In unexpected news over the weekend, US network NBC announced the return of the TV series Heroes. The announcement of the shows return came not via a media release or a launch event, but rather through a promo screened during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. Is NBC seeking to deliver audiences by appealing to their sense of nostalgia through resurrecting beloved TV brands like Heroes, in the same way that recent efforts saw them launching new shows starring major NBC stars of yesteryear? And if so, will heroes be the only cancelled show to experience a resurrection?
A return of Heroes makes sense in today’s TV landscape, following the return of Fox’s high-profile action series 24. Both were series that performed very well internationally and with DVD sales, maintaining brand recognition and consumption through digital platforms like Netflix. With so many TV series struggling to be noticed, heroes immediate brand recognition will serve it well, especially on NBC – a network that has sought to leverage pre-existing audiences into current viewership.
Heroes, which originally ran for four seasons between 2006 and 2010, will be back in 2014 for a thirteen episode ‘event’ series helmed by original showrunner Tim Kring – the man credited with everything that most fans disliked about the series. This series will deliver an entirely new cast with a new storyline, however cast from the original series may make an appearance.
So, if Heroes can return, which other series could or should make a return?
The Golden Girls
Originally running from 1985 to 1992, The Golden Girls starred established sitcom stars Bea Arthur (Maude), Betty White (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Rue McLanahan (Maude), along with actress Estelle Getty. With broadcast TV audiences skewing older these days, it makes perfect sense to launch a show starring women nearing retirement age. Audiences appreciate shows that speak directly to their own experience in one form or another. While TV Land in the US have replicated The Golden Girls somewhat already with their series Hot In Cleveland, the brand recognition of The Golden Girls would be hard to ignore. And wouldn’t it be great to see a new group of women moving into that house in Miami?
With the shows mantra “Thank You For Being A Friend”, the biggest question lies with casting these friends. The chemistry of the shows original cast was a significant factor in the success of The Golden Girls. The quirks that make up any friendship can never be replicated exactly, so it stands to reason that the original characters shouldn’t just be recast. We don’t need another Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, or Sophia. Give us new characters that reflect modern women aged 55+. Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Valerie Bertenelli, Katey Segal, Phylicia Rashad, Annette Benning, and Jamie Lee Curtis come to mind immediately, but there are so, so many working actresses who would be great to see in a sitcom like this.
A Golden Girls revival obviously lends itself to an Empty Nest revival, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.
Courtroom law shows have had a very long history on broadcast TV, offering great opportunity for episodic fare. Like with cop shows, a sense of justice and right/wrong is embedded at the core of the story and provides an excellent hook for viewers to latch onto. The courtroom drama series seems to have dried up on television in recent years, with The Good Wife the sole example of the dedicated courtroom drama. Could the over-exposure of the courtroom through Law & Order have dampened audiences enthusiasm?
LA Law co-creator Steven Bochco has a new courtroom series launching soon called Murder In The First, but that series is a season-long exploration of a single case. An LA Law revival would make for a great episodic case-of-the-week series, while also providing a great opportunity to watch attractive actors getting about in high end suits, while dealing with the sex and glamour of Los Angeles.
Blair Underwood may have tanked in the recent Ironside remake NBC attempted to launch, but would make for great continuity reprising his original LA Law character now serving as the head of the law firm.
Hill Street Blues
Procedural police drama series have dominated the airwaves for much of the last fifteen years. We’ve seen few examples of police drama that examines the lives and relationships of the men and women in blue as well as the crime of the week. The most successful series have been Blue Bloods and Southland, with a few failed shows along the way like NYC 22.
Hill Street Blues has considerable cultural cache, providing plenty of branded cut-through. While the original series was set in an unnamed city, the assumption was that the show was taking place in a city like Chicago or Detroit. With the new show, why not establish it firmly in a city like Detroit and capitalise on the focus that city has received in the past few years. A cop show set in a city declared bankrupt and a massive crime rate should serve to not only provide an endless supply of stories, but also provides economic voyeurism by viewers at a safe distance.
Homicide: Life On The Street
Unlike Hill Street Blues, Homicide: Life on The Street offers little to no cultural recognition despite it serving very clearly as the blueprint for the widely viewed and lauded The Wire. So, what’s the benefit of Homicide: LoTS? It was an accessible premium drama series. The US networks have each shown an interest in doing HBO-style premium drama, but the constraints of broadcast TV make it difficult. Homicide: LoTS brought premium drama to broadcast TV with a style that was artful, but accessible. While it was ahead of its time in many regards, so many TV series (both cable and broadcast) have aped stylistic elements of it that a modern reinterpretation of the series would fit in well on a modern day broadcast schedule.
Sci-fi television so rarely works on broadcast television. By removing the spectacle that yields such strong box office returns for sci-fi and fantasy movies for budgetary reasons, audiences often turn away quickly from shows that have a strong sci-fi narrative at its core. What worked so well for Quantum Leap is the simple conceit for the show: A man from the future taking over the body of a new person every episode, solving their problems as he goes. Solve the problem and ‘leap’ to the next person. It’s a very TV friendly concept that deserves another go on TV.
Which shows would you like to see get revisited by a hungry TV network?