TV Remakes: Good or Bad?

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Looking at the CW’s Tuesday line up, it’s almost like getting a blast from the past: “90210” and “Melrose Place” on again? Is it the 90s? No, they’re just two examples of the new television remakes blasting onto the screen, and they’re not alone. “Eastwick,” based on the “Witches of Eastwick” movie, premieres on September 23 on ABC, and “V” (premiering Nov. 3) is a remake of a canceled science fiction series. Now ABC has the rights to adapt “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the popular film, and NBC is bringing back their detective drama from the 70s “The Rockford Files.”

This is hardly a new thing in the television world, however, since we just recently saw the successful end of “Battlestar Galactica” and the very quick end of “Life On Mars.” “The Office” is technically a remake of the popular UK show of the same name, and even “Ugly Betty” is a remake of a Colombian show. Television remakes are not always successful, just look at “Kath & Kim,” but overall they do get a little more acceptance than film remakes.

Melrose Place

Image © The CW Television Network

Clearly there have been some wonderful stories about TV shows that do well on their return to the boob tube, but the question is whether or not they should be made at all. Are TV remakes a good idea? Well, they usually come with a fanbase, and the networks probably love that, but the problem with fans is how quickly they can turn if they don’t like what they see. You have to walk a fine line with remakes, making certain that enough is similar to the original while bringing something new to the idea. It can be nostalgic and fun to take something beloved from a different time and make it flashy and modern.

On the other hand, this is literally a “been there done that” situation. Are original ideas that hard to come by? It’s a problem with the entire entertainment industry. Many movies come from something else, whether they’re based on books or adapted from musicals or sequels/triquels. Think of the biggest blockbuster movies of this year and how many of them were based on something already done – the new “Transformers” movie, “Terminator Salvation,” “Star Trek” and yes, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

And yet you have to respect how television draws out something new and creative, not counting the reality TV shows. “Lost” is a unique show, “Heroes” is based on comic books in general but not on anything specific, and “30 Rock” and “House” are original – and these are the longer lasting kinds of shows.


Image © American Broadcasting Inc.

People enjoy watching something they’ve never seen before, and even as these shows get predictable to watch, there’s something about them that you don’t see everywhere. And that’s what makes them special. Copycat shows are made to steal some of that magic, but they rarely do as well as their predecessors because the average TV audience has only so long of an attention span. You better get their unwavering devotion quickly, or that show is going to be dead in the water.

It is possible to have very popular shows based on something else, but when everything new coming out happens to be old … what does that say about the creativity and ingenuity that the entertainment industry is supposed to be about? One or two remakes coming on the air is not such a bad thing. But how long is it before five or six remakes are made or half of the new shows are remakes and different, risky shows are never given a chance?

It is not too late to save the television world from endless imitative, predictable fluff. There’s nothing wrong with loving your “Melrose Place,” but don’t forget about “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Fringe.” A happy medium of both new and old is a happy television fall line up, although a little more of the new would be better. There’s a reason those original shows ended in the first place.

What do you think about TV remakes?


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