In a move that could change television as we know it, Netflix is reportedly launching a Choose Your Own Adventure TV series made for children later this year. For those unfamiliar, ‘80s and ‘90s kids alike were raised on a series of books that gave the reader the storytelling agency. The Choose Your Own Adventure books (CYOA from here on out) featured the second person perspective — meaning the reader chooses where the story goes and what happens next for the characters.
Whether this concept will translate well to television format remains to be seen, but it’s not a bad idea for a streaming service like Netflix to test the waters. Fans can watch/play at their convenience, and, real talk: who among the pop culture obsessed hasn’t fantasized or pontificated about what plot points or series finales they’d change if they could? We started thinking not only about shows that would fit snugly into the CYOA format, but also shows that had a small-yet-loyal following that were canceled too soon, or shows that had loads of untapped potential — shows whose second (or, in some cases, third) chance could be resurrection via CYOA series. Here are 15 Shows Netflix Should Make Into A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Series:
15. Stranger Things
One of our writers suggested this already, and we want to second that emotion. The Upside Down is so terrifying and creepy, Pennywise might think twice before entering, but it’s also fascinating and perfect for a CYOA-type exploration by viewers. The entire series seems open to the CYOA format, and we can’t help but be curious about the myriad possible outcomes, should viewers get to explore where Will went and what happened to him while he was there.
Stranger Things made us care about its Dungeons and Dragons loving young protagonists, its weary and frazzled adults, and its confused and weird teens so much that we couldn’t help but get invested in what happened to them (if the show were a CYOA series, viewers could potentially change the fate of Shannon Purser’s fan favorite Barb, which is reason enough for its inclusion here). And, since viewers could pick their favorite character and pretty much control him or her, well…we ALL want to be Eleven on some level, don’t we?
14. Warehouse 13
This Syfy series amassed a decent-sized cult following during its five seasons, and its structure and adventure-laden storylines would serve a CYOA show quite well. The show was centered on two Secret Service Agents who collected random — and potentially harmful — artifacts, placing and storing them in the titular warehouse for safe keeping. Warehouse 13 had a definite Indiana Jones vibe, and in a CYOA show, viewers could hunt for ultra-fun artifacts like the Folsom Prison ball and chain, which attached itself to the shadows of random people, rendering them immobile, or the “angry birdcage,” a metal birdcage that attracts everything with feathers within a one-mile radius.
Another reason Warehouse might work as a CYOA series: in the show, it is suggested that there were a dozen other warehouses from various other points in time — Warehouse 1, for example, was built under Alexander the Great, while Warehouse 11 was in Russia during the Romanov dynasty. A CYOA show could open its doors further, giving viewers the choice of which warehouse and subsequent historical era they want to visit, giving an entirely new experience to old and new fans of the show alike.
After two unarguably flawed NBC series, (Heroes and Heroes Reborn) many fans and critics broke up with this show for good, and we don’t blame them. We did too. But watching Heroes as a CYOA series would literally leave the plot up to the people watching, so just about all of the (very legitimate) grievances viewers had could be remedied by the same fans who were frustrated the first few times around.
The series was never the same after the first season, so the show would have to start over, back to the whole “save the cheerleader” era, way before Nathan’s bizarre murder and T-Bag from Prison Break was running around at some carnival for an entire season. Giving fans and viewers the opportunity to make the decisions in this world would reboot the series entirely. Maybe the third time wouldn’t be the charm here. Or maybe this is the format this show has been waiting for. There’s only one way to find out.
12. The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries
Those who love a good mystery, as well as adult spins on classic children’s literature (looking at you, Grimm fans) this one’s for you. An updated take on Nancy Drew starring Person of Interest‘s Sarah Shahi almost happened but never did, and a CYOA series would be an intriguing way for fans of the classic characters to explore the world(s) of their favorite sleuths in totally different ways.
We think a completely overhauled and contemporized version of the late ‘70s series The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries, in which Nancy solved a mystery one week, and Frank and Joe Hardy solved a different one the week after, would be perfect for a CYOA series. Viewers could choose whether they wanted to solve Nancy’s mystery, or the one the Hardy Boys were grappling with, and then test their detective skills based on the multiple potential scenarios presented. With drastically different mysteries in every episode, viewers would always have new and exciting worlds to explore.
11. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!
Think of this as a CYOA for hardcore Nintendo fans. Starring pro wrestling’s Captain Lou Albano as Mario, kids of the ‘90s were treated to a bizarre mix of cartoons and live-action in this series, which also featured episodes of The Legends of Zelda that aired one day a week on Fridays. If the show were a CYOA series, viewers could select which character they wanted to be (Link, Mario, Zelda, Luigi, even Koopa) and control their fates in Marioland in entirely new ways.
