We live in an era of franchises, endless sequels, shared universes and spin-offs, and Hollywood loves to recycle already-popular properties. The current trend of “rebooting” series started in 2005: Batman Begins kicked off the trend, followed thereafter by Casino Royale and a host of other recast and restarted stories. Movies have experienced great financial and even critical success courtesy of the reboot, and show no signs of slowing down. Hell, how many versions of Spider-Man have we seen in the past fifteen years? TV reboots, on the other hand, have proven less than successful: Knight Rider, Charlie’s Angeles and The Fugitive all stirred up more embarrassment than ratings.
Television, has, however, had more success (and more fun) with a new trend: the revival. Instead of recasting beloved roles and retelling the same old stories, networks dig up the original performers (or at least thaws them out of cold storage, see also Fuller House) and concocts some new tales to recapture the original audiences, and attract new viewers too. This year saw The X-Files return as a ratings juggernaut, and the Twin Peaks revival has had the industry buzzing since its announcement in 2014. And if a show like Twin Peaks, which only ran two seasons, can mount a comeback — or for that matter, if a stale relic like Full House can do it — why can some of these other favorites?
Here’s 15 Cult TV Show Revivals We Want To See.
15. Quantum Leap
This beloved but oft-overlooked gem of a show featured the ever-dashing Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett, inventor of a time machine that allowed him to “leap” into other people’s lives throughout his own lifetime. One problem: the machine couldn’t retrieve him, leaving Sam drifting through history and trying to find his way home. Each leap would find him trying to correct history to arrive at a better outcome, with help from his friend Al (played by the great Dean Stockwell), an observer from the future who could communicate with Sam via holographic transmission.
Quantum Leap ended in 1993 with a “finale” that left fans incensed. NBC cancelled the show at the 11th hour, and attempted to end the story with a series of title cards explaining that Sam never got home. At Comic-Con 2010, Bakula expressed his own ire over the ending, which originally had Sam leaping into the future, and into another season!
Quantum Leap still has a devoted fanbase, and a revival would allow for proper closure of the show, as well as a more modern take on the premise, using better special effects and ongoing story arcs. Bakula and Stockwell are still in the industry, and both have said that they would love to revisit their characters.
14. Battlestar Galactica (the reboot)
A revival of a reboot? Excessive?
Maybe, but few shows ever hit the dramatic highs as Battlestar Galactica, and even fewer hold up as well over time. Brilliant writing and acting helped elevate the show into the same pantheon of The X-Files and Star Trek as the great sci-fi shows to ever grace the small screen. The series ended in 2009 and resolved most of the main action on the show. Still, the premise of a remnant of humanity trying to rebuild on a foreign world without technology—and with sentient robot lifeforms still traveling around the galaxy—offers promise for a few more great adventures. Series star Edward James Olmos originally proposed a sequel that would find the crew of the colonial fleet living on Earth, and begin with the words “we have a problem.” The original Battlestar Galactica tried a revival/spinoff of sorts with Galactica 1980, which didn’t exactly live up to fan expectations. The revival series for the reboot could atone by offering the audience more adventures, more philosophical underpinnings, and more of their beloved characters.
The semi-spinoff/sister show of The X-Files, Millennium starred acclaimed actor Lance Henriksen as a sorta-psychic FBI agent named Frank Black on the eve of the year 2000. Granted, that year has come and gone, and after the show’s cancellation in its third season, Henriksen guest starred on The X-Files in an attempt to wrap up some of the show’s story. Die-hard fans, however, were left frustrated by the number of hanging story threads.
So why not pick them up now? Pick up with Frank Black 25 years into the new century, and find the Millennium Group—the villainous antagonists of the series—returning to power to bring about the end of the world? Black’s daughter Jordon, who provided what little levity the series had, could also return as a grown woman following in her father’s career path, and two generations of Blacks could set out to save the world. With horror series popular again, dark sci-fi back in vogue and a certain presidential candidate making the public question if the apocalypse is at hand, Millennium could again find its moment.
12. Jim Henson’s The Storyteller
As much as Jim Henson tried to distance himself from the Muppets with dark fantasy films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, the great puppeteer also tried to tell new kinds of stories with puppets on television. Produced in Britain, The Storyteller aired on HBO in the US, and despite winning an Emmy, it ran a sparse 13 episodes before getting the axe. Most of the episodes were later broadcast on NBC as part of the equally-short lived Jim Henson Hour.
The Storyteller used advanced puppet and digital effects techniques to tell a variety of fairy tales, legends and myths, with each episode bookended by the titular character, played by John Hurt. Though little seen in its day, The Storyteller plays magnificently today, aided by the teleplays written by future Oscar winning writer/director Anthony Minghella. A revival could use the same anthology format as the original show, and employ different A-list directors each week to bring a new story to life, much like Tales from the Crypt did in the 1990s. Moreover, audiences weary of overuse of computer effects would find interest and beauty in a show using puppetry. The Storyteller remains an overlooked gem, and a revival would bring its legacy to light where it belongs!
