Sometimes, you just can’t keep a dead TV show down because eventually it’ll just seem easier and more agreeable to a network executive’s ear to simply revive an old TV show instead of make a new one. For example, ever since Lost ended (and even before it) networks have been chasing that Lost viewership with high-concept shows which tank horribly. Wouldn’t they love if it they could just revive Lost? Well, that’s not happening anytime soon. However, the CW is currently enjoying surprising success with its revived version of Who’s Line Is It, Anyway?, and the AMC’s revived murder-mystery-drama-everyone-loves-to-hate The Killing just finished its third season.
But what does it mean for a show to be revived? Let’s go with the definition offered up over at tvtropes.org:
The Revival differs from other forms of remake and adaptation in that it remains (more or less) in continuity with its predecessor. The show may differ in some substantial ways, particularly with regards to casting, but it is nonetheless a continuation of the original series, rather than a second attempt at visiting the same material. Revived show exists within the same continuity of its predecessor thus inviting potentially unwanted negative comparisons to what came before.
So, in practice we’re talking about Star Trek and Doctor Who, not Family Guy or Futurama (which were canceled and uncanceled, coming back as basically the same show) and not Battlestar Galactica (which is a re-make/re-imagination, not a revival).
The following is a list of 5 revivals we liked, and 10 we barely even knew about until now. For each category, they are listed in reverse chronological order (most recent to oldest). Only scripted shows, live-action or animation, were considered for this list.
5 TV Revivals We Liked
1) Arrested Development (Revived in 2013)
- Original Run: 3 seasons, 53 episodes on Fox (2003-2006)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 15 episodes on Netflix (2013)
From the time Arrested Development was canceled to the time that it was revived by Netflix, the internet was mostly comprised of porn and Arrested Development .gifs. Ever since the show came back, the universal love and adulation for its original 3 seasons has turned into an internet still comprised of porn and people talking about Arrested Development except now those fans are debating if the new, revived Netflix season has ruined the show by being, at best, just okay.
Part of the deal to bring it back was that the actors were all too busy to work as a full-time ensemble cast anymore, but they could work on it part time. So, creator Mitchell Hurwitz created a season story structure dictated by the actor’s availability resulting in a series of episodes focused primarily upon each individual characters journey from 2006 to the present. The brilliance of the season is that given its circumstances it actually works at all and makes sense, but also how much it rewards repeat viewing, i.e., the entire season is like the sitcom version of Rashomon with a series of events depicted from differing viewpoints. Some of the GOB (Will Arnett), Buster (Tony Hale), and George Michael (Michael Cera) episodes are arguably among the best the show has ever done.
2) Teen Titans (Revived as Teen Titans Go! in 2013)
- Original Run: 5 seasons, 65 episodes on Cartoon Network (2003-2006)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 26 episodes on Cartoon Network; already renewed for a 2nd season (2013-present)
For 5 seasons, the D.C. comic book heroes Cyborg, Raven, Robin, Starfire, and Beast Boy battled supervillains (e.g., Deathstroke), saved the world, and eased American audiences into accepting Japanese anime-influenced animation in their superhero shows on Teen Titans. They looked like this:
Then they came back in 2012 and looked like this and were suddenly incredibly immature and far more child-like:
What the smurf! For one thing, Raven (the one with blue hood) no longer appears to have legs (they’re still there – we just don’t see them). What the hell happened? Well, the show was initially revived as a series of animated shorts (less than 1 minute long) called the New Teen Titans, and aired in 2012 during commercial breaks for Cartoon Network’s other D.C. comic book-based shows Green Lantern and Young Justice. The original show had its definite comic moments, but was just as often deadly serious, with the heroes facing supervillains weekly. The new show is more interested in Adult Swim-style absurdist humor focused upon the mundane realities of the 5 heroes co-habitating together, such as settling who does laundry that week. In this version, which has now morphed into a full-on series called Teen Titans Go! with 11-minute episodes, characters are likely to die one week and return the next with no explanation. It’s unceasingly bright color palette and almost obnoxiously comedic tone has been off-putting for long-time fans of the original Teen Titans. The uniquely quirky humor is oddly rewarding when you stick with it. You might even find yourself involuntarily mimicking Robin’s infectiously exaggerated call to arms, “Teen Titans…Go!” It is, however, debatable if this qualifies as a revival or reboot, but the show does proceed as if we remember events from the original Teen Titans, such as how these characters met in the first place.
