Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: What is the best reboot/revival of a TV show? (NOT of a movie, so no “Fargo.”)
Allison Keene (@KeeneTV), Collider
Although I’m not a fan of much rebooted or revived TV, I do absolutely love the relaunched version of “Battlestar Galactica”. In the early aughts, Ronald D. Moore reimagined Glen A. Larsen’s 1978 series as a sleek, sexy space opera for what was then known as the Sci-Fi Channel. The obsession with this series is really best described by that classic “Portlandia” sketch, as the new “Battlestar” was accessible even to those who (like myself) are not usually that into sci-fi series.
A good reboot is one that (with enough distance from its original), takes the best of what was and recontextualizes it for a new audience. It’s an exceptionally hard thing to do, and revivals have it even harder in trying to become something more than just a reunion show. But Moore’s “Battlestar” succeeded in creating a new iteration of an old title that ended up as its own unique franchise, one that became a standard bearer not just for reboots, but for all sci-fi TV. So say we all.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
Courtesy of Netflix
Wow, I started paging through Mike Schneider’s gallery of remakes and reboots (see above), and the pickings seemed pretty slim! That said, there were a few things I had more than fond feelings toward — specifically, the new Netflix iteration of “Queer Eye.” When we first received screeners for the show, back in late December, I watched the first episode and just felt… better. About life, about people, about the world. Nice people trying to improve the lives of others, from home to hearth to heart? It had a major impact on me, and I found myself carefully doling out each episode over the next six weeks, watching episodes only on the toughest days, when I needed the Fab Five most. I was a fan of the original, and the new version scratches all the same itches in an updated way. (Plus, it’s such a delight to get Jonathan Van Ness on screen for more than five minutes of “Gay of Thrones.”)
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
Sigh. Terminology is exhausting. The question is hinged around “Roseanne,” which is a revival. A remake is not a reboot or a revival, so anybody saying “Battlestar Galactica” is wrong. But does a show going to a different network count as a revival? So is post-UPN “Buffy” a revival? Are seasons 3-5 of “Friday Night Lights” a half-a-revival? Does it count as a reboot or revival when the structure is built around rebooting or reviving? Like does “Doctor Who” count? And does every Doctor count as a reboot or just the post-Eccelston reboot? It doesn’t matter. I wasn’t going to answer with “Doctor Who” anyway. Does “Curb Your Enthusiasm” count or was that just a long hiatus for a show that was never really dead? It doesn’t matter. I wasn’t going to answer “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” because the last season was a huge disappointment. We were told that “Fargo” didn’t count as an overall series because it’s based on a movie and that’s fine, but is each individual season, given the shared DNA between the seasons, a reboot? I could make that argument and I love “Fargo,” so I kinda want to. Can a spinoff be a reboot if it’s like “Better Call Saul”? I guess it’s just a prequel spinoff and that’s not the same thing. I’m not going to say people who choose “The Comeback” or something are wrong, but that just wasn’t a show I loved in either incarnation. “Twin Peaks” is definitely a revival and its Showtime season was mind-bending enough that I was very grateful it existed, even if I don’t need any more “Twin Peaks” at least for another 20 years. The real answer is that the best reboot or revival is NBC’s “Coach” because they announced it, attempted to develop it and realized it wasn’t necessary and so they just moved on. More networks should do the same.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
The “best” exception for my aversion of both reboots and revivals goes to Showtime’s run of “Twin Peaks.” This captivating show is so non-linear, visually Dali-esque and absurdist in its storytelling, almost annoyingly so… but I loved it, There are very few people of David Lynch’s artistic caliber working in the medium, and even if you hated the series, you had to admire the evocative moods and flights of terror it delivered as well as the variety of the actors in his soap opera yarn. Appreciated in the newer rebooted spectacle was that Mr. Lynch laced the new series with plenty of original classic characters, and he artfully paid homage to the ones that passed away. “Twin Peaks” is a square peg of round hole programming that is the exception to my “reboot haterade” hard and fast rules.
Kaitlin Thomas (@thekaitling), TVGuide.com
The correct answer, if we are also including remakes (and we should be), is obviously “Battlestar Galactica.” The original series was kitschy, but the re-imagining was a deeply emotional exploration of what makes us human wrapped up in all the action and excitement of a space opera. It also gave us Kara Thrace! But I have a feeling many folks will be discussing the merits of “BSG” this week, and so I’d like to actually discuss a revival close to my heart: “Strike Back.” I admit I was skeptical when Cinemax announced it was reviving the show for its third iteration — the 2015 finale was perfect and featured Scott and Stonebridge literally riding off into the sunset together! — but the new season proves that the concept of “Strike Back” is a lasting one. The series still regularly delivers thrilling action sequences not seen anywhere else on TV, there are the beginnings of a central bromance even as the central team has expanded to include formidable women who don’t exist to merely get killed off, and although the show hasn’t yet reached the depth of its immediate predecessor, it remains one of my favorite hours of TV every week. Is it the best show on TV? No, but it also doesn’t need to be; “Strike Back” knows exactly what it is and therefore succeeds at every turn. As we approach the season finale of this latest revival, I find that I don’t even miss Scott and Stonebridge anymore, which is maybe the highest compliment I can give the show.