11. Babylon 5
Babylon 5 showed off some brave ambition in the mid-90s…perhaps too much. The series made the unusual choice of using only CGI to depict spaceships and space battles, and the effects looked, well, kind of awful, even for the time which they aired. The show’s storytelling, however, was magnificent: each season broke down into a “chapter” of a sort of television novel, and the show pioneered the serialized approach later perfected by Battelstar Galactica. Though it did follow through to its intended end—which included an epilogue episode detailing the fates of the main characters some 20 years after the main events of the series—the Babylon 5 universe still has enough possibilities to demand a return. A movie version is in development, though a continuation of the original offers as much creative promise.
Without spoiling the show, the final seasons found massive and highly-advanced weapons spread around the galaxy, with different factions rushing to take control. A new, nefarious alien race came into play, and a human psychic had her powers augmented to near omnipotent levels. On Earth, a war between trained psychics had broken out. Amazingly, the show never fully resolved any of these story threads, even one of which could provide enough fodder for a new series!
10. Dungeons and Dragons
Yes, the animated fantasy show that graced 1980s deserves a revival too. Why?
Well, for starters, it still has a rabid fanbase, one which has gone to some pretty outrageous lengths to produce a mock-up series finale based on a script by series writer Michael Reeves. In reality though, the show had no proper end, so why not catch up with the same characters still living in the Dungeon Realm after 20 years? Even including the unproduced finale as canon—and it should be, as it’s probably the best damn episode of the whole series—the ambiguous ending for the characters leaves open the possibility of new stories.
In a post Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter world, real sword and sorcery fantasy has a strong fanbase and relevance to modern audiences. Reviving the series in animation would make for a natural fit, while bringing it back in live-action could also cause a stir.
9. Friday the 13th
The series had an iconic title, and an ironic one: contrary to rumor, Friday the 13th had absolutely nothing to do with the popular film series. The show centered on an antique store which sold cursed wares with magical properties. After its owner dies, his niece discovers the evil truth, and vows to reclaim all the missing objects. Demons, magic and Satanic-fu abound! When the show first aired, it attracted a good deal of controversy for the subject matter and level of violence. Its swift cancellation in the third season left most of the conflicts unresolved, and a number of cursed objects out in the world.
John LeMay, Chris Wiggins and Europop singer Robey starred in the original show, and both LeMay and Wiggins continue to act today. A revival could focus on a new cast with appearances from the old, alluding to the loose continuity of the show and propelling the story forward. Friday the 13th is also something of a deconstructionist horror series, as it features a dynamic woman as the lead character years before Buffy would shake up TV. Reviving the show with a new female lead would bring light to the old series, and open up a new world of possibilities for stories.
8. The Wonder Years
Before ’80s nostalgia dominated the pop culture landscape, another brand shaped primetime TV: ’60s nostalgia. Go figure that the generation that came of age in the ’60s was raising children and settling into middle age around the time The Wonder Years aired.
The Wonder Years combined common coming-of-age tropes like first kisses, dating, and loss of family members with thoughtful humor. The show proved a major hit for ABC, and helped launch the careers of its stars, particularly Fred Savage. The series ran a full six seasons—a healthy run for a show. No doubt, the writers ran low on ideas by the final seasons. The beauty of the revival phenomenon is that it allows writers and actors to let characters rest before revisiting them at a different point in history. In that fashion, a Wonder Years revival could follow a grown Kevin Arnold along with his friends Paul and Winnie in the late ’80s and early ’90s raising their own children. Call it Wonder Years: The Next Generation!
7. V: The Original Miniseries
The rebooted V tried its damndest to comment on present day politics and affairs, but never quite found its footing. Though the second season attracted a cult audience, its descent into pseudoreligious hokum forever divorced it from reality.
The original V miniseries, by contrast, holds up astoundingly well. Though ahead of its time, the writing gave it an impact in any period as a metaphor for the rise of fascism. In fact, before the reboot went into production, original writer Kenneth Johnson had written a new miniseries that would omit the sequel mini and weekly series from continuity, and pick up 20 years after the original. Why not go ahead with the revival? Johnson had spoken with all the stars of the original miniseries, and all had shown enthusiastic interest in revisiting their characters (a number of them showed up on the reboot too). Thoughtful, eerie and relevant as ever, the original V remains a sleeping giant, ready to conquer TV again.
The original Roseanne changed television. Instead of weekly outings with a perfect, affluent nuclear family, the show painted a picture of a blue collar, mixed family with irreverent personalities. The show dealt with financial ruin, child abuse, introduced gay characters, and the actors looked more like people off the street rather than preened stars from a casting office.
Several years ago, a reporter asked star Roseanne Barr about the possibility of returning to television, and where the characters from Roseanne would be in the modern era. Here’s an idea: do the show instead!
