The great TV reboot

Last updated 09:06 04/10/2012

Today's guest post was written by long-time reader/Stuff Quiz champion/super-interesting Twitter buddy Paul Conder, who kindly offered to write about a few of his favourite rebooted television shows. Thanks for helping out, Paul! - Chris

As I've got older, I have had the pleasure, sometimes dubiously, of being able to watch some of my favourite TV franchises being rebooted, and sharing the memories with a new generation. Some have been done very well. Others have just left me cold.

20120920It's not a new phenomenon; just think of The Avengers becoming the The New Avengers or the numerous Doctor Who reboots. Nor is it limited to TV - we seem to love rebooted movie franchises or re-released songs. One of my favourite albums gets a reboot as Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds: The New Generation this November.

Catching my eye (and occasionally my wallet) recently have been series like Survivors, Sherlock, Battlestar Galactica, The Day of the Triffids and Hawaii Five-0.

Hawaii Five-0 : My Score: 8/10.

Hawaii Five 0 has been a highlight of the last two years. Having been old enough (just) to have watched the original with my dad (on reruns I am sure!) this was an anticipated reboot.  Now I am enjoying the updated version with my own boys (aged 22 and 19 years old).

Hawaii Five 0 has been done well. A changed underlying plotline of trying to find the murderer of Steve McGarrett's father has been kept subtle through the first two series.  It is filmed in high definition and reflects some of the changing culture of Hawaii while still giving respect to the original (just watch the original credits on YouTube and compare them with the credits on the reboot).

Survivors : My Score: 6/10.

The BBC's recent reboot of the 1970s classic post-apocalyptic series Survivors made it on to to New Zealand screens just after the swine flu scare and so felt topical. 

It was beautifully filmed and could have been a great addition to the franchise.  Unfortunately, it failed to retain the bleak feel of the original, which was based on the idea and story by Terry Nation, and over-emphasised a bright and summer feel. Survivors did reflect well the changed culture in Britain. 

Two strong episodes of the original were essentially remade, though not the classic double episode "The Lights of London". Other storylines make partial appearances. Two subtle new plotlines were added, though these became overpowering by series two and the franchise went back into slumber.

You'll probably enjoy the original more.

The Day of the Triffids : My Score: 4/10

The BBC also had a miss with The Day of the Triffids building off the early-80s John Duttine version. The reboot version again featured great special effects and HD in a mini-series format, rather than a full television series. Frankly, it left me cold. Stick with the 1981 version!

Battlestar Galactica : My Score: 7/10.

Battlestar Galactica made the transition with a reboot mini-series launching a four-season run, longer than the original.  Some key elements survived the reboot but much was done to remove the cheesiness of the original. Great at times, with some new plot elements, and the HD special effects show how far we have come since TV sci-fi of the early 80s.

Sherlock : My Score: 10/10.

The "Sherlock Holmes" franchise has been rebooted into both the cinema and the small screen over the past few years. The excellent BBC modern-day adaptation, Sherlock, is a must-watch. You will have to think to keep up. It is clever, witty and fun, and is an excellent example of how good a reboot can be.

The series stars Benedict Cumberbatch and soon to be hobbit Martin Freeman.  It is the brain child of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt, who came up with the series while on a train journey back from filming Doctor Who.

- - - - -

It is a risk for any TV producer to reboot, as they can permanently damage an existing franchise's future earning potential from DVD, Blu-ray and any future format change - those old series have big earning potential. Here are my Rules for a Successful Reboot:

1) Make sure it is a sci-fi franchise - you will get lots of free crowd marketing through the speculating mob of fans (Doctor Who, V, and Battlestar Galactica all spring to mind). Almost guarantees success!

2) If you can't do it with sci-fi then you can always try crime (Hawaii Five-0 and CSI).

3)Try changing to/ spinning off a new location on an existing franchise (CSI Miami).

4) Don't be limited by the screen size, think Batman, Superman and Thunderbirds translating to the big screen or Star Wars: Clone Wars on to the small.  But also remember Clueless.

