stay tuned

What Bad Shows Deserve Reboots? Your Pressing TV Questions, Answered

Photo: CBS/Getty Images, UPN, ABC Family/Getty Images

Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons answers your questions about your various TV triumphs and woes. Need help? Have a theory? Want a recommendation? Submit a question! You can email, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.

We’re seeing a lot of good television shows (or, at least, well-loved television shows) get rebooted/remade. But that seems to have things backwards: why remake a classic? With Battlestar Galactica, we saw the benefits or remaking/rebooting a FLAWED original show (albeit one that retained some cult appeal). So here’s my question: what flawed show(s) from the past should be rebooted? My darkhorse candidate: Defying Gravity. I have no idea why Ron Livingston and a bunch of hot people in space on a mission to save humanity didn’t work, but the premise was at least creative and if they did it right/better, it could still maybe work. — Chad

Oh, I love this idea, and I agree completely that there are lots of great premises that got bogged down in some not-great shows. Or sort of under-great shows: Nothing against original Quantum Leap, but I bet there could be a really good (gritty?) reboot. Time travel and the government, etc.

At the top of my list is the short-lived 2006 show The Book of Daniel, which starred Aidan Quinn as a dad and minister and Garret Dillahunt as Jesus Christ, whom said minister consulted on various personal matters. The show did not work. It was too Jesusy for some, wrong-kind-of-Jesusy for others, and overall just did not hold together dramatically — weird arcs, crummy teen characters, etc. But! According to the Pew Forum, 60 percent of Americans believe in a “personal” god, and I am convinced there’s a show that could depict that in a meaningful way. Whether that’s through an embodied Jesus or someone or something else, who knows?

If you’re enjoying Bruce Greenwood’s current stint as Joan’s boyfriend on Mad Men, well, join the club. And sign the petition to reboot Nowhere Man, a 1995 series about a news photographer whose life evaporates around him: His wife claims not to know him, suddenly there’s no record of him ever existing, and maaaaaybe it’s because of a photo the government doesn’t want him to release. The original show is pretty good, but it was a UPN show in the ‘90s, so it was done on the cheap. Plus identity fraud and conspiracy stuff has a whole new spin these days. Reboot Nowhere Man!

While you’re at it, reboot John Doe, a fully bad 2002 Fox drama about a hunky amnesiac (Dominic Purcell) who knows everything except his own identity. In that version, he uses his knowledge to solve crimes, but in my dream reboot, he does something else. (Labor organizing? Justice reform? Violin making? Seriously, anything.) There’s a way to revive this premise as a meditation on the virtue of knowledge and the importance of identity when contextualizing information.

What about Kid Nation? The Masterchef Junior connection is real, and there was never anything wrong with the premise — I mean, who could object to kids putting themselves in high-stress, genuinely dangerous situations? For the reboot, all the contestants have to read and discuss The Hunger Games. Preferably on camera.

As long as we’re rebooting kids’ shows, let’s reboot some teen ones as well. Make It or Break It was about world-class gymnasts, but it was also vaguely dumb. I’d watch dozens of other shows set within the world of elite gymnastics. Or any high-level sport, honestly — there’s a season of MIoBI where the girls live at an Olympic training center, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a genuinely good show set within such a facility. Close-quarters set-ups are a goldmine, which is why I’d also reboot Young Americans, a failed 1999 WB Dawson’s Creek spinoff. It’s a boarding school full of sexy teens! How is this not a success? Let’s try again, and this time, let’s get it right.

How about a mountain full of sexy twentysomethings? The Mountain was basically garbage, but again, what kind of TV world are we in where we can’t have a steamy drama set within a ski resort? We have 9 billion cop shows and zero ski-resort shows. Unacceptable. Lots of us have been to college, and yet there are very few college-set shows, either: Reboot the little-seen Bedford Diaries, a 2006 show that got lost when the WB and UPN merged into the CW. Matthew Modine starred as human sexuality professor, and the show bounced between his lectures — his sexy lectures, obviously — and his students’ lives — sexy lives, duh. My reboot would include many suffering graduate students who explain the crisis in adjunct labor and their profound worries about the academic job market. They can still be sexy.

I think the ensemble comedy The Class could handle another go of things, too. The series focused on a loosely connected group of people from the same graduating high school class who now, 10 years later, still have occasional interactions. The show tried to have different episodes center on different characters, à la Lost, which is still a cool idea — just not for a CBS series, and not in 2006. And maybe not as a multicamera show. But I can absolutely picture a sprawling comedy series where we might go three weeks without seeing a certain character, or we might spend a long time hearing about someone before he or she appears (in a high-profile cameo from a comedy legend, probably). The show would have to set up a pretty clear world for its characters to inhabit, but that’s a good thing for any show to do.

Finally, I can’t speak to how good or bad this show was, but I’d reboot About Face, a British anthology comedy series from 1989. Every episode was a stand-alone episode! Maureen Lipman starred as a different lead character in each installment, but the rest of the cast changed episode to episode. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Get me Kate McKinnon, and let’s make it happen.

What Bad Shows Deserve Reboots?