Entertainment Magazine

The Ones That Came Back: 15 TV Shows Which Were Revived (5 We Liked, 10 We Didn’t Know About)

Posted on the 07 August 2013 by Weminoredinfilm.com @WeMinoredInFilm

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. 

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).  However, sometimes a remake is actually easier to take than a revival because a revived show exists within the same continuity of its predecessor thus inviting potentially unwanted negative comparisons to what came before.  As a result, the success rate of TV show revivals?  Not all that high.  Plus, it’s happened so often there are probably revivals of TV shows you’ve never even heard of.

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)

It is the compliment you should never say in person to show creators like Shawn Ryan (Terriers) or David Simon (The Wire): “I caught your show on Netflix/DVD, and I love it.”  As nice as that sounds what you’re actually saying is, “I never watched the show when it was on the air, i.e., when my viewership would have actually been of direct benefit and allowed you to keep making more episodes.”

After Arrested Development, though, maybe that’s changed.  It was a show with a familiar trajectory: critically adored, nominated/awarded heavily, but little-seen and thus canceled while still in its prime.  However, in the 7 years since it left the air it has owned internet fandom among comedy nerds enough to get a revived season on Netflix.  The problem?  Ala Pet Semetary, it came back wrong.  All of the actors were too busy to work on the show at the same exact time so creator/head writer Mitchell Hurwitz structured the new season around the actor’s schedules meaning it was a series of episodes centered upon individual characters.  In fact, most revived shows acknowledge the passing of time between the two incarnations in some small way whereas the new season of Arrested Development was completely devoted to exploring what had become of the characters in the years since the show had been off the air.  It was just as intricately plotted as ever, in fact more so, but the ensemble cast was never quite ensemble at the same time.  The good news?  The new seasons early episodes give way halfway through to some stellar storytelling before truly hitting its stride down the home stretch with a series of episodes on par with any which aired between ’03/’06.  Unfortunately, same bailed before they reached that point, or thought the delayed reward didn’t justify the trip.  As such, this is the most divisive season in the history of the show.  However, give me GOB (Will Arnett) and Tony Wonder (Ben Stiller) bonding over all of their “sames” any day.

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)

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.  Then something very, very odd happened.  Cartoon Network commissioned a series of Teen Titans animated shorts, each only a couple of minutes long, to air during commercial breaks for its D.C. shows Young Justice and Green Lantern.  Suddenly, the usually darkly lit, somewhat drab animation of the original Teen Titans had been replaced by remarkably bright blues and pinks.  The characters, while still recognizably the same and voiced by the same actors, had been re-modeled to appear more cartoonish.  The plots involving the thwarting of villain’s plans had been replaced by mundane matters faced by the 5 heroes’ co-habitation, such as who has to do laundry for the week.  Plus, rather than tell serialized stories with the plot of one episode affecting the plot of another they decided to go all Adult Swim-on it and have episodes where all of the characters have died and become ghosts at the end without explaining how everything returned to normal the next week.

It was different, but it was also hilarious.  So, Cartoon Network revived the show entirely as Teen Titans Go.  The end result is a show which features the same exact cast and voice actors, but is for all other purposes an entirely new show.  It’s bizarre, manic comedic energy and unceasing playfulness is horribly off-putting to some.  However, if you think the idea of Robin taking driving lessons only to have his Ben Stein-esque driving instructor actually consistently use him as a getaway driver on robbery heists without Robin seemingly realizing as much sounds funny then Teen Titans Go!

3) Upstairs, Downstairs (Revived in 2010)

Upstairs Downstairs

  • Original Run: 5 seasons, 68 episodes on ITV (1971-1975)
  • Revived Run: 2 seasons, 9 episodes on BBC1 (2010-2012)

In a post Downton Abbey world, the idea of a show centered upon a British estate with storylines split between the poor servants and the impossibly rich masters seems positively old-hat at this point.  However, back in the early 1970s that was some cutting-edge – albeit incredibly dry – storytelling.  For 5 seasons, British audiences were delighted by the tale of the early 20th century upstairs rich masters living at 165 Eaton Place and the lives of the poor servants living downstairs.  Show co-creator Jean Marsh even co-starred as one of the leaders of the poor servants, Rose Buck.  So, when the BBC revived it in 2010, with Marsh reprising her role as Rose, still serving 165 Eaton Place only now serving the new owners of the house 6 years after the events of the original series, it was supposed to be a big hit.  Then Julian Fellowes stole their thunder with Downton Abbey.  The sad thing is that the revived Upstairs, Downstairs was pretty good, at least during its first season.  When Marsh left the show during the second season, though?  Yeah, not so much.

