The 23 Best TV Reboots of All Time
Not all reboots make mockeries of the originals. May we present the best TV reboots ever.
People are always talking about the drought of creativity in Hollywood these days. Every production seems to be a sequel, an adaptation, a spinoff, or a reboot (the type that's lambasted the most). The reboot, naysayers say, is a craven capitalization on nostalgia meant to bring in the big bucks—and quality is an afterthought. (Exhibit A: Fuller House, whose first season has a dismal 35 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.) Well, not all reboots are quite so soulless and stale. In fact, some are veritable level-ups, tapping into just the right amount of nostalgia while bringing a fresh new perspective to the table. These 23 TV reboots are the cream of the crop.
When Queer Eye for the Straight Guy premiered on Bravo in 2003—a year before any single state had legalized gay marriage—the show was groundbreaking in its own right. Here were five gay men on primetime television, tearing down cultural boundaries while giving makeovers—in every manner, from food to hair to décor to clothing—to straight men who so desperately needed them. After two seasons, the show widened its scope (to those of all genders and sexual orientations) and shortened its title to, simply, Queer Eye. Then, it finally came to an end after its fifth season in 2007.
More than a decade later, in 2018, Netflix rebooted Queer Eye. And just like the original, the recent redux is nothing short of a phenomenon. Tear-jerking human interest stories are at the heart of each episode, taking the original formula to new depths. Plus, the new cast members have catapulted themselves into A-list status—particularly Jonathan Van Ness—with their undeniable charisma and chemistry. Four eight-episode seasons have been released so far to critical acclaim (the reboot, on the whole, has an average rating of 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes).
The Tick first entertained American audiences as the protagonist of a parodic superhero comic in the late 1980s. It was silly and campy to the nth degree—there's a villain named Chairface Chippendale, for instance—but it was popular enough to make the leap to TV. The Tick first hit the small screen in 1994, in a mildly successful animated series on Fox, and again in 2001, in a not-so-successful live-action one. (It ran for just eight episodes before Fox pulled the plug.)
Then, in 2016, Amazon Prime Video rebooted The Tick. Whereas the first two adaptations leaned hard into the ridiculousness of the source material, the reboot took itself a bit more seriously. There was no shortage of hilarious hijinks, mind you, but it was a bit more edgy; characters got beaten to a pulp, the camerawork was often dark and moody, and the special effects were top notch. It earned stellar reviews—the second season has a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—but Amazon Prime opted not to renew the show for a third season.
The Twilight Zone
The Twilight Zone, in its original five-season run, possessed a thematic and tonal range that few shows could emulate: Each episode was narratively self-contained, yet they all shared a sense of deep mystery and dark humor, and usually offered a surprising twist. (Not to mention they were totally terrifying, too.) Hosted and narrated by Rod Serling, the 1960s program dazzled critics and kept viewers on their toes.
In the years since, the anthology format has inspired plenty of shows, including the wildly popular Black Mirror, so it only makes sense that someone would revive The Twilight Zone for the 21st century. The best part? The 2019 reboot is helmed by Jordan Peele, hot off the success of Get Out. If anyone has the psychological horror chops to carry such a legacy, it's him.
Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family spent a staggering 46 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list when it was first published, so it was no surprise when, the following year, the book was turned into a television miniseries. Both the book and series follow Kunta Kinte—a Gambian man captured and enslaved in the 18th century and transported to North America—and his genetic descendants over the course of a century-and-a-half. When the 1977 miniseries Roots premiered, everyone was talking about it; according to The Washington Post, 130 million people tuned in.
The 2016 reboot from the History Channel wasn't as much of a by-the-numbers smash hit as the original, but critics still ate it up, mostly piling accolades on Malachi Kirby's performance as Kunta, leading an all-star cast, including Forest Whitaker and Laurence Fishburne.
Girl Meets World
Sure, it's tough for any middle school romance to count among the greatest TV love stories of all time, but Boy Meets World's Cory and Topanga are right up there with Ross and Rachel on Friends and Sam and Diane on Cheers. So '90s children were absolutely over the moon when the Disney Channel announced they'd be rebooting Boy Meets World with Cory and Topanga's daughter, Riley (Rowan Blanchard). The reboot, Girl Meets World, ran from 2014 to 2017 on Disney Channel and, though geared toward a new generation, it hit many of the same sweet notes and tackled many of the same relatable tween issues the original did when it aired on ABC in the 1990s.
The original DuckTales was a staple for '80s kids. The show had a 100-episode run over the course of three years (ending in 1990), and the stories of Uncle Scrooge and his grandnephews—Huey, Dewey, and Louie—were imprinted on the brains of any child who saw the show.
In 2017, the childhood favorite got an updated set of storylines—courtesy of Disney XD—with a stellar cast, including David Tennant (Doctor Who), Danny Pudi (Community), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), and Lin Manuel-Miranda (a Broadway legend who needs no introduction). A third season is forthcoming.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return
The '90s series Mystery Science Theater 3000—a high-concept sci-fi sketch show that ran for 12 seasons—could never be replicated… or so we thought. Then, in 2015, fans pledged more than $5 million toward a reboot on Kickstarter, and Netflix ran with it.
