Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The new Odd Couple is not The New Odd Couple: 11 TV shows ripe for a reboot

On Thursday, February 19, CBS unveils The Odd Couple, the third TV adaptation of Neil Simon’s play about a slovenly sports writer (Matthew Perry) rooming with his fastidious pal (Thomas Lennon) after their respective divorces. The long-running sitcom was remade once before—with Ron Glass and Desmond Wilson playing The New Odd Couple—and that’s not to mention unofficial Felix-Oscar pairs like the animated Oddball Couple or the more recent Two And A Half Men. (The series finale of the latter, fittingly, will lead into the premiere of the new Odd Couple that’s not The New Odd Couple.) There’s a timeless appeal to watching two grown men trying to share an apartment without driving each other crazy, but why make another Odd Couple when there are so many other rich TV concepts ripe for updating? Especially when most of them had much shorter runs than The Odd Couple’s 114-episode tenure on ABC.

1. Late World With Zach (original run: 2002)

Zach Galifianakis’ original run as a talk-show host ended not between two ferns, but in a garbage truck: At the conclusion of the short-lived VH1 series Late World With Zach, the future star of The Hangover series took himself out with the trash, climbing into a dumpster to be hauled away to better career options. For a few weeks in spring 2002, this was the vibe Galifianakis brought to late night, a deconstruction of tired chat-fest tropes that was too weird even for a post-Pop Up Video, pre-I Love The ’80s VH1. But now that intentionally off-putting interviews and low production values have brought him viral success and an audience with the president, Galifianakis would have enough leverage to chop off Late World’s vestigial limbs, foregoing traditional Q&As and musical performances in favor of interpretive dances and bizarre remote segments. More importantly, a Late World with movie star Zach Galifianakis would mean nobody telling talk-show host Zach Galifianakis that he’d have to shave for the gig. [Erik Adams]

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2. Frank’s Place (original run: 1987-88)

After WKRP In Cincinnati was ignored by CBS and prematurely canceled, series creator Hugh Wilson and star Tim Reid re-teamed for Frank’s Place, which the network ignored and canceled even more quickly. In one of TV’s great unappreciated gems, Reid starred as a Brown University professor who inherits a New Orleans restaurant and its colorful regulars, and reconnects with black culture as he makes a new life in the Crescent City. CBS didn’t quite know what to do with a low-key single-camera sitcom that dealt with serious issues like race and class as often as it cracked jokes, but in 2015, a remake of Frank’s Place could find a long life on a cable network looking for a thoughtful alternative to the typical network sitcom. [Mike Vago]

3. The Muppet Show (original run: 1976-81)

Jason Segel’s first draft of the 2011 comeback vehicle The Muppets ended with Kermit The Frog turning to the camera and promising movie audiences a new season of The Muppet Show the following fall on ABC. The network (which shares a parent company with the Muppets: Disney) put the kibosh on that idea, apparently because it hates making money and wants to see joy and laughter snuffed out in our lifetime. Is there anyone, young or old, rich or poor, who wouldn’t want to see the Muppets return to the small screen? Not in a misguided attempt to keep with with the times (like 1996’s ill-fated Muppets Tonight), but in the format Jim Henson and company perfected in the ’70s. Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and the rest of their chaotic troupe belong back in the Muppet theater, with Statler and Waldorf on hand to heckle every cornball joke and hoary vaudeville cliché. [Mike Vago]

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4. Star Trek: Voyager (original run: 1995-2001)

If you want to pinpoint the moment Star Trek’s 1990s renaissance soured irrevocably, look no further than Voyager’s second episode. The series was set up to be the franchise’s most ambitious premise to date, with a ship lost in space, with no way home, limited supplies, and a crew made up of rival factions that were trying to murder each other before fate threw them together. But you never saw dramatic underpinnings like uneasy alliances, backstabbing, or fighting over precious resources because the crew immediately became best pals, and the ship never ran out of shuttlecrafts or red-shirted ensigns, no matter how many got blown to smithereens. While Star Trek’s inevitable return to television will probably give us the familiar comforts of another five-year mission, the franchise could do worse than taking another crack at what could have been a terrific drama. [Mike Vago]

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5. Airwolf (original run: 1984-87)

It’s remarkable that TV executives in 2007 and 2008 thought Bionic Woman and Knight Rider were viable properties to remake for modern audiences, yet Airwolf was passed over. Donald Bellisario’s show about a top-secret military helicopter abducted by its test pilot ran for three years on CBS (and one zombie season on USA), in which Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine) engaged in freelance espionage across the globe. Together, Hawke and Santini thwarted dictators and rival agencies, kept the mysterious FIRM at bay, hunted Hawke’s missing brother, and occasionally played an antique cello for eagles. While the show suffered from being overly serious and male-centric, its central concept of a high-powered military vehicle being kept out of government hands for the greater good feels almost prescient, given the ethics of unmanned drone strikes at the forefront of dramas like Homeland. Handled properly, a new Airwolf could be in the mold of Person Of Interest, a procedural drama that has a central spine about government oversight and shadowy conspiracies; it could also take advantage of modern special effects to feature air-to-air combat on a weekly basis. Just don’t mess with that theme song. [Les Chappell]

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6. Persons Unknown (original run: 2010)