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)

You’ve got 26 years of TV history, and 1 horribly regrettable TV movie.  The show is a British cultural institution, but there are those embarrassed by its notoriously shoddy production values, which look all the more valueless every time we look back at it.  What do you do?  Well, in 2005 Russell T. Davies decided to honor the history of Doctor Who by reviving rather than re-making the show.  Moreover, he acknowledged the passing of time by presenting a Doctor who had gone off to war and committed necessary genocide since we’d last seen him, an action with incredibly rich dramatic consequences as well as to-this-day elements of mystery (i.e., the “what specifically happened during this war between the Daleks and Time Lords?” is still being answered 7 seasons later).  However, the brilliance of the revived version of Doctor Who is the manner in which it acknowledges its history and continuity while still remaining completely accessible to new fans who can watch without ever having seen a single minute of the show’s original 26 year history pre-revival.  When the David Tennant Doctor refers to a villain who attempted to move an entire planet once before, long-time fans know he might be referring to Davros.  New fans?  They’re just as confused as the Doctor.

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

This is undoubtedly the most successful revival in TV history, but to be fair to all other examples: by the time Star Trek was revived in 1987 as Star Trek: The Next Generation there had already been 4 feature-length films released in theaters at that point.  So, Star Trek was kind of a big deal by the time it was revived.  In this particular revival, the entire cast was new, but it was still the same continuity, just many years in the future.  The name of the spaceship, The U.S.S Enterprise, was the same, but it was a later model.  Original cast members like DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Leonard Nemoy all made guest appearances as their characters from the original show/films.  However, the Next Generation‘s popularity arguably outgrew the original cast, and this lead to 4 feature-length films and 3 spin-offs TV shows.   Boldly go where the money is.

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 was a fun spoof of spy genre conventions, sort of a Austin Powers before Austin Powers was a thing, created by Mel Brooks and starring the venerable Don Adams as the buffoonish lead character Maxwell Smart.  NBC canceled it after 4 seasons, but CBS uncanceled it that same year to play for a fifth (and last) 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.  Then Warner Bros. tried to remake it as a film franchise centered around Steve Carrell in the lead role in 2008.  No sequel, though, no franchise re-starter.  But, wait, we skipped a step.  Based upon the success of the Get Smart, Again! TV movie, 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 that Maxwell Smart has accidentally set-off an atomic bomb which will explode and kill everyone in the cast (plus countless millions in the vicinity).

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.  Wow.   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 reprised the role) was a detective solving crimes with his son (Peter Barton).  It was apparently even campier than the original show, and mostly existed to feature cameos from other old 1960s TV show stars.  Could there maybe a second revival anytime soon?  Let me think about th….no.

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, and the chesty Loni Anderson would try her best to look smart 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.  It actually managed to perform well for 2 seasons in syndication, but obviously not well enough.

4) The Monkees (Revived as The New Monkees in 1987)

The New Monkees Portrait Session

  • Original Run: 2 seasons, 58 episodes on NBC (1966-1968)
  • Revived Run: 1 season, 13 episodes in Syndication (1987)

