Top Film and TV Reboots / Remakes

It seems to be a never-ending trend these days, for studios to look to the past for their inspiration when it comes to creating “new” television shows and movies. Rather than coming up with new and innovative concepts, instead production companies look to old ideas and simply recreate them, revisit them or even worse, simply remake them. While many of these are a pale imitation of the originals (we’re looking at you Rush Hour) some TV reboots have proven to be more than a competent and worthy successor to the original.

Do We Need TV Reboots Anyway?

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We all have fond memories of television shows we watched when we were younger. Either shows we loved when we were children or action/adventure and sci-fi shows as adults. It’s no surprise that television shows want to take advantage of these memories. Retro merchandise is still big business and if home video sales are anything to go by, we still love these shows as much as we used to. It’s clear then that new versions of older shows immediately have a guaranteed audience waiting for them before the show even airs.

From a marketing point of view they are a dream product for a studio. Why spend millions promoting a show when fans and the media will do if for them freely. The internet and geek press will lap up stories surrounding TV reboots and will cover them eagerly. Good or bad, we all love to read and hear about shows making a return, and even speculate on their success, casting and ever minute detail about them.

Not all of them have been a success over the years. Many have taken franchises we love and twisted them beyond recognition. Others have gone on to become classic television shows in their own right. So here we take a look at ten of the best or most important TV reboots to-date…

Danger Mouse

When it was announced that the BBC were reviving the old Cosgrove Hall animated series with an all new cast there were naturally doubts. The original series screened on ITV in the 80s while targeted at a children’s audience, had more than enough humour that worked on several levels that it could be loved by people of all ages and is why it’s still loved decades later. It had a lot to live up to so before it even aired it had a tough challenge ahead.

Danger Mouse, Episode: “Half The World is Enough”. Count Duckula (RASMUS HARDIKER), Penfold (KEVIN ELDON), Danger Mouse (ALEXANDER ARMSTRONG) – (C) BBC/Boulder/Fremantle – Photographer: Boulder

For its return some parts of the show had changed or had been modernised. Danger Mouse and Penfold still resided within a postbox but no longer were they the small mouse and hamster we all knew. Infact the entire world around our heroes had changed and it is now populated entirely by animal-inspired characters. With every character now up-scaled to human proportions it does alter some aspects of the show and removes potential for storylines where our rodent crusaders would have to save the world while avoiding extermination from Rentakill, but it still works rather well.

A couple of new characters have been added to the line-up including a new lab professor who equips DM with a plethora of gadgets (think Bond’s Q) but most importantly we still have Colonel K, Greenback and recurring characters like our old friend Duckula.

Where the show continued to be a success was from the wonderful scripts. Everything we loved about the original is here but with a slightly modern twist and the plots are just as fun and just as ludicrous as they used to be. Killer toilets? Check. Evil Danger Mouse and Penfold clones? Check. Aliens wanting to take over the world by creating a boy band? Yup – they’re all here and even stranger ones to accompany them!

The real icing on the cake is the casting though. I had my doubts about the show with none of the original cast being involved but those fears were quickly allayed. Alexander Armstrong has done a remarkable job with his performance as Danger Mouse, Kevin Eldon is superb as Penfold and extra special mention has to go to Stephen Fry for his wonderful work taking on the mantle of Colonel K. Without a doubt, this is probably one of the best TV reboots I’ve seen so far.

Highlander

The original Highlander movie starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery attracted a cult following amongst its fans and despite a slew of sub-standard sequels that never reached the heights of the original, it still retained it’s loyal fanbase. Things changed when the franchise moved in a new direction in 1992 in a weekly television series. Starring Adrian Paul, the show focused on the lead protagonist Duncan McLeod, a fellow clansman of Christopher Lambert’s character from the movies. The series was a partial retcon of the movie lore which allowed the introduction of more immortal characters to the show on a weekly basis (the first film established that Connor McLeod was the last of his kind).

Each episode used this as the basis for its story, culminating in a battle between Duncan McLeod and the opposing “immortal of the week”, while dealing viewers a generous helping of flashbacks to Duncan’s life throughout the ages. It’s this and the strong characters that really made the show a success throughout its six year run to the point that it even spawned extensive merchandise, original novels and even conventions.

Thunderbirds Are Go

Thunderbirds was an all-time classic show. In the 60s and 70s Gerry Anderson was able to bring his unique magic to television with shows like Joe 90, Captain Scarlett, Space 1999, Stingray, UFO and many more but the star of all of these for most fans had to be Thunderbirds. It wasn’t any single factor that made the show so special but more a combination of elements that came together and worked brilliantly – the action and adventure from the rescues themselves, the strong family bond seen in every episode amongst the Tracys but most importantly were the ships. Considered by many to be the real stars of the show, who didn’t want their own Thunderbird 2 or Thunderbird 1.

