Last Friday, TNT broke the terrible news to fans of the once-celebrated primetime soap opera Dallas that it was pulling the plug on the latest installment of the Ewing family’s adventures after just three seasons. Obviously, this led to a lot of people asking that timeless question indicative of Internet cynicism: “Wait, Dallas was on TV again?” But yes, Dallas was indeed brought back in 2012, 21 years after the first run ended on CBS in 1991, and while ratings were initially optimistic, the show simply never recovered from the unfortunate passing of Larry Hagman, even when the hilariously wonderful and coke-fueled Judith Ryland (Judith Light) joined the cast. Nevertheless, loyal fans are still upset that their show is gone (again) and they’re taking to social media to attempt to save it.
But is Dallas really worth saving? Better yet, was it ever really worth bringing back in the first place? This is, of course, the problem with our overwhelming collective sense of nostalgia these days, as our inability to ever let go of the things that we once loved is hindering the way that TV networks are able to proceed with developing and promoting new series that introduce us to new characters that we can, in turn, eventually learn to love and appreciate for many years to come. Most of us are guilty of this love for TV and movie history – I want Liz Lemon and the 30 Rock gang back more than anything, but I’d also settle for a Quantum Leap revival (more on that later this week) – and that’s why NBC is currently trying to fill its entire 2015/16 schedule with titles like Say Anything…, Real Genius and Problem Child. We are all suckers for the past, and networks simply look at that and see dollar signs.
Fortunately, for every reboot of In the Heat of the Night (reportedly being shopped by The Help director Tate Taylor to cable networks) someone has the brains and courage to stand up to a network like NBC and say, “No damn it, you are not rebooting Murder, She Wrote with Octavia Spencer!” like Angela Lansbury did (and Cameron Crowe is with Say Anything…). Then there’s a shameless cash grab like John Stamos’s Full House follow-up for Netflix that has plenty of people excited about the further adventures of the Tanner family, but most of us know that this is a really bad idea that people are going to lose interest in very quickly. Although, I’ve been wrong about dumber things before.
That takes us to yesterday’s big news – David Lynch’s revival of Twin Peaks for Showtime. I barely remember trying to watch and understand Twin Peaks when it originally aired on ABC, and unlike a lot of people my age who talk about it like it’s one of the greatest shows ever made, I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. Sure, I pretended like I got it, but today I can readily admit that it was simply too dark and bizarre for my young brain, and I definitely preferred Saturday Night Live’s parody from Kyle Maclachlan’s hosting gig in 1990.
Twin Peaks has three built-in advantages for success, though: 1) This new “season” will feature just nine episodes; 2) Lynch and his co-creator Mark Frost are writing each episode, while Lynch will direct them all; and 3) It will air on Showtime, meaning that Lynch can get all freaky-deaky through the freedom of cable. But it also has three glaring disadvantages: 1) Everyone is a little older, and possibly more skeptical; 2) It has been 23 years since Twin Peaks last aired, so a lot of people might not care anymore (even if Netflix has all 30 episodes of the original two-season run so people like me can watch again and pump ourselves up); and 3) TV’s track record or remaking, rebooting and/or resuming old series is pretty awful. Also, 4) The pool scene in Showgirls has ruined Kyle MacLachlan for me, but that’s just a personal complaint.
I’m mostly trying to play devil’s advocate here, because I know that people are excited about this revival, and we all have faith in Lynch to produce a quality story. Still, for the sake of learning from our past, let’s walk together through a brief history of TV’s biggest revival blunders, so that we can hope together that agent Dale Cooper’s return to that crazy town won’t be a terrible mistake.
New Monkees – 1987
The thought that the 2016 version of Twin Peaks could look anything like the 1987 series New Monkees is, without a doubt, one of the silliest things I’ve ever pondered, and I once imagined what it would be like if Channing Tatum’s sidekick was a talking pit bull. But this series, which has probably been forgotten by more people than those who ever watched it, serves as a reminder that just because something walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it doesn’t mean it CHA-CHINGs like a duck. More to the point, people may like to say, “Hey remember…” but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to buy into a revival.
Get Smart – 1995
Unlike New Monkees, Get Smart’s revival asked the question, “How amazingly unfunny would it be if Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 had a kid and he grew up to become the top spy at CONTROL?” Then, before anyone could answer, it asked another question: “And what if that son was played by Andy Dick? That would be hilarious, right?” And then we pulled back the curtain on this loud voice and realized that it was just an incredibly coked up Fox executive who had clearly lost his mind.