Granted, the final season of Rosanne remains notorious for its strange (and we mean strange) episodes and even more shocking series finale, but they would only provide an even more interesting base for a revival series. Most of the actors from the show still work today—including 80-something year old Estelle Parsons, who played Roseanne’s mother Bev. Get them on the phone and give us a new series!
Much like The X-Files, the spy series Rubicon circled around conspiracy theories of shadow governments and secret power players. The show debuted on AMC in 2010 to strong reviews and a sizable audience. As it went on, however, the audience diwindled, in part because of the show’s strange style. Rather than focus on the action plots of other contemporary spy shows (see also: Alias), it featured more quiet drama and intrigue.
The show found an almost immediate cult following which appreciated its unusual take on the genre, and the performances of the main cast. Still, AMC cancelled it after one season, citing low ratings. Creative tensions behind the scenes also didn’t help, nor did retooling the focus of the show away from its original storyline. Still, fans remain devoted and hopeful for a resolution to the original mystery: who coordinated the conspiracy, and why. A revival series could return Rubicon to its roots, and further explore the rich world hinted at in the pilot episode.
Jericho debuted in 2006 on CBS, as something of an answer to ABC’s hit Lost. Like the latter series, Jericho used a mysterious premise to lure viewers back every week. A nuclear attack has destroyed 23 cities around the country, and the residents of the small Kansas town Jericho struggle to survive—and to gain information about the state of the rest of the world. Suspense and intrigue take center stage as the residents learned of a conspiracy within the government that might have coordinated the attacks.
Jericho always faced an uphill battle with ratings, though it also sported a devoted cult fanbase. CBS axed the show after the first season, only to revive it for a second after fan outcry. It remains popular today, and fans continue to fight for a proper revival. Series creator Stephen Chbosky has hinted that he and executive producer Jon Turteltaub have considered a Netflix revival or film to close out the story, so fans haven’t yet given up hope.
Before he took on the Avengers, Joss Whedon tried his hand at space opera with the Fox show Firefly. Needless to say, the cult of Whedon flocked to the show, though not in great enough numbers to keep Fox from killing it after the first season. Strong DVD sales helped lead to a low-budget film continuation, Serenity, which reunited the original cast and tied up some of the loose ends of the show.
The premise centered on the crew of cargo ship called the Serenity as they traveled a galaxy fragmented by civil war. The Serenity transports valuable contraband—at times, by smuggling—between the two factions as humanity continues to settle new worlds.
Fox made the bonehead choice to air the episodes—which were partially serialized—out of order, thus making the show difficult to follow. Though the follow-up film, Serenity, earned strong reviews and has a cult following of its own, it failed to launch any more adventures in the Firefly universe. The age of Netflix and Amazon programming, however, has opened up loads of possibilities for new revivals, and no doubt, both should take a long look at Firefly.
2. Tron: Uprising
Fans continue to mourn the demise of the third entry in the Tron film series. Visually unparalleled and with an intriguing religious subtext, the alluring world of Tron, despite two feature films, remains mostly unexplored.
That is, but for Tron: Uprising, the prequel series that explored the action between the original film and Tron: Legacy. The animated show starred Elijah Wood and a host of other respected actors: Kate Mara, John Glover, Tricia Helfer, Paul Reubens, and the original Tron himself, Bruce Boxlitner. Strong writing and stunning animation helped give the show a sharp, sci-fi edge (watch scenes with Clu and Flynn together, and you’ll know what we mean).
Tron: Uprising ended on a cliffhanger, and no second season ever made it to air. Since Tron doesn’t look like it will hit movie screens again anytime soon, let the series live on in animation! An Uprising revival could help renew enough interest in the series to get a third film made later on, or could even jump ahead in continuity to pick up where Legacy left off.
1. My So-Called Life
What The Wonder Years did for the 1960s, My So-Called Life did for the ’90s, albeit to a much smaller audience. The show took a look at coming of age at a very specific moment in history—the 90s—and the teen culture of the day. Unlike other shows (we’re looking at you 90210), My So-Called Life actually used reel teenagers to play the leads, and dealt in great depth with the issues they faced, including their sex lives. It also launched the careers of writer Winnie Holzman (Wicked: The Musical), Claire Danes, Wilson Cruz and Jared Leto.
Though it received great reviews, it didn’t ever do well in the ratings. MTV picked it up shortly thereafter, and the show suddenly found the teen audience it was intended for. The network aired every episode of the show, to the kind of ratings that it hadn’t found on ABC, and rumors of a revival season started making the rounds. By that time, however, Danes, who played the lead, had moved on to other projects, and did not want to commit to a TV series.
Because of its special place in TV history, My So-Called Life deserves another look. Granted, Danes and Leto have thriving screen careers, and Cruz works regularly on stage and screen as well, which would make a revival difficult. Still, revisiting such vivid characters after all these years is a prospect too promising to pass up.
Any other cult shows you want revived? Tell us in the comments!
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