While the original TV series featured 15 or so minutes of cartoon bookended by live-action starring Albano and random guest stars, we propose nixing the live-action altogether and letting viewers control the animated stories. Viewers would warp into the Magic Kingdom and be placed in the throes of that week’s mission, deciding whether they want to control Link’s story or Mario’s, and how they’ll take on Koopa or Ganon. The series could use a chance at redemption — the original version was laden with regrettable racial and ethnic stereotypes that could stand to be corrected or eliminated entirely.
10. Land of the Lost
A cult classic and a 1970s relic that was rebooted by Nickelodeon in the early ‘90s and later made into a subpar Will Farrell film, Land of the Lost is one part Gilligan’s Island and one part Lost in Space with a tad of Jurassic Park thrown in for good measure. It’s the story of the Marshall family, who were swept down a gigantic waterfall via a dimensional portal and whisked into an unfamiliar society. The show also had an Oregon Trails-type element to it, as the Marshall family had to forage and hunt for food and search for shelter with limited resources.
We think the show might make a fun CYOA series due to its fish-out-of-water elements, its characters’ dual goals of escape and survival, and its sci-fi/adventure tone. Viewers could control how the Marshall clan interacted with the locals, who range from harmless dinosaurs to antagonistic Sleestaks, as well as try to figure out ways to get home with or without the portal, which, if the series expanded its scope, could also include travels to other unknown lands.
9. Marvel’s Most Wanted
We loved Adrianne Palicki as battle stave wielding Bobbi Morse on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and when she and fellow agent and on-again-off-again ex Lance Hunter (Nick Blood) were in line to get their own TV series, many of us cheered. But ABC passed on the pilot, and we’ve been left wondering what could have been ever since. After learning that we likely won’t be seeing these fierce-fighting and entertaining characters on S.H.I.E.L.D. anytime soon, a CYOA series on Netflix could be a pretty decent compromise.
Viewers could choose the paths of the wayward and on-the-run agents, creating new adventures for the pair in a multitude of settings, even controlling whether or not the duo get back together permanently. Because Morse and Hunter are good guys on the run from basically everybody, a CYOA series would involve the viewer in numerous cat-and-mouse scenarios, and would be an action-packed adventure set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s worth a shot, no?
It’s definitely possible for TV shows to be both good and bad in quality, and Sliders was one of those shows. The show switched networks (originally airing on Fox, then later moved to the Sci-Fi channel) and endured multiple creative changes in its five-year run, and as a result, it never fully lived up to its potential. A CYOA show could change all that.
The series’ hero, a 20-something dude named Quinn Mallory, has found a way to jump in and out of other dimensions with a group of fellow dimension-hoppers. Viewers could pick and choose which dimension they entered, and then try to find ways to control what happened once they arrived in a new one. The special effects were pretty bad and in need of an upgrade (sliding in and out of new dimensions made the viewer feel like they were zipping through day-glo tunnels), but the show posed some interesting questions that would fit perfectly in a CYOA story, like: What if penicillin didn’t exist in our dimension? Or, what if we lived in a female-centric society where women were the dominant sex? Each dimension could bring a different adventure for viewers.
This franchise already has had two distinct TV series, the most recent of which ended in a rather abrupt fashion, leaving viewers in need of resolution. The alien invasion drama is another show with a substantive cult following and a narrative structure perfect for a CYOA series. Viewers could get some closure and a reboot at the same time.
The show explored the aftermath of an alien invasion — one in which the aliens were deceptively kind and helpful, bringing cures for diseases and making them widely available while simultaneously spying on and taking control of the human race they pretended to help. A group of resistance fighters called the Fifth Column formed a secret alliance designed to fight and oppose the “visitors,” which is how the show refers to the aliens. Viewers of a CYOA V reboot would be able to plot and determine the ways the Fifth Column fights back, and, because the invasion is a global one, the show could open its boundaries and make room for how other countries and cultures are reacting and/or fighting back.
Paging all Browncoats! Fans of Joss Whedon’s woefully short-lived space western clamored for more and got a two-hour movie — which was great, but it still wasn’t enough. Imagine exploring the infinite amount of planets and galactic rest stops in the series while being Captain Malcolm Reynolds himself, or a member of his crew, which includes hyper-capable physical forces like River Tam and Zoe Washburn.