The new cast stars Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt as two bored, borderline insane scientists who force an unwitting serviceman (Jonah Ray) to watch "Z" movies as a first step toward world domination. It's also got the backing of a world-class streaming service, and A-listers (like Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mark Hamill) make appearances. Now that never happened on the original run.
One Day at a Time
This endearing Netflix comedy tells the story of a single, army vet mother raising her children with the help of her mother (played by the legendary Rita Moreno). Though the One Day at a Time reboot has many narrative similarities to Norman Lear's original 1975 series, the main family in the 2000s version is Cuban-American, and the story is updated to include modern-day issues that Latinx families face today. The show has cultivated a huge fanbase, and has been nominated for three Emmy Awards, a Critic's Choice Award, and a GLAAD Media Award. Though Netflix canceled the show in March 2019, a few of months later, Pop TV picked it up for a fourth season. Might this be the first streaming-to-cable TV series rescue in history?
Once upon a time, before the Law & Orders and CSIs took over the world, Hawaii Five-o was the longest-running police procedural, running from 1968 to 1980. Basically, it was exactly like every show of its kind—except set on the dreamy beaches of Hawaii. Well, the 2010 CBS reboot—which features just as many beautiful shots of sandy vistas, but infinitely fewer oversized brown suits—is hot on its heels. The 10th season premiered in September 2019, and given the steady ratings, it's showing no sign of stopping.
The first iteration of Battlestar Galactica, which ran in 1978 for one season before getting the axe, was both campy and heady in equal measure—a convoluted space opera that couldn't differentiate itself from the other convoluted space operas of the era: Star Wars and Star Trek. But the show garnered a cult following, and spawned a multimedia franchise that picked up so much steam that SyFy rebooted it in 2003 as a miniseries. The miniseries was successful enough for the network to order a full-on series, which ended up running for four seasons. It picked up a pirate's booty of critical praise: In 2019, The New York Times even called the reboot one of the best TV dramas since The Sopranos. Not bad for the little sci-fi show that could!
Originally a video game, then a game show, then a cartoon series, Carmen Sandiego has had as many new ventures as the character has passports. So it comes as no surprise that she's back again, in a second animated series. Where in the world is she this time? On Netflix! One Day at a Time's Moreno voiced the original animated Carmen in the '90s, and though hers were big shoes to fill, Gina Rodriguez, of Jane the Virgin fame, does an admirable, even worthy, job in the 2019 iteration. (Fun fact: Moreno played Rodriguez's character's grandmother on Jane the Virgin.) A second season launches in October, and we can't wait to see where our titular super-thief ends up next.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
Voltron: Legendary Defender is the rare reboot that's a reboot of not just one but two TV shows: Voltron, the '80s super-robot cartoon, and Beast King GoLion, a Japanese anime that handled similar subject matter (giant robots that use planetary energy to defeat a galaxy-conquering evil empire). The first season of the reboot came out on Netflix in June 2016. The eighth and final season was released in December 2018. In total, Voltron: Legendary Defender ran for 76 episodes, just barely outdoing the original Voltron's 72-episode run.
When The Flash (aka, Barry Allen) had his first solo outing on CBS from 1990 to 1991, it was a simpler time for comic book adaptations. There were no crossovers and no "cinematic universes." But today, The Flash can thank the supersizing of small screen superheroes—specifically, the "Arrowverse"—for his existence.
Allen (played by Grant Gustin) first appeared on The CW show Arrow in 2013. The network then used this as a jumping-off point to reintroduce the world to The Flash in 2014. The reboot has gone strong for six seasons. Oh, and by the way, The Flash hasn't forgotten its little-seen roots: John Wesley Shipp, who played Allen on the original CBS series, plays Allen's dad on the reboot.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
The 1990s/2000s Sabrina the Teenage Witch leaned into the character's goofy teenage persona, but Sabrina finally embraces her dark side on the show's Netflix reboot, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The bewitching Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) stars as the titular character, and is allowed far more room for emotional complexity than Melissa Joan Hart ever was on the ABC/The WB original. And thanks to the freedom that Netflix allows, it's some genuinely terrifying programming, especially compared to the silly humor that coursed through the original. The first season was a smash success, and a second one is en route.
On The CW's Riverdale, we get to revisit all of our favorite characters from the Archie comics, which was turned into a short-lived cartoon series in 1968 called The Archie Show. That adaptation followed squeaky clean storylines about Archie and pals (Betty, Veronica, and Jughead), and featured upbeat musical sequences where they performed the hit song "Sugar, Sugar."
But Riverdale, the dark, moody, dramatic reimagining of the Archieverse, peels back the veneer of perfection that surrounds the kids' hometown of Riverdale. There's murder, there's betrayal, there are secret affairs. Needless to say, Riverdale isn't your mid-century Archie.