3) Upstairs, Downstairs (Revived in 2010)
- Original Run: 5 seasons, 68 episodes on ITV (1971-1975)
- Revived Run: 2 seasons, 9 episodes on BBC1 (2010-2012)
A show centered upon an early 20th century British estate with storylines split between the poor servants and the impossibly rich masters? Well, that’s like catnip to American anglophiles, as illustrated by the inescapable cultural force that is the unabashedly soapy Downton Abbey. However, Downton didn’t just emerge from a creative vacuum. In fact, it actually owes a great debt to various prior British TV shows, most specifically the 1970s series Upstairs, Downstairs which detailed the lives of the rich masters (who lived upstairs) of 165 Eaton Place and their poor servants (who lived downstairs) from the years 1901 to 1930. Show co-creator Jean Marsh also performed on the show as Rose Buck, one of the leading poor servant characters. When it was revived in for 3 special episodes in 2010 (the same year Downton premiered), Jean Marsh returned as Rose Buck with the storyline centered on the new owners of 165 Eaton Place six years after the events of the original series. Marsh only appeared in cameos during the second (and now last) season. While never quite equaling the soapy glory of Downton, this new Upstairs was arguably better than critics and audiences gave it credit.
4) Doctor Who (Revived in 2005)
- Original Run: 26 seasons, 694 episodes on BBC (1963-1989)
- Revived Run: 7 seasons,104 episodes on BBC1 (2005-present)
The brilliance of the 2005 revival of Doctor Who is just how much it both honors the continuity established in the preceding 26 years of television (and 1 horrible, horrible TV movie) while remaining utterly and totally accessible to new audiences. In fact, even though the first Doctor of the modern era, Christopher Eccleston, was the 9th person to play the role for many fans he is still the first Doctor they ever saw and/or the furthest back in the show’s history they’ve gone. When classic-era companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) showed up in the second season, it was a treat for long-time fans, but for modern fans it simply served a thematic purpose of establishing the Doctor has traveled with many people in the past, not always ending on the best terms, thus foreshadowing his forthcoming separation from modern companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) at season’s end. Plus, it hooked both old and new viewers by creating a new backstory in which during the gap between the 1996 TV movie and the 2005 revival the Doctor had engaged in some kind of mysterious war between his arch enemy, the Daleks, and his people, the Time Lords. The results of the war traumatized him, and created a mystery for both old and new alike: what the heck happened during that war? That is a question so primed for drama the show is still answering it to this day.
5) Star Trek (Revived as Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987)
- Original Run: 3 seasons, 80 episodes on NBC (1966-1969)
- Revived Run: 7 seasons, 178 episodes in Syndication (1987-1994) plus 3 spin-offs which ran a combined 446 episodes
Star Trek fans can debate all they want about which was the better series or the better captain (usually a Kirk vs. Picard kind of deal), but none of it would have been possible without the success of the revived version of the show in 1987: Star Trek: The Next Generation. Then again, The Next Generation followed 4 feature-length films which starred the original cast meaning it had way more going for it than most TV show revivals. It became arguably the most successful revival in TV history. The revived version of the show was set over 80 years in the future from the original show, and starred an entirely new cast with only rare appearances from classic cast members like DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, or Leonard Nemoy. The name of the ship, U.S.S. Enterprise, was the same, but it was a later model. Creator Gene Roddenberry had become so obsessed with utopian ideals since the time of the original show he would not allow the basic building blocks of quality drama on the revival, fighting any story impulse to introduce friction or conflict between crew members. The conflict was to come from their interactions with outside entities…and boy did it suck. Then Roddenberry died, and the show stretched out more and thrived (the Borg!) and its popularity shot through the roof, leading to 3 films centered on The Next Generation crew and 3 spin-off shows which combined to produce over 400 episodes of television.