What the deuce?  The Monkees was revived?  But without any of the original Monkees?  Okay, now you lost my interest.  The original Monkees were, of course, 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.  That’s all old news.  But the story goes that the 20th Anniversary of the Monkees in 1986 generated enough renewed interest that one of the co-producers of the original show tried to replicate the experiment with an entirely new band comprised of actually talented musicians (suck it, Peter Best!) who would play synth-rock in the style of the time.  An album 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 show and the related album performed so poorly that they only ever made 13 of the originally intended 26 episodes, and the New Monkees didn’t make their first live appearance as a band until 20 years later in 2007 at an event celebrating their own 20th anniversary.  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 takes some real chutzpah to revive Alfred Hitchcock Presents using newly colorized, archival footage of Hitchcock from the original show 5 years after the actual Hitchcock died.  However, that’s what NBC did in 1985 when it revived the classic anthology series from 1955.  The original show ran for 10 seasons, and is now most remembered for its title card sequence featuring the combination of the silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock, the real Alfred Hitchcock, and the orchestral score “Funeral March for a Marionette.”  Hitchcock would present introductions and conclusions for each episode, as Rod Serling also famously did for The Twilight Zone.  Hitchcock was probably not as involved with the show as audiences at the time believed, but he did direct nearly 20 of the total 361 episodes while also continuing to direct feature films.  After his death in 1980, NBC scored a ratings success with a TV movie revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents featuring old introductions from Hitchcock from the old show but newly colorized and presented as new.  This led to a full TV series, which ran for three more seasons on USA after NBC canceled it after just one.  So, years after his death Hitchcock was still presenting bite-sized mysteries to TV audiences, some of whom probably realized that the introductions looked as if they had been filmed 20-30 years prior to the rest of the episode, which were comprised of entirely original scripts or tweaked or largely re-used scripts from the original show.  

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.  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 1997 thus widowing wife June and the titular “Beaver” was now a divorced father of two forced to move back in with his mom.  Plus, Wally was 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.  So, the TV movie was turned into a revived TV show on the Disney Channel and then TBS for a total of 4 seasons.  If it ran for so long, why is it so surprising that it exists?  Well, due to rather complicated business reasons it’s never been released on DVD and was only briefly ever aired in syndication.

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 him was played by a young Martin Lawrence.

8) Maverick (Revived as Bret Maverick in 1981)

Brett_Maverick_-_Title_Card (1)

  • Original Run: 5 seasons, 124 episodes on ABC (1957-1962)
  • Revived Run: 1 season, 18 episodes on NBC (1981-1982)

James Garner was such a fun presence as the original Bret Maverick, the gambler and cad in the American Old West, that by the time the Mel Gibson film came out in 1994 there had already been two attempts to revive the character in a TV series.  Garner actually quit the original show after its third season (he wanted more money), leading them to cast Roger Moore to replace him as a new character (yet another relative of Bret’s).  However, in 1978 he reprised the role in the TV movie Maverick, which was meant to set up a spin-off series centered around yet another one of Bret’s cousins.  The show, Young Maverick, lasted only 8 episodes in 1979.   In 1981, they threw the new kid to the curb and brought Garner back in Bret Maverick, which saw Maverick settled down in Arizona as a ranch owner and part-owner of a saloon.  The show actually did well….so, of course NBC canceled it, reasoning America wanted their Maverick on the move and looking for the next big game or con, now easing into his retirement years in Arizona.  That was the character’s last appearance until 1994, at which point Garner played an older Maverick to a son played by Mel Gibson.

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, imitable 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 look a lot more charitable.  Newland returned for the revived version on NBC in 1978, but it failed to make it past 1 season and is a largely forgotten spec in TV history.

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 Avengers TV shows has two things working against it: the memories of the dreadful Uma Thurman film adaptation, and the confusion between it and a certain Marvel film starring Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Loki “puny god” among others.  However, most likely not affecting the show’s legacy are the increasingly fading memories of the brief 1976 revival The New Avengers.  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 (I swear, I’m not talking about Doctor Who).  Sneed returned for the revival, joined by two new partners played by Gareth Hunt and Joanna Lumley.  The original The Avengers had grown gradually more parodic and just generally crazy (fun, but crazy).  As a result, they tried to play things a bit more serious in The New Avengers, a decision which did not win them many new fans but angered many of the old.  They even struggled to finance their 2 season, 26 episode order from ITV, forced to seek and obtain additional funding from Canadian sources.

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