When NBC premiered the puzzle-box thriller Persons Unknown in summer 2010, it seemed like a perfect storm of fun: a gorgeous, intriguing thriller about a group of strangers who find themselves in an abandoned town in the middle of nowhere, being watched by an unseen force that prevented them from leaving. It was crackerjack entertainment—right up until it wasn’t. (Rarely has a final episode been so universally loathed.) But the premise is so perfect, especially now that one-and-done series have become a regular part of the network landscape. Freed from the demands of having to extend the premise in perpetuity, Persons Unknown could be a gripping event, a 10-episode story unfolding with precision timing and Twilight Zone mystery. (And fixing that atrocious ending.) Plucky hero Janet Cooper would be a great chance for Alexandra Daddario (True Detective) to get her own starring role in something matching her acting talents, but let Alan Ruck come back for the reboot—he’s surprisingly well-suited to playing an obnoxious weirdo in the desert. [Alex McCown]

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7. Banacek (original run: 1972-74)

Why do TV networks keep talking about remaking classic 1970s detective series like Ironside and The Rockford Files when there’s a perfectly good mystery show from that same era that never got a proper run? For two seasons—and 17 episodes—on the NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie, George Peppard played a suave investigator who makes money from insurance companies by tracking down merchandise that’s disappeared under highly unusual circumstances. In most P.I. shows, the protagonists tend to be scrappy and selfless, but Thomas Banacek is in it for the cash, the ladies, and the chance to show how clever he is at solving locked-room puzzles. Get someone like Sam Rockwell in a revamped Banacek, and resist the temptation to introduce any serialized elements—like some kind of tortured past for the hero—and this could be the perfect procedural for the latter half of the 2010s. [Noel Murray]

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8. Fantasy Island (original run: 1977-84)

Along with The Love Boat, Fantasy Island was part of the Saturday-night “escapist anthology” block that became a ratings dynamo for ABC in the late-’70s. With the dashing Ricardo Montalbán as overseer Mr. Roarke, each hour of Fantasy Island usually featured two separate adventures: one light (for example, a woman wants to be a torch singer like her grandmother), one dark (an adventurer wants to plan an escape from a famous prison). But the technological limitations of 20th-century special effects restricted the backgrounds of these capers to a few island waterfalls and maybe some puffs of smoke for Pan, Satan, and all the other demons who appeared to dwell on the dark side of the island. Though a previous attempt to revive Fantasy Island failed to take in 1998, a reboot with 2015 special effects and green screens would offer unlimited new fantasy possibilities: What about a trip to another planet? Or a reality in a cartoon world? And for a new Mr. Roarke, how about Pierce Brosnan? He possesses the necessary continental classiness, along with a touch of menace (as seen in his James Bond stint), that made Mr. Roarke a charmer, but still a force to be reckoned with. [Gwen Ihnat]

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9. Blackadder (original run: 1983-89)

With dramatic anthologies seeing a resurgence through the success of True Detective, Fargo, and American Horror Story, there’s no reason why the concept couldn’t translate to comedies as well. (At least that’s what Ryan Murphy thinks.) Those seeking inspiration need look no further than BBC’s Blackadder, which over four series explored different key times in British history via a lineage of notorious assholes (all played with marvelous contempt by Rowan Atkinson) and boasting a remarkable recurring cast including Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry, and Hugh Laurie. It’s not a stretch to see the Comedy Bang! Bang! or Drunk History teams taking their recurring players and coming up with a few limited series events in the same satirical vein for America, checking in on such events as the Revolutionary War or the Great Depression. Suggestion for the main character: Paul F. Tompkins, whose CBB and Thrilling Adventure Hour performances demonstrate exactly the level of pomposity and versatility that made Atkinson’s various Blackadders so endearing in spite of their awfulness. [Les Chappell]

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10. The A-Team (original run: 1983-87)

Sure, we’ve already gotten the unjustly maligned film version of The A-Team (starring Bradley Cooper, and featuring a tank that skydives), but a TV reboot of the ’80s action show for children might make great sense—if it were reimagined for adults in the same way Battlestar Galactica was. There’s plenty of darkness to be mined in a version that isn’t hamstrung by its main characters’ need to always be on the side of justice and to never kill anyone. What’s it really like for four highly effective mercenaries to run from the law, surviving by taking jobs as muscle? Would those guys do pro bono work for a mom-and-pop soda company whose water rights are being threatened, as the original A-Team did in the 1985 episode “Trouble Brewing”? Or would they end up more like a bunch of Yojimbos, playing their clients off against each other and murdering—when necessary—without hesitation? [Josh Modell]

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11. All-American Girl (original run: 1994-95)

Margaret Cho’s All-American Girl fizzled out after only six months on the air 20 years ago, plagued by bumbling, ignorant writing that portrayed its characters as one-dimensional Asian-American caricatures. The sitcom also sanitized Cho’s notoriously biting commentary about racism, feminism, relationships, and family—the kind of incisive observations that gain far more traction in the cultural discussion these days. Still, the key to a successful All-American Girl reboot would be to make these issues dominant plot points the Cho way; much like 2008’s The Cho Show, they would be (smartly) integrated into the writing of a comedy/drama focused on a politically oriented, outspoken adult woman dealing with what every other nonconformist adult woman deals with: family pressures, aging, career aimlessness, etc. Most important, Cho would have creative oversight of the show, so she could take control of her own narrative and story—ensuring it wouldn’t turn into a tired, fish-out-of-water tale, but would remain a more nuanced look at how society has evolved (or not) over the last few decades. [Annie Zaleski]

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