10 TV Revivals We Didn’t Even Know About
1) Get Smart (Revived in 1995)
- Original Run: 5 seasons, 138 episodes on NBC (1965-1969) and CBS (1969-1970)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 7 episodes on Fox (1995)
Get Smart just keeps coming back…for some reason. The original show, created by Mel Brooks and starring the venerable Don Adams as the buffoonish lead character Maxwell Smart, was a fun spoof of spy genre conventions, sort of like Austin Powers before Austin Powers. NBC canceled it after 4 seasons, but CBS uncanceled it that same year to play for a fifth (and final) season. Then there was the follow-up film The Nude Bomb in 1980, and made-for-TV movie Get Smart, Again! in 1989, both of which starred Adams as Smart. Based upon the success of Get Smart, Again!, Fox commissioned 7 episodes of a revived series focusing on Smart as the boss to his similarly hopeless spy son played by Andy Dick. It came and went very fast, most likely providing Dick with a salary he wasted almost entirely on cocaine as he would do on his next project, Newsradio. They at least knew the revived Get Smart wasn’t going to last, ending the 7th episode with the implication Maxwell Smart accidentally set-off an atomic bomb set to explode and kill everyone in the cast (plus countless millions in the vicinity). Warner Bros. ignored all of this in 2008 when it tried to turn Get Smart into a new film franchise centered around Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart.
2) Burke’s Law (Revived in 1994)
- Original Run: 3 seasons, 81 episodes on ABC (1963-1965)
- Revived Run: 2 seasons, 27 episodes on CBS (1994-1995)
What if Donald Trump was also the captain of his own division of the police force? Well, that was kind of the original Burke’s Law from the early 1960s. Gene Berry starred as Amos Burke, who was a millionaire chauffeured around in his gorgeous Rolls-Royce. Oh, yeah, he also solved crimes because in addition to being a millionaire he was also the chief of the homicide division of the Los Angeles police department. In the final season, the whole police department angle was dropped as Burke suddenly became a secret agent (the show was even re-titled Amos Burke, Secret Agent), but he still drove his Rolls-Royce around. Really, that car was the main character. Uber-TV-producer Aaron Spelling revived the show, using the old Burke’s Law title, in 1994, completely and utterly dropping the secret agent angle. This time around around, Burke (Berry reprising his role) was a detective solving crimes with his son (Peter Barton). It was apparently even campier than the original, and mostly existed to feature cameos from other old 1960s TV show stars.
3) WKRP in Cincinnati (Revived as The New WKRP in Cincinnati in 1991)
- Original Run: 4 seasons, 90 episodes on CBS (1978-1982)
- Revived Run: 2 seasons, 47 episodes in Syndication (1991-1993)
WKRP in Cincinnati was a workplace comedy set at a struggling Ohio radio station staffed by appropriately eccentric personalities. However, it’s mostly known as the show in which Howard Hesseman’s hippy, burnt-out DJ Dr. Johnny Fever ranted about social issues or appeared stoned while introducing rock songs, and the remarkably chesty Loni Anderson would try her best to look dignified in an endless supply of remarkably tight sweaters. When it was revived in 1991, three of the original cast members returned (Less Nessman, Herb Tarlek, Arthur Carlson) while Hesseman and Anderson guest starred in a couple of episodes. The rest of the cast was filled out with newbies like pre-Forrest Gump Mykelti Williamson and pre-crazy-town-bonkers Tawny Kitaen.
