Reboots of classic underrated and forgotten shows aren’t going anywhere. There are already so many in the works that we’ve lost count, but reboots aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The advantage of reboots is that they introduce newer generations to fan-favorite properties while updating the aesthetics and themes to coincide with the times. Science fiction and fantasy in particular make for ripe reboot fodder, because the genre doesn’t have a great reputation when it comes to inclusivity, and there are several shows that have great concepts which now feel dated because of production values and old-fashioned messages.
Here are five classic sci-fi shows that contain all the right elements to hook a whole new generation of fans with a slick new reboot.
Director Chris McKay recently shared an update on his Jonny Quest film, which was first announced back in 2018. But we think the smarter move would be to reboot the popular children’s cartoon as a live-action television series. The original 1960s Jonny Quest (or The Adventures of Jonny Quest) was a fun series of adventures with Jonny, his scientist father Dr. Benton Quest, their friends Hadji and Race Bannon, and Jonny’s dog Bandit. The series was reimagined a few times following its initial success, most notably with the 1990s The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest — the characters were aged up in this somewhat confused but still fascinating attempt at exploring cyberspace through the Questworld expeditions. Jonny Quest and its many iterations were incredibly enjoyable, and for some of us, the first instance of seeing a character from India in the main cast of an overseas cartoon. A reboot could follow in the footsteps of Riverdale and Nancy Drew, with teenage characters who appeal to a wider audience, but still include the adventure storylines from the cartoons. The Questworld angle would be particularly relevant for modern audiences – technology, social media, and simulated worlds are a huge part of our daily lives, so the manner in which Jonny and his friends interact with Questworld could be a reflection of that. Think Ready Player One but with fewer pop culture references. It will need to be more racially sensitive and vary the gender dynamics, but the show could definitely work.
Sliders had the highest-rated premiere of any show in 1995, but the series is rarely discussed in pop culture today. Its five-season run was particularly tumultuous, resulting in an ever-changing cast of main characters and a jump from Fox to SyFy. But Sliders had a thought-provoking premise that deserves another look. The series followed a group of friends who "slide" to parallel versions of Earth after, in the pilot episode, Jerry O’Connell’s Quinn Mallory opened up a vortex that sucked him and his friends into an alternate Earth. In his haste to get out, Quinn busted his device. The central characters then spent five seasons Earth-hopping, desperate to return to their home reality. Time travel and the multiverse never get old, and a reboot of this show could capitalize on the popularity of the genre. Also, the original Sliders often investigated socio-political themes like fascism and racism in innovative ways, and these topics could be explored with even more sensitivity in the reboot. An episodic formula with the cast visiting a new Earth every week could evoke a feeling of nostalgia for many science-fiction fans. One could imagine it becoming a more cerebral version of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
Superheroes are in. Have you noticed? Heroes was a novelty when it first came on screen in 2006 — it was an original world with its own superpowered people. The series catapulted several cast members to stardom, including Sendhil Ramamurthy, Milo Ventimiglia, and Zachary Quinto. The show was envisioned like a comic book, with each season akin to a comic book story arc, while the characters on the show all came from different walks of life and discovered their powers in stages rather than all at once. They were up against an insidious government agency experimenting on and capturing these gifted people, as well as a sadistic, super-powerful villain named Sylar (Quinto). This entire show and its miniseries “revival” were squandered potential, because while the first season was highly acclaimed, the series quickly lost its momentum and its viewership dwindled. Most of us fans can’t even remember the final season beyond the bad taste that it left behind. Superheroes and supervillains are enmeshed in the current cultural zeitgeist and fans of this genre are always looking for refreshing new worlds and characters that won’t require one to trawl through tons of source material. So a reboot of Heroes would be a welcome change.
At least one generation of children definitely grew up watching reruns of the 1986 animated series Centurions. Set in the near future, the series centered on three Centurions — Max Ray, Jake Rockwell, and Ace McCloud — as they battled the evil cyborg Doc Terror and his often-bumbling sidekick Hacker. The team was backed by Crystal Kane, who manned their headquarters. The series explored the relationship between humans and technology with a Transformers and Power Rangers vibe, as at strategic moments mid-battle, the team would yell ‘PowerXtreme’ to fuse their bodies with armor. Centurions also always had an educational post-credits scene, which is where I first learned that identical twins have the same DNA! The Netflix version of Carmen Sandiego successfully included informative scenes into the plot, and a Centurions reboot could emulate the same. Hollywood has the technology to make the exo-frames look superb as well.
The reboot would need a much more diverse cast (to its credit, later seasons of the cartoon did add a Native character) and would need to tone down Ace’s playboy attitude for a modern era, but rebooting the show for sci-fi fans still mourning the loss of Iron Man could draw huge audiences. A reboot could also tap into some of the conversations that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been timidly circling — the militarization of technology, and the romanticization of the military. The Centurions are soldiers, and a show questioning whether they’ve earned the right to wield these extreme powers could be action-packed and provocative at the same time.
Quantum Leap aired from 1989-1993, so some aspects of the show feel outdated, but the entertaining premise and winning performance by Scott Bakula as Dr. Sam Beckett are enough to recommend it. Much like the cast of Sliders, Sam is a person traveling through alternate realities on a journey to return to his own. During an experiment with time travel technology, Sam’s consciousness gets transported into the past. He now finds himself leaping from person to person, correcting injustices and tragedies throughout history until he finally gets returned to his own time. Sam was aided by his holographic friend Al (Dean Stockwell), a Navy Admiral from Sam’s own time, through five seasons of sci-fi drama which culminated in a divisive series cliffhanger. Body-hopping always makes for amusing television, especially when actors have to embody their co-stars’ mannerisms. The central message of literally walking in another person’s shoes would take the series from fun to socially and politically relevant in today’s extremely divisive climate. Thanks to the time-travel premise, a reboot could also examine the influence of the past on the present — such as the significance of the current Black Lives Matter movements in comparison to the Civil Rights Movement, the latter being a subject that the original series dealt with heavily. Bakula himself understands the power of the show’s concept in the modern age, so a reboot is all but begging to be greenlit.
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