The Magic School Bus Rides Again
The Magic School Bus was overdue for a revival, especially because of all the fascinating advancements that have happened in science since the original PBS series ended in 1997. (Artificial intelligence, anyone?) Under the guidance of a new Ms. Frizzle—the original has now completed her Ph.D. and left her younger, even more impulsive sister in charge—kids learn about the internet, communication systems between plants, climate change, and more on the 2017 Netflix revival. Grace and Frankie's Lily Tomlin still voices the senior Ms. Frizzle, who shows up for cameos and answers questions at the end of each show, while Kate McKinnon makes the new Ms. Frizzle a blast to explore with on the series, which ended in 2018.
Star Trek: Discovery
After Star Trek: Enterprise wrapped up its run in 2005, the franchise disappeared into deep space. (Yes, three blockbuster films have come out in the interim, but they're not part of the Star Trek chronology.) Then, in 2017, CBS brought the space-exploration franchise back from the stars with Star Trek: Discovery. Set 10 years before Captain Kirk and crew went where no one has gone before, Discovery follows the crew of a Starfleet vessel that's embroiled in a war with the Klingons. The reboot, which has a forthcoming third season, was so successful that CBS is airing another new series. In 2020, keep an eye out for Star Trek: Picard, which will star Sir Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picard (the captain from Star Trek: The Next Generation).
The original Dallas, about a family of oil barons, was so soapy, suds practically poured out of television sets. And it was, without question, the most successful show of its time. It first aired in 1978 and ran through the entirety of the '80s, before wrapping up its astonishing 357-episode run in 1991. And some of those episodes pulled in numbers that would have TV execs of today green with envy. For instance, after Season 3 ended on a cliffhanger with J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) getting shot by an unknown assailant, the Season 4 premiere drew in a truly jaw-dropping 83 million viewers, all curious to finally find out who shot J.R. after a summer-long hiatus.
Given its Texas-sized legacy, it makes that Dallas was ripe for the reboot. The newer version of the show, which debuted on TNT in 2012, followed the children of the original main characters. Old cast members also returned, including Hagman, but the reincarnated Dallas didn't perform quite as well as the original. In 2014, TNT cancelled it after three seasons, but some might say it started the '80s and '90s reboot trend.
American Idol has been on the air for so long that it's easy to forget that some of the most successful pop stars in music history—like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson—got their start on the reality show's stage. The singing competition ran for a whopping 15 seasons before Fox decided to cancel it in 2016. But, of course, people couldn't stay away long, and ABC brought back the singing competition just two years later. Though the reboot is still hosted by Ryan Seacrest, none of the old judges returned. The new panel—Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie—has crowned two winners and will name another in 2020.
Roswell: New Mexico
In Roswell, the urban legend of a 1947 UFO crash is reimagined as the basis for a modern-day love story between a young diner waitress and an alien marooned on Earth. The original TV series enjoyed popularity as a guilty pleasure soap on The WB from 1999 to 2002. The new iteration, Roswell: New Mexico, veers away from the purely melodramatic and into the headily political. In this reboot, aliens are viewed with hatred and fear, allowing for a healthy dose of not-so-subtle political commentary on the current state of immigration in America.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
It could be said that the 1980s My Little Pony had a feminist slant, but the 2010 reboot, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, celebrates girl power on a whole new level. The characters are much more fleshed out than in the original, and they regularly (but not heavy-handedly) tout the virtues of sisterhood and genuine female friendship. The stories are much more engaging because the adventures have higher stakes, and the dialogue is quicker and wittier than the original's ever was. Even grown men, known as "Bronies," follow the Discovery Family series—which has run for nine seasons thus far—without irony.
After years in the shadows of nostalgia, the most famous zip code of all time stepped back into the limelight when 90210 was resurrected on The CW in 2008. The rebooted series followed a new crop of privileged high schoolers on the California coastline, including Erin Silver (Jessica Stroup), the half-sister of Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) and David Silver (Brian Austin Green) from the original series. (Garth, along with Shannen Doherty and Tori Spelling, made appearances on the reboot.)
While it may not hold a candle to the '90s original, the show's five-year run proved that young people still craved a show that paired the messy dramas of teenage life with a hefty dose of that young, rich, glamorous lifestyle. Oh, and the sandy beaches and stunning sunsets didn't hurt, either.
Doctor Who has gone on for so long that people often forget it was rebooted at all. The British sci-fi series began in 1963 and aired until 1989. After a seven-year hiatus, it reappeared for a single season in 1996, then stopped again for nearly a decade until the 2005 revival on which the body-shifting Doctor has been traveling through space and time since. Over the course of the series, 13 different actors have played the leading role of the time-traveling Doctor. Most fans agree that peak Doctor Who has been sometime during this latest 2000s incarnation, though we could argue ad infinitum about who made the best Doctor. (For our money, Jodie Whitaker, the first female doctor, is fantastic, but David Tennant and Matt Smith can't be discounted.) And for more stellar programming, check out these 20 New TV Shows That We Hope Go On Forever.
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