The X-Files, Heroes and Twin Peaks are all coming back to our screens soon, with at least some of the original castmembers returning. Sounds great—except that this sort of thing doesn’t always work out. Here are the most ignominious examples of classic TV shows that were reanimated...but they came back wrong.
Note: For the purpose of this article, we’re only looking at continuations of classic TV shows—not reboots or relaunches that are only dimly connected to the original series.
After Battlestar Galactica was canceled, fans were outraged and wrote to ABC in droves. Soon, this led to a sequel TV series, which takes place 30 years after the first series. The Galactica arrives at Earth, only to find that disco has just died. Also, the planet is defenseless against the Cylons. Among other problems, this series lacks Apollo and Starbuck, gives the now-bearded Adama a teenage supergenius adviser named Doctor Zee as an advisor, and lacks any of the zest of the original series. There are, however, flying motorcycles, and one episode where Wolfman Jack guest stars, and someone accidentally knocks out a Cylon using a microwave oven.
After the Professor builds a functioning interplanetary spaceship, the seven castaways of Gilligan’s Island find themselves rescued from the island, but instead are marooned on an uncharted, purple world of giant fungal growths and bioluminescent flora.
Reuniting 6/7ths of the original cast, but with Dawn Wells taking over as Ginger in addition to Mary Anne—this animated series added an eighth cast member in Bumper, a green reptilian creature with eyes like Jon Arbuckle’s from the Garfield cartoons.
With its newfound science fiction element, Gilligan’s Planet didn’t attempt to break the formula of its antecedent series, but to embrace it ever further—episodes would involve Gilligan discovering a wish-granting robot, Gilligan growing to astronomical size, and Gillian accidentally cloning himself.
After the classic 1960s spy comedy went off the air, there were a few attempts to revive it. Don Adams and Barbara Feldon starred in two TV movies: 1980’s The Nude Bomb and 1989’s Get Smart, Again!. The latter led to a 1995 TV series in which Adams and Feldon reappeared, and Andy Dick played the son of Maxwell Smart. Dick’s character, Zachary Smart, carries on Agent 86’s battle against the forces of KAOS, while Maxwell himself is appointed Chief of CONTROL. Zachary and his own analogue to 99, 66, (played by Elaine Hendrix) failed to find an audience, but did give us a human organ harvesting storyline in its two-part series finale. The episodes were titled “Wurst Enemies” & “Liver Let Die”.
As Splitsider explains: “Get Smart fails to recognize its audience, mismatching classic Get Smart style with modern comedy. Max and 99 perform for the multi-camera playground of the 1960s, but don’t to realize how close this new camera is to their faces. Feldon, in particular, emotes as if we won’t be able to see her. The show’s laugh track, similarly, appears out of place; an audience guffaws, but this show was not filmed before a live studio audience. The mix of broad wordplay and sight gags that headbang at the original series, coupled with the loud gestures of Andy Dick, muddle the show’s tone, failing to decide who it wants to impress: series diehards or fresh consumers.”
Just like with Get Smart, there were a handful of TV movies reuniting Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers after their respecive TV shows went off the air. And just like with Get Smart, there was an attempt to have the aging stars introduce the next generation of heroes. The 1989 TV movie Bionic Showdown featured Lindsay Wagner and Lee Majors mentoring a young bionic person named Kate Mason, played by the young Sandra Bullock in one of her first roles.
The Bullock TV movie isn’t that bad—just sort of slow and nostalgic—but the final TV movie, Bionic Ever After, is a weird melodrama about the marriage between the Bionic Woman and the Six-Million Dollar Man.
And as it happens, Jaime gets cold feet when her bionic limbs stop working!
Jaime: What if I end up in wheelchair?
Oscar: You won’t!
Jaime: What if I do? Steve is expecting to marry somebody who beats his behind at racquetball; somebody who…who runs sixty miles an hour; who takes a little twenty-mile swim with him once a week. We’ve been bionic together for a very long time!
Jaime’s malfunctions stem from a computer virus engineered by a terrorist threatening to launch a missile at the American Embassy. Steve heads to the Bahamas to put a stop to him – but the virus begins to afflict him too!
Though it all works out in the end, but to many, Bionic Ever After felt like an unsatisfactorily maudlin finale for these adorable cyborgs.
In a bizarre case of executive meddling, Warner Brothers felt the Emmy-winning Pinky & the Brain would be better served with the incorporation of Elmyra Duff, a well-meaning, though pet-murdering little girl from Tiny Toon Adventures— and a suburban setting to give it a modern sitcom feel.
So, ACME Labs was closed in a depressing new intro sequence, and to anyone who was there to see it, the show became an instant mega-downer.
The misery Brain was now forced to endure—outside his element, and suffering at the hands of a capricious child—really hit home, and felt truly inescapable, even to the kids watching at home. Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain is best likened to the dinner scene in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre: to see it as a kid felt like being strapped to a table while your captors, serving human sausage, mock your tears.
Call it a reverse Xanatos Gambit—since there’s no way to win this one. For the third season of Gargoyles, the series was retitled and the entire production staff replaced for a more streamlined and network-monitored approach, naturally leading to its cancellation. In the words of Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman, “Part of the problem was that the staff of Chronicles took springboards I came up with and then went WAY south with them.” For example, the episode Justice For All was planned to have Goliath put on trial for his sentience—in the version that aired, he was put on trial for robbing a jewelry store. And that’s probably one of the better episodes, too.
