The 13 Most Disappointing TV Reboots of All Time
These TV reboots tried to recapture the greatness of classic series and ended up falling flat.
TV revivals are all the rage on television right now, but remaking a successful series is hardly a new concept. TV reboots can breathe new life into an old premise—just look at One Day at a Time, Battlestar Galactica, and Queer Eye, among others. But sometimes, what’s done is done, and it’s better left alone. To prove it, we’ve compiled a list of the most disappointing TV reboots of all time—the ones that either failed in execution or were misguided from the jump.
The original Heroes started strong in 2006, but it never could recapture the excitement of its debut season. Nonetheless, NBC brought the series back in a new form in 2015, though it was still about people with extraordinary abilities coming together to save the world. Heroes Reborn was meant to be a continuation of the original story, albeit several years down the line, and featured both new and returning characters. But audiences and critics weren’t impressed, and the show disappeared again after 13 episodes.
The CW’s aughts reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210 (known simply as 90210) was a decent success, so what happened next was inevitable. The teen and millennial-focused network tried the same formula with Melrose Place, another nighttime soap executive produced by Aaron Spelling. Premiering in 2009 and boasting the requisite hot young cast (including Ashlee Simpson, whose performance was heavily criticized), the new Melrose Place couldn’t recapture the conniving, face-slapping magic of the original. It was not renewed for Season 2.
The Bionic Woman only ran for three seasons in the 1970s, but the Six Million Dollar Man spin-off had enough pop culture cache to inspire a 2007 NBC reboot. English actress Michelle Ryan took on the eponymous role of Jaime Sommers, a bartender who becomes a half-cyborg operative after receiving some controversial medical upgrades. Bionic Woman was one of the casualties of the 2007 strike led by the Writers Guild of America, as production was ground to a halt halfway through the first season. It never picked back up again, thanks to lukewarm reviews citing the show’s confused tone. Only eight episodes ever saw the light of day.
Fox’s irreverent, younger-skewing answer to Saturday Night Live was far from universally beloved, despite lasting a whopping 15 seasons. The sketch show bearing the Mad magazine brand delighted in cringe-worthy stereotypes (Alex Borstein in yellowface as Ms. Swan, for one) and lowest common denominator comedy. Still, it had its fans, and in 2016, The CW attempted to repackage it for a modern audience. The A.V. Club said that the new show felt like “an off-brand version of the original,” calling out its lazy humor and tired jokes. This MADtv was gone after a season, and its cast similarly disappeared.
The Dallas that premiered in 1978 was an institution, going on to run for 14 seasons and introducing pop culture touchstones like the “Who shot J.R.?” mystery and the “it was all a dream” season. A 2012 TNT version of the soap about a dysfunctional clan of rich Texans brought back some of those original characters—including Larry Hagman’s infamous J.R. Ewing—and mixed them in with an attractive cast of relative newcomers representing the next generation. The new Dallas wasn’t a complete disaster; it hung on for three seasons. But it didn’t have a prayer of having the same cultural reach as the series that inspired it, and has largely been forgotten just a few years after it ended.
The 1980s secret agent series is really just the story of a boy and his talking car, a premise that didn’t go over quite as well in 2008. Justin Bruening led the reboot, playing the son of David Hasselhoff’s Michael Knight, with former Batman Val Kilmer voicing K.I.T.T. (or the Knight Industries Three Thousand). NBC tried to salvage the show with some course correcting, eliminating characters in the middle of the season and attempting to be more loyal to the source material. But it was ultimately too late, and Knight Rider was dead after only 17 episodes.
It’s a Hollywood rule that Charlie’s Angels is reimagined every few years (see: the 2019 movie), so you can’t blame ABC for trying to get another series off the ground. The 2011 version starred Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor as the core crime-fighting trio, with Victor Garber as the voice of their unseen boss. The campy charm of the 1970s original was nowhere to be found, however, and the series lasted eight episodes, only seven of which aired.
Mad About You
NBC’s warm and intimate comedy about a pair of married New Yorkers was a big hit, collecting several Emmys. But with very little unfinished business, audiences were hardly clamoring for a revival. Stars Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser returned to their roles in 2019 for a Spectrum Originals limited series that picks up with Jamie and Paul as empty nesters who’ve just sent their daughter Mabel (whose birth was a TV event back in 1997) off to college. Reviewers seem to agree that it’s a snooze fest, so don’t hold your breath for Mad About You: The Twilight Years.
24 premiered not even two months after the Sept. 11 attacks, in a time when American audiences were primed for an action-packed series about foiling terrorist plots and a take-no-prisoners, everyman hero. It ran for eight seasons, plus a TV movie and an event series, all starring Kiefer Sutherland as the seemingly unkillable Jack Bauer. In 2017, Straight Outta Compton actor Corey Hawkins took over the real-time franchise as soldier Eric Carter in 24: Legacy. Critics took the spin-off to task not only for its pacing issues but for its problematic depictions of Muslims. 24: Legacy was not renewed.
The Odd Couple
In the five decades since its debut, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple has been adapted from its original play format into two movies, three live-action TV series, and an animated series, plus some specials. The most recent TV version of the frenemy-ship of roommates Oscar Madison and Felix Unger starred Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, respectively, and premiered on CBS in 2015. While it ran for three seasons, reviewers found that the unfunny jokes and old-school laugh track weren’t worthy of the talented cast.
The cop series Dragnet has the longest legacy of any property on this list, having kicked off as a radio drama in 1949. It made the jump to television in 1951, bringing Jack Webb’s Det. Joe Friday along with it, and then branched off as a feature film, three TV revivals, and a comedic satire movie. The most recent attempt to capture an audience that discovered the original Dragnet series on Nick at Nite starred Ed O’Neill and Ethan Embry and was adapted by Law & Order producer Dick Wolf for ABC. With ratings dragging after the first, more traditional season, the series was rebranded L.A. Dragnet and O’Neill’s Friday put in charge of a group of aesthetically pleasing rookie detectives. It was canceled before all the produced episodes could even air.
The 1980s series MacGyver was such a success that the main character’s name became a verb. (To “MacGyver” something is to fix it with unlikely, everyday objects.) In a 2016 reboot, Lucas Till took over for Richard Dean Anderson as the resourceful secret agent. Though the fourth season just kicked off on CBS in early 2020, critics have never warmed to it, most finding it an opportunistic, uninspiring play on a series that was so beloved because it stoked the creativity of its fans.
Fantasy Island began as two made-for-TV movies in the late 1970s before being adapted into a seven-season series about a remote locale where visitors learn to be careful what they’ve wished for. In 1998, ABC debuted a darker take on the premise, with Malcolm McDowell stepping into the role of the mysterious Mr. Roarke, previously played by Ricardo Montalbán, and a more direct connection to the supernatural. The worst crime of this remake—which only saw one season—may have been that it was before its time. It’s not difficult to imagine an uncensored HBO version taking off today. In fact, the Fantasy Island feature that just came out this February is a full-blown horror movie.