As the reboot of Magnum P.I. moves into its fifth season, let’s take a look at the successful action TV shows that were brought back to life, successfully
Making a TV show is always risky no matter where you are. Some are liked by the audience but not by the channels, while some of the channel favorites don’t end up on the audience’s must-watch list of the audience. That’s why rebooting, remaking, or resurrecting an already successful show is even more difficult, where some have succeeded and some haven’t. Right now, the ‘resurrection’ of Quantum Leap seems to be on the right track since it has brought back both the old and the new series together, but not every series has shared the same fate.
The super successful Mission Impossible (yes, it was a TV series before Tom Cruise’s entry) failed when it was revived fifteen years later and lasted just 2 seasons, and the same fate was shared by Burke’s Law, while the rebooted Knight Rider and Bionic Woman couldn’t last one entire season. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to find out which TV shows survived the reboot, remake, and revival culture, and what made them match the success of their predecessor, or even surpass their success.
Original Series: 1968 – 1980 (12 seasons)
The original Hawaii Five-O series was at one time the longest-running police drama in the United States; it revolved around a team of police officers led by Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) who solved crimes in the picturesque locations of Hawaii. His Five-O colleagues comprised Danny Williams, veteran cop Chin Ho Kelly, and street-smart Kono Kalakaua who was joined by another officer Duke Lukela later in the fifth season. The opening theme of the series was quite popular in the day since it was different from the other crime shows of the time and even featured in one of the Shrek films later.
Reboot series: 2010 – 2021 (10 seasons)
Hawaii Five-0 (with a zero, not an O) premiered forty years after the successful run of the original show ended, however, the characters remained the same. Just like the original, Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) leads a team of dedicated individuals who solve crimes in the state of Hawaii. Unlike the original though, in the reboot, the relationship between Steve and Danny (Scott Caan) is used for comedy purposes and they are shown as buddies who can’t stand the sight of each other. The opening sequence is bettered in the newer series, and the music is retained giving the audience the connection they needed to watch the reboot for ten seasons.
Original Series: 1985 – 1992 (7 seasons)
Back in the 1980s and the early 1990s, MacGyver was a rage since it helped youngsters fall in love with science all over again. Although it wasn’t a sci-fi series, it revolved around a secret agent named MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) who used his remarkable scientific knowledge to solve problems around the world, with the help of materials at hand. The cool and calm manner in which Richard Dean Anderson portrayed the character made him a heartthrob and influenced many to become troubleshooters, with the help of science, of course. It ran for seven seasons and was followed by two TV movies and even coined the term MacGyverism which is used when someone ingeniously improvises a solution to a problem.
The MacGyver reboot was different from the original in many ways; while the original Mac worked alone, hated guns, and was rarely addressed by his first name, the newer Mac’s first name Agnus was known to all, he had no problem using firearms and worked with a team that comprised of people who would help him out in his adventures. Actor Lucas Till retained the cool and calm demeanor but with a chaperone-cum-partner Jack Dalton (George Eads) always at his side, the reboot resembled Scorpion more than MacGyver. Despite not being able to better the original series except maybe in technology, it lasted five seasons which was two seasons less than the original.
Original Series: 1975 – 76 (2 Seasons)
When S.W.A.T. aired way back in the 1970s, it was criticized for being too violent for TV but if you look at it now, it doesn’t seem that violent. It revolved around the adventures of a Special Weapons And Tactics (S.W.A.T.) unit that operated somewhere in Los Angeles and was called in when the police needed extra help. Contrary to popular belief, the show was a spin-off of The Rookies and starred Steve Forrest as the leader Lt. “Hondo” Harrelson, who had Officer Jim Street (Robert Urich), Sgt. David “Deacon” Kay (Rod Perry), Officer Dominic Luca (Mark Shera), and Officer T.J. McCabe (James Coleman) as his teammates. It was canceled after just two seasons but the opening theme, composed by Barry De Vorzon, went on to become quite popular, and featured in many films, including S.W.A.T.’s film version more than twenty five years later.
Reboot series: 2017 – (currently in its sixth season)
The reboot of S.W.A.T. came more than a dozen years after the release of the Samuel L Jackson – Colin Farrell starrer that sort of gave the blueprint of a possible TV series to the producers. They changed the main lead’s race from white to African American, cast a well-built Shemar Moore in the lead, and added a backstory to all the characters which helped the team gel like an elite unit that is always ready to take the call. The action sequences throughout the series are its highlights and make it different and long-lasting than the original series, while the added angle of bureaucratic tension seems to be the bad guy here.
Original Series: 1980 – 1988 (8 seasons)
A private investigator living in Hawaii, driving a Ferrari and solving crimes brings back the memories of the 1980s when ex-Navy Seal Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) and his friends Theodore “T.C.” Calvin (Roger E. Mosley), Orville “Rick” Wright (Larry Manetti) and caretaker Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) solved baffling cases for fun. Not only did Tom Selleck’s aloha shirt become popular, but his mannerisms and interaction with friends are also something that has transcended decades. The show ran for eight seasons and featured some of the best aerial shots, which might have given the idea of another series to the creator Donald P Bellisario, who went on to create Airwolf as well.
Reboot series: 2018 – present (currently in its fifth season)
The reboot of Magnum P.I. deviated from the original in a lot of ways; here Higgins is Juliet instead of Jonathan, Magnum is of Mexican descent instead of American, and by the time the series moves into its fifth season (releasing next month), the two will be a couple. His friends are still named the same, have the same jobs and help him in the same way, although there are a couple of additional characters – Kumu and Detective Katsumoto – who come to their aid when the going gets tough. When the popular series was canceled after four seasons by CBS, rival channel NBC picked it for two twenty-episode seasons so that the audience in love with Magnum, the opening theme, and the red Ferrari can have more of them.
Original Series: 1985 – 1989 (4 seasons)
And then there was The Equalizer, the spy thriller series where British actor Edward Woodward played Robert McCall who was always there to help those in need of help themselves. He used his skills from his former career as a spy to lend a hand to people who had no one to turn to, and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that he was a kind of vigilante like Batman, without the gadgets. The series was canceled after four seasons, not because it wasn’t popular but because the lead actor fell ill. However, the concept was used 25 years later with Denzel Washington as the Equalizer who played the character in two films and might be returning for a third one soon.
Reboot series: 2021 – present
When Queen Latifah who is popular more for her comic appearances than serious ones was cast as Robyn McCall in the re-imagined version of the series, many were skeptical but three seasons later, the actress is still there, saving people who can’t save themselves. It is different from both the TV series and the film franchise; while technology plays a more important role in the reboot, the series wouldn’t have been able to sustain itself without it, considering its target market is the tech-savvy crowd.