4) The Monkees (Revived as The New Monkees in 1987)
- Original Run: 2 seasons, 58 episodes on NBC (1966-1968)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 13 episodes in Syndication (1987)
What the deuce! The original Monkees were the manufactured, TV-version of The Beatles, and eventually they began to believe they were a real band and a crap-ton of drama went down. Well, much as N*Sync was just another manufactured boy band from the same guy who made The Backstreet Boys, there was an attempt in the mid-1980s on the part of the one of the original Monkees producers to replicated the Monkees success with a new band, album, and TV show. An album of synthy rock was recorded, and the syndicated show revolved around the New Monkees exploring their ginormous mansion. No, seriously, that was pretty much the show. Before sitcom-length versions of Spinal Tap trying to find their way from backstage to the actual stage enter your head, I should clarify that the mansion was so huge their kitchen was an actual functioning diner with waitress. So, there’s that. The original Monkees, who had nothing to do with the new show/band, sued and settled out of court. The New Monkees album bombed, and the show shut down production after only 13 of the original intended 26 episodes had been filmed. Everyone now seems to pretend this is something that never happened. Technically, this sounds more like a remake than a revival, but tvtropes considers it a revival.
5) Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Revived as The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1985)
- Original Run: 10 seasons, 361 episodes on CBS (1955-1960; 1962-1964) and NBC (1960-1962; 1964-1965)
- Revived Run: 4 seasons, 76 episodes on NBC (1985-1986) and USA (1987-1989)
It would not have been an incorrect response to watch The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the late 1980s and wonder, “Wait, isn’t Alfred Hitchcock dead?” He, in fact, died in 1980. However, NBC revived his classic anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents for a TV movie. The original show famously featured a title card involving Hitchock, a silhouette of Hitchock’s form in profile, and the music from “Funeral March for a Marionette.” The rotund director would introduce each episode as well as provide a closing thought, much as Rod Serling would do just a couple of years down the road on The Twilight Zone. The revived TV movie re-used a script from the original show, and colorized archival footage of Hitchock’s opening introduction. It was so popular they turned it into a revived version of the show for an entire season, and then USA produced it for 3 additional seasons. To be clear, the actual episodes were new, sometimes recreating or tweaking scripts from the original show and other times using entirely original storylines. The introductions, though, were just colorized versions of something a then recently-dead man had done 20-30 years prior. One could argue this sounds more like a remake than a revival, but anthology shows don’t really have established continuities to honor outside of who hosts. By maintaining Hitchock as the host, it qualifies as a revival.
6) Leave it to Beaver (Revived as The New Leave it to Beaver in 1985)
- Original Run: 6 seasons, 234 episodes on CBS & ABC (1957-1963)
- Revived Run: 4 seasons, 105 episodes on Disney Channel & TBS (1984-1989)
After you’ve spent 234 episodes with a TV family, you can’t help but be curious as to what happens to them later in life. So, June, Wally, and Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver all returned to the airwaves in the 1983 CBS TV movie Still the Beaver in which we learned that Ward Cleaver had died in 1977 thus widowing wife June and the titular “Beaver” was now a divorced father of two forced to move back in with his mom. Wally was at least doing well for himself, married with a daughter, but he still only lived next door to his mom. It was all kind of depressing, especially for a sitcom, but audiences ate it up. Plus, this coincided with the cable TV boom of the 1980s meaning there were suddenly new networks desperate for new material with already built-in audiences. CBS stopped at the TV movie, but the Disney Channel swooped in to turn it into a new series called The New Leave it to Beaver. When Disney dropped it TBS picked it up, with the show running for a total of 4 seasons between the two networks. However, unlike the original show The New Leave it to Beaver has largely been forgotten even though it ran for over 100 episodes. Why? Complicated business matters have kept it out of syndication since the early 1990s and prevented it from ever being released on DVD.