One of the most original elements of Firefly was the way it so expertly mashed the western and science fiction genres, and a CYOA set in this world would allow the viewer a unique opportunity to explore both genres with aplomb. The show could also offer the viewer a series of opportunities to revisit the crew in the past via flashback episodes. For example, those still upset about (SPOILER ALERT!) the deaths of Wash and/or Shepherd Book in Serenity might relish the opportunity to go back in time in an episode or two (or three or four) devoted to revealing the crew’s backstory. We know we’d be game.
5. seaQuest DSV
This uneven series aired from 1993-1996, providing a superb example of a show with a great premise and loads of potential that never realized how good it could actually be. Making seaQuest DSV a CYOA series would, at the very least, tap this potential. The show came across as a Star Trek copycat set on a submarine, but the premise alone would make for a great CYOA: set in a future that has seen nearly all of its natural resources get used up, the seaQuest crew’s mission is to secure and protect the remaining resources from rogue nations and random ne’er do wells.
The crew is also tasked with defending the established colonies currently housing these coveted remaining resources, which are located on the ocean floor, as they conduct research into finding and utilizing new resources. With multiple characters, missions, and a vast and limitless universe under the sea, the show would be a perfect CYOA for science geeks of all ages.
4. Quantum Leap
For those who would love to hop through the decades of their respective lifetimes and partake in activities that alter the course of history, this series is for you. One part Back to the Future, one part Early Edition, Quantum Leap’s hero, physicist Sam Beckett, jumps through time and into different bodies in every episode due to “a time travel experiment that went…a little caca,” as his neurological hologram/best imaginary friend Al Calavicci explains.
If Quantum Leap were to become a CYOA series, viewers could be in Sam’s shoes, which in the original series included everything from leaping into the body of a chimpanzee about to be sacrificed to a pregnant teenager to Lee Harvey Oswald pre-assassination attempt. Viewers would then be faced with different choices and different situations every week, and every episode would be an adventure through time seen through the eyes of a different character…who is also the same character. Are you there, Netflix? It’s us, Screen Rant.
3. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Lena Headey and Summer Glau starred in this short-lived TV show featuring the adventures of teenaged John Connor (Thomas Dekker). The show was surprisingly good, and definitely falls in the cancelled-too-soon-camp. Considering the fact that every film the franchise has released since Terminator 2: Judgment Day has been cinematic garbage, the TV 2008-2009 show starring soon-to-be Cersei Lannister is actually the best thing the franchise has seen since 1992. That said, we also think a CYOA with terminators involved would be entertaining in all the right ways.
Viewers could pick a character (Sarah, John, Cameron, or an evil terminator — we prefer Garret Dillahunt’s) and then decide where/how to run, plot how to take down Skynet, or how to attack the good guys, depending on which character is chosen by viewers. Time travel was also a part of the original series — John and Sarah jump years ahead via time displacement equipment, so all parts of the franchise timeline could potentially be visited, which only enhances the show’s CYOA appeal.
Arnold Schwarzenegger recently said that he’d be up to a return to the franchise on the big screen. Would a small screen adaptation be appealing to the action icon as well?
2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Another huge fan community could get the opportunity to control the fates and plotlines connected to their most-adored universe by choosing their favorite (or least favorite, if they’re feeling saucy) characters and deciding what actions those characters take. What if Anakin never had leanings towards the dark side? Or, at the very least, what if he were far less easy to corrupt, or you could explore his struggle in much more depth? What if you could be a lightsaber-wielding Yoda, or a young Obi-Wan during the pivotal period of time that passed between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith?
A CYOA Clone Wars would allow viewers to fight droid armies one week and attack the surviving Jedi the next — it would be a rare opportunity for fans to explore multiple facets of the series. It would also be pretty amazing to help determine the fate of the few remaining Jedi.
This show’s continuously experimental and playful structure only lends itself to the CYOA format. With its unique and fairly diverse cast of characters, fans and viewers need only pick and choose their brand of hilarity and go from there: there’s Abed’s pop culture obsessed nerd, his BFF for life, the sweetly naïve former jock Troy, mom and sandwich guru Shirley, outmoded Pierce, the cerebral and bookish Annie, the establishment-fighting Britta, or their leader, the sarcastic lawyer-kinda, Jeff. Once a character POV is chosen, it’s on to adventures that could involve anything from trampolines to mock Law and Order episodes to things called Dreamatoriums, or something else entirely — you just never know with these guys.
Granted, we’re sure former cast members like Donald Glover and Alison Brie have other projects in the works, but Community was such a rare, special show that both viewers and critics alike couldn’t help but love it, even in the years where it wasn’t firing on all cylinders. It was audacious, hilarious, and wildly entertaining, and it would make the perfect CYOA show based on season three’s “Remedial Chaos Theory” alone.
Which TV shows do YOU want to see Netflix make into a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series? Let us know in the comments.
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