mixing contemporary times with a vaguely post-apocalyptic future (with Highwayman himself obviously modeled on Mad Max). The Highwayman premiered on NBC in September of 1987 with a made-for-TV movie, but got cancelled after only nine episodes.
12. Defenders of the Earth (1986 – 1987)
Not unlike the animated TV show Justice League or Alan Moore’s graphic novel League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Defenders of the Earth features an all-star cast of heroes from the old King Features Syndicate comic books. There’s Flash Gordon who – hopefully – needs no introduction. There’s the masked vigilante The Phantom, also known “The Ghost Who Walks”. Finally, there’s the hypnotist Mandrake the Magician and his assistant Lothar. Together, they fight to prevent Emperor Ming the Merciless from conquering our planet.
In Defenders of the Earth, these 1930s-era heroes get an update in a storyline taking place in what used to be a distant future of 2015. This animated series aired in syndication for one season. All in all, 65 episodes were made. It would be great to see a remake get a Bruce Timm treatment, setting the story in some kind of Art Deco-inspired world, not unlike the one from Timm’s Superman and Batman cartoons.
11. Star Cops (1987)
By the year 2027, commercial interplanetary travel becomes widely available. With some 3000 people living and working in space, a need arises for a police force that will investigate and prevent crime on orbital space stations and small colonies on Mars and the Moon. Commander Nathan Spring (David Calder) is put in charge of an International Space Police Force- some 20-odd people jokingly referred to as “Star Cops”.
Star Cops was a British sci-fi series developed for BBC2 by Chris Boucher, who previously worked on Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who. Boucher envisioned the show as a mix of a cop drama and a relatively realistic sci-fi show. In the show, cops investigated industrial espionage, terrorist attacks by hackers and the theft of frozen human embryos. Due to a combination of low ratings, budgetary constraints and the creative differences between Boucher and the show’s producer Evgeny Gridneff, Star Cops was cancelled after only eight episodes.
10. Otherworld (1985)
Hal and June Sterling (Sam Groom and Gretchen Corbett) are visiting Great Pyramid at Giza with their children when the rare conjunction of planets sends them off to another world. This new planet greatly resembles Earth, except for its strange technology and peculiar history. The world is separated into 77 self-contained Zones, with their borders patrolled by the sinister Zone Troopers. Soon after their arrival, the Sterling family make an enemy out of Commander Nuveen Kroll (Breaking Bad‘s Jonathan Banks), who hunts them as they search for a way home.
Inspired by the shows such as Land of the Lost and Lost in Space, Otherworld presents an all-American family with the array of different and often satirically depicted cultures. Everywhere they go, Sterlings challenge the prevailing cultural mores and find themselves challenged in return. This low-budget sci-fi show failed to find its audience and got pulled from the CBS after only eight episodes.
9. Max Headroom (1987 – 1988)
First appearing in 1985 on Britain’s Channel 4, Max Headroom was “the world’s first computer-generated TV host”. Since computers were pretty weak in the 80s, this actually meant that the actor Matt Frewer wore prosthetic makeup and appeared in front of the hand-drawn backgrounds. Max was decidedly 1980s vision of our current cyberpunk dystopia. He proved immensely popular, though: in 1985 he appeared in a TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future and in 1987 he got his own TV show at ABC.
Max Headroom takes place in the corporate-controlled society of the near future, dominated by the TV networks. Matt Frewer plays an investigative reporter Edison Carter whose mind gets uploaded into computer after a motorcycle crash. While Edison recovers from his accident and continues to explore the shady business practices of the society’s corporate oligarchs, his virtual persona of Max Headroom gains an eccentric life of its own. Max Headroom aired for two seasons.
8. Freddy’s Nightmares (1988 – 1990)
Did you know there used to be a Nightmare on Elm Street TV show? In quite possibly illegal use of colons, the show’s full title was Freddy’s Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. Despite its title, the only character from the movies that appears on the show is good old Freddie Kruger himself played, of course, by Robert Englund.
The pilot episode was directed by Tobe Hopper telling the story of how Freddy became the monster we all know and love. From then on, the show was an anthology horror series following dark deeds done in the fictional town of Springwood, Ohio, where Nightmare on Elm Street movies take place. Apparently, TV executives thought there isn’t much point of establishing a regular cast of characters in a show featuring the unkillable monster. Freddy himself appeared primarily as the show’s host. Freddy’s Nightmares aired in syndication for two seasons.
7. Friday the 13th: The Series (1987 – 1990)
Despite its title, Friday the 13th: The Series has nothing to do with the venerable 1980s slasher franchise. And yet, its premise is pretty great: Micki Foster (Louise Robey) and Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay) inherit their late uncle’s antique shop, only to realize that each and every item in the shop cursed since the uncle made a pact with the Devil. In order to avoid his fite, Micki and Ryan have to find and retrieve each and every of the cursed antiques their uncle sold over the years.
And what antiques they are! A quill pen that kills the person whose name you write with it. A pair of boxing gloves that make their wearer invincible in the ring while his shadow beats someone else to death. Or – our favorite – a garden mulcher that can turn chewed up human bodies into money. Friday the 13th: The Series ran in syndication for three seasons.
