Television is, in many ways, a flat circle. There is no idea that won’t be tried, and then years later, tried again. But some ideas, while successful the first time, are even better when they’re revived for audiences that better appreciate them. Like, for example, these shows.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The original Star Trek was a bold show for its time; diverse, focused on peace instead of war, dedicated to big ideas, and throwing out most of what made SF shows cheesefests. Nobody expected it to last more than a season, but it made it for three and, more importantly, went immediately into successful syndication as an alternative to the local news.
Still, launching Star Trek: The Next Generation was a gamble, reflected in the fact that most networks wouldn’t commit to a series without a pilot and control over the show’s direction. So Paramount instead chose to syndicate new episodes directly, unheard of at the time.
And it worked; in fact, Star Trek: The Next Generation pulled in the kind of ratings you expected from network shows, and it didn’t even air at a consistent time and network across the country. You can, in fact, make a case that it was the single most successful television show of the late ’80s and early ’90s. And they did it without Kirk, to boot.
It’s strange to think of a television landscape without Alex Trebek, but Jeopardy! was originally this:
That’s the original run of the show, which ran from 1964 to 1975. Which was actually a revival itself; the show takes much of its format from an obscure show creatively named Television Quiz that ran in the early ’40s. In fact, this version of Jeopardy! was brought back in 1978 for a brief run.
The show we know and love wouldn’t come into being until 1984. Ironically, the revival owes its life to the cancellation of its predecessor; NBC bought Wheel of Fortune from Merv Griffin as an apology for canceling Jeopardy!‘s first run, and that show’s success led to a hunt for more syndicated game shows. And it’s been a good decision; the show currently holds the record for the most Daytime Emmys, at 31 total wins. Also, Alex Trebek’s mustache has been revived, and the world is better for it.
Futurama is really a show that should have been a footnote. Launched in 1999 to great hype, it quickly became clear that Matt Groening wasn’t going to compromise his vision of the show, and it wasn’t just going to be The Simpsons with spaceships. It lasted longer than its fans expected, going off the air in 2003. And that would have been the end of it… except for the persistence of Groening and those fans.
Three years, and plenty of emails, later, the show was revived for four TV movies, forming a sixteen-episode fifth season. They ended on a note of both joy and uncertainty, with Into The Wild Green Yonder serving as the series finale. Except the movie did so well, the show returned for another four seasons on Comedy Central, before ending again.
And it’s still not done: It recently crossed over with The Simpsons, and it’s rumored it’ll return again, possibly on Netflix.
The Price Is Right
You want a strange experience? Watch an original episode of The Price Is Right. No, not one with Bob Barker. The original, from the 1950s.
It was enormously successful; it ran for nine years and for a while was the single most watched game show on television with both daytime and nighttime airings. It was brought back in 1972, with more games added, and it’s a revival so popular it just hasn’t stopped since.
Doctor Who was the show the BBC would not cancel. First launched in 1963 as an oddball educational program, the show ran for nearly three decades, seven lead actors, and innumerable cardboard sets. It was a British institution, a mainstay of Saturday mornings on PBS… and suddenly, abruptly, and to the minds of many fans, unjustly canceled.
Rumors of a revival started almost immediately, but, aside from a TV movie on Fox, little was done until 2005, when the series was revived… and became a worldwide hit for the BBC. It just goes to show, in the end, that you can’t keep a good Doctor and his multidimensional spacecraft down.