After a couple of failed attempts to reboot the franchise (the anime series Thunderbirds 2086 and the poorly received live action movie) it was the turn of ITV to bring in back as a CGI / model hybrid series. Still aimed primarily at a children’s audience, it’s a throwback to the original series retaining the look and feel of the 60s show. The characters and vehicles are the same with a slightly modernised look but for fans of the original, this IS Thunderbirds. There’s more humour but while it’s aimed at children, the episodes are written well enough to appeal to viewers of all ages.

For me I absolutely love the hybrid of CGI and model work for the show. It allows episodes to be more creative in terms of animation, action and effects and do things that simply wouldn’t have been possible back in the 1960s while still retaining the feel of the original show by using physical props. Knowing that the entire Tracy Island set is a real physical construction seems to add something special to the show and strange as it sounds even the pseudo-puppetry feel to the character animation only enhances the show further. It really does feel as if this is the type of series that Gerry Anderson himself would have produced today if he were still with us.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

As much as we may try to, it’s hard to forget the original Buffy movie. Played almost as a parody of vampire movies, not even the appearance of Donald Sutherland could save the film from being relegated to cult movie status. Fast forward several years later and Joss Whedon took a second shot but this time as a series.

Commissioned by Fox as a mid-season replacement, it was initially ordered for a half-length first season. Partly to test the waters to see if the series would work and partly just to use incase another show was cancelled so a “Plan B” was in place. It wasn’t smooth sailing right from the start as the show had TWO pilots made. A few changes had to be made before the series was finally aired including the recasting of Willow until we ended up with the show we all came to love.

The more serious approach worked and while there were light hearted moments, the ensemble cast added an extra layer of depth to the show that the movie couldn’t. Growing beyond vampires strengthened the series even more and secured a healthy seven years run, along with a successful spin-off series in the shape of Angel.

Doctor Who

There was a time when people thought that Doctor Who would never disappear from the airwaves. Every Saturday, viewers across the UK tuned it to watch the latest 25 minute episode and then wait tentatively for the next one after the cliffhanger at the end. There were no self-contained episodes back then. Each was a 4-part story, sometimes even longer in pre-Davison era but then things changed. Michael Grade took the helm as the Director of the BBC and he loathed the series. He already made one attempt to have the show cancelled when Colin Baker was the Doctor during the short season sub-titled “The Trial Of A Timelord”. Not only was the Doctor on trial for his past ad future actions but so was the show itself. It had to prove itself in the ratings or was facing cancellation.

It survived but Baker’s Doctor didn’t and Sylvester McCoy stepped into the role. A few more seasons followed but with each one, Grade was still determined to bring the axe down on the show and after the short 1989 season he got his wish and after just 27 seasons the unthinkable happened and Doctor Who was cancelled. An attempt was made to revive it years later as a joint BBC/American co-production, this time with Paul McGann in the lead but after the pilot the new movie-length format simply didn’t work so once again Doctor Who was put back into limbo.

Until 2005, that is… Under the guidance of show runner Russell T Davies the series was brought back with a revised format running complete stories in 50 minute episodes, a shorter 13-part season and an overarching story arc. A new Doctor was cast in Christopher Eccleston along with companion Billie Piper. Finally given a budget it deserved allowing it to have elaborate sets and special effects and move away from quarry pits for all of its alien planet sets, it made its mark with a bang.

Doctor Who: Season 10, Episode 1 – “The Pilot”. Doctor Who (PETER CAPALDI), Bill (PEARL MACKIE) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Simon Ridgway

This was a new Who for a new era of fans. With enough references to the old series to keep the older audience happy but fresh enough to attract a new audience, it seemed as if a happy balance had been struck. To avoid confusion, the series numbering had been reset so the new era started again from Season 1 and while it introduced plenty of new worlds and creatures we were also treated to plenty of old favourites too including the Daleks, Autons, Cybermen and countless others over the years.

We’ve seen seven Doctors so far since its return with Jodie Whittaker most recently (including Jo Martin’s Fugitive Doctor and John Hur’s War Doctor) with Ncuti Gatwa set to take the lead next year. With Russell T Davies returning to helm the show, it’s still breaking new ground every year. The new format has made it far more accessible to the masses, increased its appeal to a global audience, the high tech look and feel (and increased budget) has helped it break away from the “children’s programme” image that it was tarred with in the past and it’s now one of the BBC’s top drama shows.

Week on week the series manages to surprise viewers by offering something new – a fast paced story led by action, followed by a slower, more dramatic episode the next and it’s this surprise that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. With it heading towardss its 60th Anniversary next year, but it looks damn good for its age and is showing no signs of slowing down yet!