6. The Greatest American Hero (1981 – 1983)
Ralph Hinkley (William Katt) is an ordinary public school teacher until he encounters aliens. They bestow him with a special suit granting its wearer a number of super powers such as super strength, super speed, ability to fly, invisibility and X-ray vision. The trouble is, Hinkley almost immediately loses the suit’s user manual. With a help of an FBI agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp) and their reluctant ally Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca), Hinkley embarks on a superhero career.
The Greatest American Hero first aired on ABC in 1981 and ran for three seasons. Its humorous approach to super-hero stories proved quite popular with the viewers. In 1986, the crew re-united to film a pilot for a new series called The Greatest American Heroine. In it, Ralph goes public with his powers, which angers the aliens who task him with training his successor – a young teacher Holly Hathaway (Mary Ellen Stuart). The new show never got picked up, but the pilot was remade into an additional episode of the original show.
5. Dungeons & Dragons (1983 – 1985)
It was in the 1980s that Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing game broke into mainstream. This pen-and-paper progenitor to computer games like World of Warcraft became popular enough to feature in Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and become a subject of concern among the more conservative parent and teacher groups. In those good old days, playing D&D wasn’t just a harmless geek hobby – it was a glamorous gateway into a world of sin and Satanism!
Animated TV show Dungeons & Dragons aired on CBS for three seasons from 1983 until 1985. Its story follows a group of children who, after taking a magical ride in an amusement park, end up in the magical realm where they become Dungeons & Dragons characters: barbarians, wizards, thieves and the like. Mysterious yet benevolent Dungeon Master gives them each a magical item to help them on their quest to find a way back home.
4. Small Wonder (1985 – 1989)
An eccentric scientist develops an artificial intelligence and places it inside the experimental nuclear-powered android. He then takes this dangerous machine equipped with an inhuman intelligence to his home. While his family fools everyone around them into thinking that the android is their orphaned relative, one of their neighbors is just paranoid enough to realize that they all must be lying.
It’s somewhat hard to believe that Small Wonder was developed as a sitcom, let alone that it aired successfully for four seasons in syndication. Starring Dick Christie as the brilliant scientist Ted Lawson and Tiffany Brissette as Voice Input Child Identicant (or Vicki for short), Small Wonder invites all kinds of unsettling questions like “Does Vicki leak radiation?” It’s fun to consider what kind of a show would Small Wonder be in the hands of someone like Charlie Brooker, creator of the anthology sci-fi series Black Mirror. This is a rare situation in which we fully approve of a darker and edgier remake!
3. Amazing Stories (1985 – 1987)
Produced by Steven Spielberg, Amazing Stories was an American anthology TV show freely mixing stories of fantasy, horror and science fiction. The series debuted on NBC in 1985. During its run, Amazing Stories was nominated for twelve Emmy awards and won five of them. Despite that, the show suffered from low ratings and eventually got cancelled after its second season.
Throughout the show’s 46 episodes, a number of famous guest stars appeared on it, including Kevin Costner, Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Mark Hamill, John Lithgow, Danny DeVito, Seth Green, and Tim Robbins. Meanwhile, the list of the guest directors on Amazing Stories includes the likes of Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, Tobe Hooper as well as the show’s producer, Steven Spielberg himself. Currently, writer and producer Bryan Fuller is working on the show’s remake.
2. Alien Nation (1989 – 1990)
What if the first contact of mankind with an alien race was with their refugees looking for an asylum? Made long before Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, Alien Nation was first released in 1988 as a movie directed by Graham Baker. A mix of science fiction, buddy movie and cop drama, the movie follows hard-boiled L.A cop Matt Sykes (James Caan) as he gets partnered with an extra-terrestrial Samuel Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) – a setup allowing the movie to delve into issues related to integration of minorities into the American society.
A year after its release, Alien Nation was turned into a TV show by Fox. Most of the cast was changed, with Gary Graham playing Matt Sykes and Eric Pierpoint as Sam Francisco. Due to the low ratings, Alien Nation‘s first season proved out to be its last. Recently though, it was announced that the movie director Mike Nichols (Midnight Special, Take Shelter) was hired to work on a remake.
1. Tales From the Crypt (1989 –1996)
While nowadays HBO is world-famous for its shows like Game of Thrones, The Wire and The Sopranos, in the late 1980s it was only just beginning to dabble in the original programming. One of HBO’s early TV shows was the anthology horror/comedy series The Tales from the Crypt, based on the 1950s horror comic books published by the EC Comics.
Each episode of The Tales from the Crypt told a self-contained story introduced by the show’s undead sarcastic host the Crypt Keeper. Since the show aired on a cable network, it was free from censorship, which allowed it to use plenty of violence, nudity and profanity. The list of the show’s guest stars includes stars such as Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kirk Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg, Dan Aykroyd, Tim Curry and many, many more. The list of the show’s directors is no less impressive, including Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, John Frankenheimer, William Friedkin, Walter Hill and Tobe Hooper.
Of course, Tales From The Crypt is being rebooted – but we just want to make sure it’s done well.
What are your favorite old TV shows you’d like to see remade for the new millenium? Share your comments with the others below!
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