Just like the movie article about sequels, the idea of remaking an already existing work is incredibly attractive because of the built-in audience. The concept worked before, so obviously it’ll work again, right? Well, not necessarily. Some have huge successes, while others don’t even last a full season. We’re not talking about wholly remade TV series, like Battlestar Galatica or Hawaii Five-O. Instead, someone had the bright idea to have a sequel series, exploring the same characters in new situations.
First, Get Smart started as 1965 series starring Don Adams and Barbra Feldon working as agents in a government agency called CONTROL against a evil foreign agency called KAOS. Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), was always bumbling while Feldon, as agent 99, was the straight woman who kept him in line…sometimes. The show was created by Mel Brooks and lasted 5 seasons. After 2 made-for-TV movie in 1980 and 1989, Get Smart was remade in 1995, with Agent 86 as head of control and his son as a junor agent. The show only lasted 7 episodes but unfortunately never had the ratings to last any longer.
In 1978, Dallas debuted on CBS. It was about the powerful Ewing family, oil tycoons in Dallas Texas. Larry Hagman played J.R. Ewing, the head of the family who was often involved in shady deal and less than scrupulous schemes. The family would often feud with each other. The show was famous for its cliffhangers, the most famous of which was when J.R. Ewing was shot at the end of season 3. The show lasted for 14 seasons and 357 episodes. In 2012, TNT revived the series. Three of the main characters from the original, along with a new generation of characters, continued the story of the Ewing family. The show lasted three seasons on the TNT network, and unfortunately, partway through the second season, Larry Hagman died, thus the show lost its most popular character. It was renewed one more season but the show failed to recover from the loss so it was cancelled.
Dragnet has had an interesting broadcast history. Dragnet focused on Police Lieutenant Joe Friday, played by Jack Webb (who also created the show) and his day-to-day work. It used real life stories as plot and changed the names to keep the real people anonymous. The show originally ran from 1951 to 1959, for eight seasons and 278 episodes. Jack Webb was able to revive the series from 1967 to 1970, for four more seasons and 98 more episodes. Both times, Jack Webb voluntarily ended the show instead of the network cancelling it because of low ratings.
Degrassi started a Canadian TV series called The Kids of Degrassi Stree (1979-1986) then Degrassi Junior High (1987-1989), then Degrassi High (1989-1991). The show focused on kids growing up, and was noted for its mostly realistic if somewhat soapy depiction of kids’ troubles. In 2001, the show was brought back again under the name Degrassi: The Next Generation, with the kids of many of the main characters of the original series going to middle school for the first time. Degrassi is by far one of the most successful revival series, lasting in its original run for 14 seasons and 385 episodes, eventually turning over the entire original cast for new middle and high school characters. The show was cancelled after its fourteenth season, only to be brought back again by a joint production with Family Channel in Canada and Netflix, called New Class, presumably with a new cast of characters.
The revival of Get Smart was unfortunately not large enough to warrant a DVD release, but all others can be found on DVD. Check out all of these original series, and their revivals and see how they measure up to the originals.