Enough With the Retro TV Shows
October 23, 2013

Enough With The Retro TV Shows

The fall TV season is just a few weeks in, and already actor Blair Underwood is looking for another job. NBC pulled Ironside from its schedule.

This isn’t the first time the 49-year-old actor has seen a show of his crash and burn; he was previously in NBC’s high concept LOST-wannabe The Event, as well as NBC’s airport drama LAX. Maybe he should look at developing a show for a network beyond the Peacock? Oh, wait! He was in the HBO’s one season and canceled series In Treatment, too.

Not to pick on Underwood, but after a few misses why did he opt to try to make a return with a show that basically was a re-launch of an old (and, more importantly, beloved) series. In a day and age where many classic shows are airing, if not available on demand or on DVD, people don’t really need to see retakes on old shows.

Case in point: Ironside was a fairly popular show when it ran from 1967 to 1975, but it was hardly a ratings smash. Perhaps someone at NBC figured it might be a way to save money as old stories could be recycled.

This was the case of the hit series Mission Impossible. It had a good run and was quite popular when it originally aired from 1966 to 1973 on CBS. It made a return on ABC in 1988, running until 1990. However, the circumstances were quite unique.

This show’s return to network TV came during the 1988 writer’s strike, so ABC rushed the show into development and even had it filmed in Australia. However, as noted, the updated version still only ran two seasons, so it can be hardly considered the best move.

This is why it is so perplexing that nearly every year there seems to be a reboot, retake or update on classic TV shows. In recent years there have been Charlie’s Angels, Knight Rider, Melrose Place, V and The Bionic Woman.

There have been some exceptions, notably Hawaii Five-O, 90210 and Battlestar Galactica. Dallas seems to be going along, but one has to wonder if the death of Larry Hagman didn’t actually help the show attract viewers?

The list of failures is actually much longer than the hits.

It might be easy to remember those aforementioned misses as they are likely fresh in our minds and crashed and burned so badly that we’ll remember they didn’t work. The Atlantic compiled some recent missteps a few years ago.

But, how about Dragnet, which starred Modern Family’s Ed O’Neil, or the 1995 update of Get Smart. As Maxwell Smart might say, “missed it by thattttt much.” There was also The Love Boat: The Next Wave, which failed to attract a new audience and was all but washed out to sea; and over the years a couple of updates of The Twilight Zone.

What is odd about some of these updates is that there are those attempts to see if lightning can strike twice, but in the case of V, the original show didn’t make it past one season, although it came as the result of the success of a hit mini-series.

Of course, about the only thing worse than network executives thinking they can reboot a beloved series is when movie execs have the same idea. Didn’t we already mention Get Smart? The list of TV shows to movies is almost painful to remember. Case in point… The Mod Squad. It might not get much worse than that!

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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