This late 70’s revival of The Avengers put John Steed together with Joanna Lumley, and for the first time, a third partner played by Gareth Hunt. As the series set out to create somewhat darker and more straightforward espionage tales, it failed to connect with audiences and is something of a black sheep of the franchise, which even star Patrick Macnee more or less disowned. Despite this, or in consequence of the tonal shift, The New Avengers’ most memorable episode, “Gnaws”, involved mutant sewer rats – with a recycled script that borrowed liberally from the Thunderbirds serial, “Attack of the Mutant Alligators!”
There were a number of puzzling attempts to bring back Knight Rider over the years. Between the original series and its most recent incarnation, there were two follow-up TV movies—one of which featured Mitch Pileggi as a serial killer. There was also Knight Rider 2010, a loosely based, Mad Max-style post-apocalypse story, and Team Knight Rider, featuring five talking cars that could come together like Voltron to form a high speed pursuit vehicle. But the 2008 series was most explicitly tied to the original 1980s classic, with David Hasselhoff showing up to pass the torch to his son (Justin Bruening), who drove an upgraded version of KITT.
In spite of featuring the Hoff, we still called the 2008 revival “the worst hour on television.”
Touted as a continuation of the original animated series, with new villains, new ideas and a new turtle in Venus de Milo, Saban’s live-action take on the TMNT was a legitimately nauseating affair with unappealing costumes, voiceovers and sound effects. According to series director Kevin Munroe, turtles creator Peter Laird hates the series with a passion—so say we all.
When Eerie, Indiana finally began to develop a fan base in reruns on Fox several years after its cancellation, a follow-up series was planned. With no input from original producer Joe Dante, or any of the original series staff, it was decided to produce a batch of brand new similar-but-different episodes set in an adjacent dimension. Eerie protagonist Marshall Teller became “Mitchell Taylor” and sidekick Simon Holmes was now Stanley Hope. Lacking much of the style and inventiveness of the original, The Other Dimension felt like a bootleg, off-brand version of the show that couldn’t catch a break in the first place.
In 2001, a continuation of the 70’s Sid & Marty Krofft series about two kitschy superheroines battling characters like The Sorcerer, the Empress of Evil, and Glitter Rock (a glam rock-themed super villain) was put in motion. A pilot was ordered, and though it did not eventually go to series, the aborted revival from the WB featured the original Electra Woman (this time played by Markie Post) as a down-on-her-luck alcoholic who meets a young admirer who encourages her to take on the mantle once more—with her as the new Dyna Girl. (You can watch the whole thing above.)
The pilot features some bizarre placeholder music and cameos, including The All New Mickey Mouse Clubs’s house band, The Party, covering The Rubinoos I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend after Electra Woman and Dyna Girl foil a robbery, and Chad from 2Gether as a hormonal teenager.
In this sequel, David Carradine returned as Kwai Chang Caine – the grandson of the marital arts master he portrayed in the original series, and bearing the same dragon tattoo on his forearm signifying his station as a Shaolin priest.
Unlike its predecessor, this series was at its heart an action-procedural and a lot of contention resulted over Carradine’s age. While he can still deliver with his deadly fists, Caine’s kicks appear to be delivered by a prosthesis—sometimes what appears to be a broomstick with a shoe attached.
As People Magazine explained, “Like his—ancestor, Kung Fu the Younger has a dragon tattoo on his forearm, signifying training as a Shaolin priest. That means he’s given to spouting pseudo-Confucian aphorisms such as, “When you understand your motives and the motives of your enemies, you cannot help but win.” The profundity is apparently infectious. Even villains scream at their henchmen such dialogue as, ‘The source of all life is a profound mystery.’”
In it’s favor, though, The Legend Continues did feature website favorite David Hewlett as its irascible pathologist, and ended after an impressive 88 episodes. To quote the series, while maybe even defending it:
“How long will it take me to learn these things, Father?”
“A lifetime, my son. Perhaps a little longer…”
Theses 60s favorites employed completely different reinvention strategies. In one, a cave-in at the mansion leaves the Munsters in stasis for thirty years, and the family reemerges in 1989. Meanwhile, the New Addams Family proceeded as if nothing happened between the original series and its two live action films. But to audiences, there was some explaining to do.
Nothing from either series gelled, beginning with the spoken-word rendition of Jack Trombey’s great Munsters surf theme, to an all-new calypso theme for The New Addams Family. And after Fred Gwynne, among others, declined to reprise his role (Al Lewis wasn’t even asked), a new set of performers was needed, and both series suffered from their off-putting casts. While Lee Meriwether acquits herself nicely as Lily, John Schuck’s Herman Munster is a truly skin crawling invention to behold. His bizarre makeup application makes him look more like a half-eaten avocado, or Tim Curry’s Pennywise the Clown, than Fred Gwynne —as if the thirty years in hibernation couldn’t completely cease the process of decay. Grandpa Munster (Howard Morton), though, came out looking sleeker, somehow.
As for the Addams, Glenn Taranto’s Gomez is tantamount to enduring your criminal uncle’s Robert De Niro impersonation, though Ellie Harvie’s only offense is that she just isn’t Carolyn Jones. Luckily, she returned for an episode of The Haunting Hour in 2012 as a parent-eating witch at a high school recital, and seemed to have perfected her take on the character there. More menace was needed for Morticia, and there, at least, she delivered.