What’s the most popular word in Hollywood? “Reboot.” Creating original programming is not just hard work but the chances for failure are high (see: “The Michael J. Fox Show,” “Almost Human,” etc.). To lighten their load, Tinsel Town likes to take popular programs from the past and make them new again. We see this in films but reboots happen more frequently on TV.
“Dallas,” “Hawaii Five-O,” and “Battlestar Galactica” are just a few examples of shows rebooted for modern audiences. Since Hollywood is constantly looking to the past for the TV series’ of the future, I’m happy to give network execs some suggestions on what might resonate with today’s television viewers. While I’d love new versions of “Quantum Leap,” “Sliders,” and the cancelled-much-too-soon “Threshold,” I aimed for series that debuted at least 30 years ago so they’d appear fresh to a younger generation. Here are my picks for five TV programs ripe for a reboot and the actors who would be perfect for them.
“Magnum P.I.” (1980-1988)
The premise: Former Naval intelligence officer turned private investigator Thomas Magnum lives in the guesthouse of famous novelist Robin Masters on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Taking cases only sporadically and getting paid little to nothing for them, the easy going Magnum butts heads with the strict Jonathan Quail Higgins III, a former British sergeant major who is the caretaker for the lavish Robin’s Nest estate.
Why it works: “Magnum P.I.” is set in a beautiful locale made for HD televisions, it has action, camaraderie, romance and humor, and there’s an opportunity for a hilarious odd couple pairing in Magnum/Higgins. Now that “Mad Men” is wrapping up, Jon Hamm would be a perfect choice to play Thomas Magnum. John Hannah (“The Mummy,” “Spartacus”) would make an excellent foil as a modern day Higgins.
“Fantasy Island” (1977-1984)
The premise: Welcome to Fantasy Island! This mysterious tropical island resort will literally bring to life any fantasy you desire. Would you like to be a professional athlete? A billionaire? For a weekend your host, Mr. Roarke and his diminutive right hand man Tattoo, can make it happen. But be prepared, there’s almost always a price to pay in getting whatever you want.
Why it works: There are literally thousands of plot lines a writing team could come up with given this premise. And who doesn’t want to go a place where all your wishes came true, even for a little while? It’s escapism TV at its best. Ricardo Montalban made the role of Mr. Roarke his own so I’d like to see Salma Hayek (“Freda,” “Desperado”) play his daughter with Kevin Hart as her comic relief providing sidekick, Tattoo.
The premise: War veteran Dan Tanna is a private detective in Las Vegas. His primary client is hotel and casino owner Phillip Roth. Aided by former showgirl Bea Travis, Tanna makes Las Vegas safe for both locals and tourists by assuring the seedier elements of the city face justice.
Why it works: A new “Vega$” would max out the reboot checklist. A cool setting? Interesting profession for the lead character? An ability to modernize the original series without really changing it that much? A chance to show scantily clad women? Check, check, check and check. Karl Urban, who looks a lot like the original Dan Tanna (Robert Urich), would be fun to watch driving up and down The Strip.
“Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975-1979)
The premise: A compassionate, wisecracking teacher returns to his inner city high school alma mater to educate a group of troublemakers. The kind hearted and funny Mr. Kotter not only teaches reading, writing and arithmetic, but also lessons about life.
Why it works: Networks have a hard time handling two things – comedies that require a brain and any TV series set in a school (Don’t even get me started on the horrific “Boston Public.”). You’d think that would be a recipe for disaster but this underrated 1970’s series nicely balanced comedy and heart. Jason Segel as Mr. Kotter would be a great fit to go along with a cast of young, talented unknowns as his students.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994)
The premise: Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission (if it’s not cancelled before then), to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
Why it works: I’m cheating a bit here since it’s been nine years since a “Star Trek” series was last on TV (“Enterprise”) but a reboot of this beloved franchise is overdue. Picture this new version as a next “Next Generation” series with a new captain and crew. Maybe I’m just trying to find work for everyone on the recently cancelled “Almost Human” but Michael Ealy would make a great captain.