Remakes are a constant part of television, with each season bringing another attempt at rebooting an old hit for a new generation. Sometimes it actually works (Hawaii Five-0, Battlestar Galactica) but these rehashed remakes are usually dismal disasters. With a rebooted Dallas hitting the air this week and The Munsters being rejigged as a drama, this seems like the perfect time to look back at some unfortunate TV remakes that never should have seen the light of day.
The New Perry Mason (1973)
The original ran from 1957 to 1966 with Canadian Raymond Burr playing television’s most iconic attorney. Burr had already moved on to fresh success in Ironside, which debuted in 1967 and was still on the air when CBS made the baffling decision to revive Perry Mason with a different actor — Monte Markham — in the role. Viewers steered clear and the show was cancelled before completing its first season.
The New Odd Couple (1982)
Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman as Oscar Madison were a winning combination in the original Odd Couple sitcom, which aired from 1970 to 1975. This 1982 update was an ambitious attempt to recast the show with two African-American actors in the roles: Barney Miller’s Ron Glass as fussy Felix and Sanford and Son’s Demond Wilson as sloppy Oscar. Unfortunately, the show’s production was hampered by a Hollywood writer’s strike, which forced producers to use recycled scripts from the original series. Viewers knew a rerun when they saw it, and the show was axed after 16 episodes.
Get Smart (1995)
Prior to Newsradio, Andy Dick starred in Fox’s ill-conceived remake of the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry spy spoof, with Don Adams reprising the role of inept Agent 86 Maxwell Smart and Dick playing his equally inept son. Would you believe it was cancelled after only seven episodes?
The Love Boat: The Next Wave (1998)
Speaking of ill-conceived, there’s no better description for this updated version of Aaron Spelling’s seagoing rom-com anthology, with Robert Urich miscast as the captain of the romantic cruise ship. Airing on the fledgling UPN network, even a special episode reuniting the crew of the original show didn’t boost ratings enough to prevent this ship from sinking like a stone.
Family Affair (2002)
The beloved 1960s sitcom about a rich but grumpy bachelor (Brian Keith) who adopted his orphaned nieces and nephew was briefly revived by the WB, with Gary Cole in the lead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Tim Curry taking over for Sebastian Cabot as stuffy butler Mr. French. The show’s sacrificial-lamb timeslot — Thursdays at 8 p.m. opposite Friends and Survivor — offers a pretty good indication of the network’s expectations, and the show was axed after 14 episodes.
Viewers loved Ed O’Neill as beleaguered Al Bundy on Married…With Children and love him now as the big daddy on Modern Family. But as just-the-facts-ma’am cop Joe Friday? Not so much. In Law & Order creator Dick Wolf’s ill-fated remake of Jack Webb’s classic crime drama, Friday was partnered with young detective Frank Smith (Ethan Embry) in a series that may as well have been called Generic Cop Show. When this midseason replacement was miraculously renewed for a second season, it was retooled significantly; Embry was ditched, the show was renamed L.A. Dragnet and Friday was promoted to head up the LAPD’s Robbery/Homicide Division, leading a team of attractive young cops. Cancellation came soon thereafter.
Bionic Woman (2007)
Hopes were high for this “re-imagining” of the 1970s Six Million Dollar Man spin-off from the same team that transformed Battlestar Galactica from campy space opera to critically acclaimed allegorical drama. With British actress Michelle Ryan as the robotically enhanced heroine, initial ratings were through the roof but dropped dramatically in subsequent weeks, shedding more than 10 million viewers in a few weeks. NBC pulled the plug after only eight episodes.
Knight Rider (2008)
In the early 1980s, the idea of a talking car was super-cool; by 2008, however, cars actually did talk. Producers of this godawful remake tried to get around this by making KITT — driven by Michael Knight’s (David Hasselhoff) estranged son (Justin Bruening) and voiced emotionlessly by Val Kilmer — a Transformers-style vehicle that could morph into all sorts of stuff. Thanks to NBC’s then-president Ben Silverman’s thirst for product placement, KITT was no longer a Trans Am, but a Ford Mustang. The show was more successful as a Ford infomercial than it was in the ratings and ran out of gas before making it to the end of the season.
Melrose Place (2009)
After The CW’s success at rebooting Beverly Hills, 90210, doing the same with Melrose Place must have seemed like a no-brainer by placing a gaggle of young, pretty actors in the same L.A. apartment complex. Unlike 90210, viewers did not like what they saw and ratings were beyond dismal. Despite guest appearances by original cast-members such as Daphne Zuniga and Heather Locklear, viewership had fallen to less than a million by the time the axe fell.
Charlie’s Angels (2011)
It’s never a good sign when critics can’t decide whether it’s the horrible acting or the awful writing that’s the worst thing about a show. That was certainly the case for last season’s reboot of the 1970s jiggle-TV classic about three sexy-but-deadly women (Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh) who work for an unseen boss named Charlie (voiced by Alias star Victor Garber). Unlike in the original, Bosley was a hunky young Latino dude and not a frumpy middle-aged white guy, one of many unnecessary changes that caused viewers to flee. Reviews were horrible, ratings stunk and ABC shut down production a few weeks after the series’ much-hyped debut.