5) Buff up the main characters. Make sure they are beautiful people, even the baddies - after all, you are filming in high definition digital now.

6) Don't forget to correct the politically incorrect. Add women and minorities, reflect our new culture.

7) Avoid franchises that depended on a single individual or are too well known, unless you can get them back into the role (Blackadder is definitely out unless you can secure Rowen Atkinson). Even then, remember the risk.

8) Try adding a new underlying storyline (Hawaii Five-0 did this well).

9) Seriously, consider a new franchise, originality is a good thing!

And so all I need now is for someone to reboot ... me?

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Post a comment
Amalia   #1   09:26 am Oct 04 2012

Numerous Doctor Who reboots? There have been exactly two - the awful TV Movie, and the current series that began in 2005.

War of the Worlds - I'm reserving judgement, but it's going to be hard to beat Justin Hayward - especially since the chosen replacement it Gary Barlow. What. The. Frack.

I agree with your assessment of Day of the Triffids. The remake just didn't have the raw feel of the original.

In Rule 4, you use Thunderbirds as an example of translating to the big screen. Presumably you are talking about the original theatrical releases, and not the 2004 Spy-Kids-esque piece of garbage. I would like to see a decent adaptation of Thunderbirds, but it will need someone like Christopher Nolan to do it.

Supernatural   #2   11:52 am Oct 04 2012

Interesting that you mention Hawaii Five-0. We wouldn't know about most of season 2, stupid TV3 pulled it half way through, which seems to be their MO. We want it back TV3. Put it on a midnight, or 4am, whenever, just let us know it's back on screen!!! We have these new fandangled things called recording devices, so just get it back on tv!!!!

Love the new Sherlock, shame they are such short seasons.

Julie   #3   12:31 pm Oct 04 2012

I disagree with your point #6 - making the un-PC PC. Just because there were no minorities in the original, doesn't mean you need to jam in to a re-booted version. The new 90210 managed a trifecta by adding an African American, an Arab, and a gay character. (Pardon me if any of those descriptions are un-PC) Also what annoys me, is when books are made into TV/Movies and they change the ethnicity of a character just to be PC

ScottJ   #4   01:06 pm Oct 04 2012

I'd add another couple of reboot rules. Don't try to reboot a series while its still fresh in viewers minds. And don't even try a trans-country reboot e until the body is cold.

Elementary my dear Sherlock.

Harvey Hamster   #5   01:09 pm Oct 04 2012

@Amalia #1

My guess it the author is thinking for each regeneration as a 'reboot'. I'm not sure he's actaully watch Dr. Who (or a whole lot of TV at all really)

Tim   #6   10:08 pm Oct 04 2012


As his son, who sat down and watched each episode of each of these shows with him, I "actaully" think he has watched enough TV to comment.

alan   #7   06:49 am Oct 05 2012

Don't get me started on the god-awful Triffids reboot. Did they even read the book? The 1981 series is an absolute classic - faithful to the source material, it still holds up today.

Don't forget there were also two Dr Who movies in the mid 60s; starred Peter Cushing as a human Dr Who (!) and Bernard Cribbins, who came back as Donna Noble's dad in the latest series.

boxi   #8   10:27 am Oct 05 2012

@ ScottJ #4 thinly veiled dig at Elementary?

I don't understand why fans of the BBC Sherlock are so threatened by Elementary. The pilot was fantastic, and having Lucy Liu play Joan is a brilliant idea - don't know why everyone is all OMGZWTFNUUU at the fact a woman (an asian woman, even) is playing the role of Watson.

bruce   #9   12:47 pm Oct 05 2012

If it is done well, it really can work. BSG being a case in point. Love Hawaii Five-0 and would love to see a reboot of Magnum PI within the same universe. That would give H5-0 some new life, as season 3 is slightly off the boil at the moment.

Then you have Stargate Universe, which I thought was a lot better than Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis, and yet it struggled for ratings. The Bionic Woman flopped badly, yet it had a basis for being a great show. Rebooting is a real hit or miss prospect.

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