7) What’s Happening! (Revived as What’s Happening Now! in 1985)
- Original Run: 3 season, 65 episodes on ABC (1976-1979)
- Revived Run: 3 seasons, 66 episodes in Syndication (1985-1988)
For audiences who ever wondered what had become of Rerun (Fred Berry) and the gang from What’s Happening!, the 1980s gave the answer with the perfectly titled What’s Happening Now! The answer was that Rerun, Dwayne (Haywood Nelson), and Raj (Ernest Thomas) were still cracking wise while now struggling even more to make ends meet. Of course, as he had done during the original show Fred Berry accurately deduced that he was the main attraction and demanded more money. So, they fired his ass after the first season, ultimately attempting to replace him with a couple of new characters in the third season, one of whom was played by a young Martin Lawrence. Subsequently, the two shows were typically sold in one piece in syndication meaning those who only viewed the What’s Happening! gang via syndicated re-runs throughout the 1990s may not have realized there were technically two different shows separated by 6 years.
8) Maverick (Revived as Bret Maverick in 1981)
- Original Run: 5 seasons, 124 episodes on ABC (1957-1962)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 18 episodes on NBC (1981-1982)
James Garner quit the role of Bret Maverick, a traveling gambler always on the lookout for a good con in the American Old West, in 1960 after 3 seasons. ABC managed to crank out 2 more seasons centered around various cousins of Bret’s, most famously Roger Moore as Beau Maverick before he also quit. Garner later returned to TV in the 1970s on The Rockford Files, which Maverick creator Roy Huggins specifically created for Garner to play a modern, non-Western version of Bret Maverick as a private investigator. Heck, they even re-used entire scripts from Maverick, just updating them. While The Rockford Files was still on the air, enjoying great success, Garner appeared in the TV movie Maverick in 1978, which introduced yet another younger cousin of Maverick’s who was meant to anchor his own TV show. The resulting show, Young Maverick, bombed in just 8 episodes in 1979. After The Rockford Files ended in 1980, Garner jumped straight to Bret Maverick, which saw his famous character settled down in Arizona as a ranch owner and part-owner of a saloon. The show performed reasonably well, but by having Maverick settle down the adventurous nature of the original show had been sacrificed. It just wasn’t as much fun. So, NBC canceled it after 1 season. Garner did return one more time, though, in the 1994 movie starring Mel Gibson, playing Bret Maverick’s dad.
9) One Step Beyond (Revived as The Next Step Beyond in 1978)
- Original Run: 3 seasons, 97 episodes on ABC (1959-1961)
- Revived Run: 1 season, 12 episodes on NBC (1978)
Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Those are the biggies when it comes to supernatural anthology shows, and both have been revived multiple times. However, they weren’t the only anthology shows of their era. The same year that The Twilight Zone premiered was also the premiere year for One Step Beyond, which was like a darker version of Twilight Zone that still ended up looking like a cheap knock-off. The spooky host was there, this time John Newland, but he was a poor, poor substitute for the generally badass, fun-to-imitate Rod Serling. The plots were centered on paranormal activity, but lacked most of the social commentary of Twilight and its big twist conclusions were often laughable by comparisons. However, if the Twilight Zone weren’t around doing the same thing so much better One Step Beyond would probably be looked upon a lot more charitably. Newland returned to host a revived version on NBC in 1978, but it failed to make it past 1 season.
10) The Avengers (Revived as The New Avengers in 1976)
- Original Run: 6 seasons, 161 episodes on ITV (1961-1969)
- Revived Run: 2 seasons, 26 episodes on ITV (1976-1977)
The original Avengers starred Patrick Macnee as John Sneed, a crime-fighting spy who started out as an assistant before becoming lead star in the second season and working alongside a rotating supply of attractive female assistants (starting to sound like Doctor Who). Sneed returned for the revival, joined by two new partners played by Gareth Hunt and Joanna Lumley. The original The Avengers had become so parodic and insane it lost all connection to reality by the end (in a good way). The revival attempted to play things a bit more serious, a decision which did not win them many new fans but angered many of the old. The revival even had to seek out funds from Canadian backers to finish out its 26 episode order.
Other recent TV show revivals include Dallas, 90210, and Melrose Place.
This is a follow-up article to a prior list detailing 30 shows which were canceled and then uncanceled. You can view that list here.
What do you think? Any TV show revivals you liked that are not listed here? Let us know in the comments.