The Love Boat: The Next Wave – 1998
Maybe you’re the type of person who used to watch The Love Boat and always thought, “Hey, 10 seasons of people floating on a luxurious death trap wasn’t enough!” That’s why UPN execs, starved for a hit in the late 90s, resurrected the series with an all-new cast, including Robert Urich and Joan Severance in their “Just make sure the check is signed” phase, and an intro that looked like it was prepared by a college travel company. If anything, this is a great reminder that people in television really wanted Sasha Mitchell and Maggie Wheeler to be stars.
Dragnet – 2003
“Hear me out,” said the Law & Order creator, desperate for a procedural police hit on ABC. “What if we bring back Dragnet and it stars the stepfather and stepson duo from Dutch?” Confused, the ABC exec asked, “You mean Al Bundy and the overly quirky kid from Empire Records and Can’t Hardly Wait?” “Sure,” Dick Wolf responded, “whatever gets me paid faster. They’re not going to install the diamond-encrusted anchor on my yacht without a deposit.” And just as Wolf sailed off into the sunset, ABC realized this was a huge mistake and completely recast and renamed the series, despite the fact that Ed O’Neill was really good.
Kojak – 2005
Before the network would find success in series like Burn Notice, In Plain Sight and Psych, among its other shows still being produced, USA tried to make a hit with one part famous TV series and two parts movie stars with Kojak. Ving Rhames starred as the smooth-talking, lollipop-sucking New York City lieutenant who was a man of the streets and always hitting the sheets, or something to that effect. Chazz Palminteri also starred in the series that lasted one whole season of nine episodes, while leaving the few people who knew it existed wondering, “Why not give two actors as awesome as Rhames and Palminteri something original and far less gimmicky to work with?”
Bionic Woman – 2007
This was, without a doubt, the funniest series that aired on NBC and possibly any network in 2007. It was a shame that it was dropped after just eight episodes, because we had barely scratched the surface of how far this series could go with limited fight choreography and really cheesy acting.
Knight Rider – 2008
While it pretended to be a series that told us what it would look like if Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) had a son who would grow up to get behind the wheel of a newer, cooler and more Transformer-like version of KITT 25 years later, NBC’s Knight Rider continuation series was simply an hour-long commercial for the Ford Mustang and additional car porn for people who thought the Fast & Furious movies were too edgy. Amazingly, people actually petitioned the network to bring the show back for a second season with multiple online petitions, apparently oblivious to the fact that maybe one general petition could have done the job.
(It should be noted that the outtakes were the only redeeming features of this series. Maybe it could have survived as an intentional comedy.)
Melrose Place – 2009
90210 was already a bad, albeit successful, idea but as soon as it was created, there was no doubt that a continuation of Melrose Place was going to be right behind it. Starring Ashlee Simpson and a bunch of people created in a cloning facility outside Burbank, the new Melrose Place was like the Muppet Babies of Fox’s original primetime soap opera that created a hilariously bad fake Hollywood world, wrapped inside of the dumbest stereotypes ever conceived. “THIS IS HOLLYWOOD,” the girl said as nude cherubs sprinkled cocaine from the heavens, in between stashing dead hookers in the trunk of every new Bentley.
Charlie’s Angels – 2011
We all know there was no point to this, even from a cash grab standpoint, as the recent movies had already put on clever disguises and robbed us of any ambition to see further adventures of three attractive women kicking ass and solving crimes. Aside from that point, I’ve tried really hard to think of another actress that we could compare Minka Kelly to in terms of being given endless opportunities to be a star and falling short every single time, and the best that I’ve come up with is Natasha Henstridge. Or maybe she’s the Taylor Kitsch of actresses. I’m going to keep thinking about this.
Ironside – 2013
It took three episodes for NBC to realize that the remake of the 1960s/70s series starring Raymond Burr was a bad idea. Funny, I thought for sure the adventures of a wheelchair-bound cop cleaning up the streets would have drawn the big ratings, but I guess by 2013, Family Guy had already cornered the market on that action. Amazing that nobody at the Peacock thought of that, too.
Again, these examples were for series that were always far more goofier and mainstream than Twin Peaks ever was, but just in case Lynch and Co. lead us back to the White and Black Lodges in the woods and things just don’t work out, let’s not pretend like there wasn’t a substantial and unpleasant precedent set before it. Fingers crossed.