Alan Sepinwall (@sepinwall), Uproxx
Reboots and revivals are two very different things. Most revivals — bringing back the original actors in the same roles they played back in the day — are bad ideas, because what made those shows great once upon a time is a product of a particular time in the lives of the characters on the show, the lives of the people making the show, and the lives of the audience watching it. Change any or all of the three, and suddenly Rory Gilmore is a 32-year-old still acting like a 16-year-old, which is awful. Reboots, depending on how you define them, are more like the core idea with a whole new set of people involved, and with greater leeway to change things as a result.
There have been some revivals I haven’t hated, and even some with moments I’ve loved, like a good chunk of “Twin Peaks: The Return” and most of the non-Chris Carter episodes of this season of “The X-Files.” But the batting average is much spottier there, whereas there’s a reboot I can easily point to as an all-time classic: the Sci Fi Channel version of “Battlestar Galactica,” where Ronald D. Moore and company took a great idea that had been used to make a bad show in the ’70s and turned it into perhaps TV’s best drama about 9/11 and the War on Terror. There were lines you could draw from one to the other, but everything was smarter, bolder, and just plain better.
(Also, if we’re choosing to define reboots as “shows set in the same continuity but with new casts,” then the answer is “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”)
Marisa Roffman (@marisaroffman), Give Me My Remote
When it comes to making a “good” reboot/revival, your mileage may vary. Do you just want a couple of good episodes that hold up to the show’s original quality? Do you need it to carry on the story in a believable fashion that also doesn’t trash the original series’ legacy? It’s hard to name a show that has managed to do both of those things.
Weirdly, I feel like “Prison Break” may have been the revival that worked the most for me. Part of that may be because I didn’t have an obsessive attachment to it; I saw the entire series, but I didn’t devote years of my life to watching it play out during its original run. That allowed me to go with the flow of the bonkers season—which, thankfully, undid Michael’s (Wentworth Miller) death – rather than get tied up in the minutiae.
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
Obvious answer is obvious, but the 2000s version of “Battlestar Galactica,” even when it seemed to be disappearing down rabbit trails of its own making, was a grand and glorious thing, with a complicated, rich mythology and a surprising willingness to confront the issues of the time. I assume that 500 other people have already answered this, so I will not belabor the point. But it was good, good stuff.
Also: “One Day at a Time” is amazing, and I’m so glad it’s getting a third season. If it were still in danger of not being renewed, I might have stood up for it more fervently. But everybody reading this should go watch it now. Even if you’ve seen it.
Joyce Eng (@joyceeng61), GoldDerby
While I know my colleague Kaitlin Thomas will surely say “Strike Back,” partly due to HBAG (Hot Bearded Australian Guy), I am going with another “back”: “The Comeback.” The 2005 original was way ahead of its time and though I am not a fan of reboots, revivals and the like — let things die, people! It’s OK! — the 2014 follow-up was the second season I wanted, made peace with never getting, and one that arrived at exactly the right time. The beauty of “The Comeback” was that Valerie’s humiliation was that it never came from mere “awkward situations” like most mockumentary comedies; it was embedded in the show’s gloriously cutting and meta satire of reality TV and the narcissism of Hollywood. And in the wired, self-indulgent, Instagram-filtered world of 2014, the cringes and painful moments of Season 2 never hurt so good. Season 2 also gave Valerie the perfect ending to her story, so please do not ever bring it back again. I don’t need to see that.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
Sticking with revivals, it’s “Twin Peaks.” “Twin Peaks: The Return” may be considered by some to be separate from the original two seasons, but nothing about its continued story indicates it’s anything other than sequel season to the original ’90s series. It’s also a mind-bending, surrealist delight that refuses to bow to modern rules for televised narratives (much like those first two seasons did back in the day), but more importantly, it’s a TV show that honored its past without being beholden to it. David Lynch challenged viewers in a way we needed, refusing to regurgitate the simple delights of the past to placate our nostalgic whims. He changed everything, again, from Agent Cooper (who was trapped in Dougie’s false identity most of the season) to the very foundation of the series (Laura Palmer lives!), and he did it for the better of viewers. This is what a revival should look like: a fresh, bold story with new ideas motivating the return. Few revivals actually follow this model, and even fewer are as successful as “Twin Peaks.”
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “Atlanta” (four votes)
Other contenders: “The Alienist,” “The Good Doctor,” “Good Girls,” “Jane the Virgin,” “The Terror,” “Trust” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.