Transformers

Now this is going to be a controversial one. Transformers has never really gone away unlike most of the films and television shows that are featured on this list. Since 1984 the robots in disguise have been around on television in one form or another whether it’s the original G1 series, Beast Wars, Armada, Energon, Cybertron, Transformers: Prime or any of the other shows that have been released for almost 40 years. In a sense, each of these (with the exception of Beast Wars and Beast Machines which were an extension of G1, and the Unicron Trilogy which were a continuing story arc) each series could be seen as its own individual reboot. In reality each was a way of creative new versions of the classic characters in order for Hasbro to sell new versions of Optimus Prime and the other characters to collectors the world over and to bring the franchise to new fans.

Things were never as strong as they were when Transformers first made their debut in 1984 though so Hasbro made the bold move in 2007 and with Michael Bay at the helm as director, the franchise leapt onto the big screen. Hardcore fans – for the most part – hated it. Characters were redesigned completely and the focus shifted to be more human-centric and when it came to the Autobots themselves the stars of the movie were now Optimus Prime and Bumblebee who was a minor character at best originally.

However, the movie not only proved to be a box office smash but it also introduced Transformers to a whole new generation of fans. Kids who had no interest in the franchise now wanted Bumblebee toys, adults were drawn to it because of the action and the first (and all of the subsequent films since) became a runaway success. Toys filled the shelves once again in a way that hadn’t been seen for years, comics were readily available on newsstands, and associated merchandise could be found everywhere.

Performance of the fifth film wasn’t up to scratch compared to the first four but 2018’s Bumblebee film has already reinvigorated the series and thanks to the new director at the helm in the shape of Travis Knight fans have rallied around the film. Bumblebee has potentially put the film franchise back on track, has won fans over once more and the cinematic future could be bright.

Regardless of what fans have thought of the earlier movies, there’s no denying the fact that these films have given the Transformers franchise a much needed injection of life and perhaps without them things may not be as strong for Transformers as a whole as they are right now…

Star Trek

After five TV shows (six if you count the Animated Series) and ten movies, the public had grown tired of Star Trek. Thanks to endless re-runs, it was on television all the time and the declining interest in the franchise came to a head when Enterprise was brought to a premature end after just four seasons. It was clear that the world had finally seen too much Star Trek and that it was time for a break.

The JJ Abrahms 2009 movie gave the franchise a much needed revival and while not all fans warmed to it, it did the same for Star Trek as Michael Bay’s films did for Transformers. Once again, there was mainstream interest in Star Trek. With three movies to-date with a new cast recreating the classic roles of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, that was just the catalyst for what was to come on the small screen.

The original philosophy behind Star Trek was to celebrate diversity in all its forms, and the new shows that have been released over the last few years have done that. Not only have we been introduced to some wonderful characters, and revisited some old friends, but the shows themselves have been varied enough to genuinely offer something for everyone. With shows featuring returning cast members (Picard), continuing stories with old characters (Strange New Worlds) or even shows we would never have expected from the franchise (Lower Decks), this really is an amazing time to be a Star Trek fan.

While we have had multiple shows in production simultaneously before, it’s astonishing to think that we’ve got FIVE shows running concurrently right now with more on the way!

The Tick

Ben Edlund’s comic book superhero is no stranger to television, first making his debut in the Fox animated series back in the 1990s. Its three-season run gained a loyal fan following not only amongst readers of the comic but those who hadn’t read Edlund’s original work as well. The success was no doubt largely due to the creator’s input into the series. The superb voice work from Townsend Coleman and Rob Paulsen (as The Tick and his sidekick Arthur respectively) added to the show’s lure keeping it fresh and appealing decades later.

Unusually, The Tick has had not one but TWO TV reboots since the animated series. Both have had the involvement of Edlund in a creative capacity, although the first lasted a single 10 episode season. Produced as a series of 30 minute episodes and starring Patrick Warburton it had all the hallmarks of being a perfect version of the show. Superb casting, great storylines, deadpan delivery of all the humour but it was let down by scheduling and suffered with dismal ratings. It’s a shame because it truly was a great interpretation of the character and Warburton nailed it perfectly.

Skip ahead to the world of streaming media and Amazon announced that they had commissioned a pilot episode, this time with Peter Serafinowicz in the lead role. Once again, the show retained the feel of previous interpretations perfectly and a series was picked up. Unlike the earlier live action show, there was a single story arc running throughout rather than standalone episodes. While this was something of a departure, it was still a fun show. It worked well enough to be renewed for a second season, but was cancelled after that despite campaigning by its cast and fans.

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Do you disagree with our choices or have we missed out some of your favourites? Let us know in the comments…

About Simon Plumbe 210 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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