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10 classic TV shows you might not realize were reboots

Who says an idea has to be original to be great? Some of the greatest films and television shows were adaptations. The fact that M*A*S*H was based on a movie did not seem to bother the 125 million or so viewers who tuned in for the series finale. Gunsmoke started as a radio program. Both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Flying Nun began as novels. 

And then there are the reboots.

"Reboot" has become somewhat of a dirty word to fans. We should first attempt to define it. In our mind, two key factors constitute a reboot. The show has to offer a new cast of actors in the roles, and it should come years after the original project was a hit. This gap in time allows the reboot to reimagine the characters and setting for a new decade, a new generation. (So, for example, Sally Field's Gidget feels more like an adaptation of a recent blockbuster, not a reboot.)

With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 classic TV shows that rebooted hit movies and radio programs. They tend to overshadow the originals.



In many ways, the beloved Batman '66 is the quintessential reboot. Columbia Pictures released a 15-part Batman and Robin film serial in 1949, itself a sequel/reboot of the 1943 serial Batman. Robert Lowery (Bruce Wayne) and Johnny Duncan (Dick Grayson) had many similarities to Adam West and Burt Ward, down to their Wayne Manor. However, those early black-and-white cinematic chapters had more a noir adventure feel, befitting the Detective Comics source material of the 1940s. William Dozier's boldly colorful Batman series took the characters into pure camp, which undoubtedly rankled the fanbase accustomed to the "Dark Knight." This was not wholly original. In the comic books of the '50s, the Caped Crusader had grown more bizarre, battling robots alongside goofy sidekicks such as Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound. Still, the "Boof!" and "Zonk!" of Batman brought the character to life for a new generation well aware of psychedelic rock and Beatlemania.

Image: The Everett Collection


Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Philip Francis Nowlan introduced Buck in his 1928 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. The space cowboy subsequently had a popular radio program in the 1930s, a film serial with Buster Crabbe in 1939, and a primitive television series in 1950–51. While Buck remained relatively constant throughout all these incarnations, up to the clearly Han Solo–inspired Gil Gerard in the 1979 series, Wilma Deering evolved with the times. Sometimes written early on as mere love interest, damsel in distress or mere sidekick, Erin Gray (pictured here) gave the character a military authority in the '79 edition. She could hold her own.

Image: The Everett Collection


Green Acres

Granby's Green Acres originally aired on CBS radio on summer Monday evenings in 1950. The audio program featured faces familiar to any Sixties television fan. Gale Gordon (The Lucy Show) played the lead banker-turned-farmer. He mistakes a mousehole for an electrical outlet. Bea Benaderet (Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies) portrayed the wife. The television show took the show in wild new directions, amping up the surrealist comedy, turning Lisa (Eva Gabor) into a glamorous socialite. Not only did the 1965 sitcom change the family name from Granby to Douglas, they got rid of the daughter, Janice. Eb was on the radio show, though — played by Parley Baer!

Image: The Everett Collection



Amongst the many Aaron Spelling productions, Hotel often gets overshadowed by Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, etc., etc. But Hotel did run for five successful seasons beginning in 1983. It was an original idea. The 1967 movie Hotel, also set in the St. Gregory Hotel, had adapted a 1965 novel by Arthur Hailey, the guy who also wrote Airport (but not Bus Stop). The Spelling edition amped the sexuality and back-stabbing — and shifted the location from New Orleans to San Francisco.

Image: TV Guide


In the Heat of the Night

What does In the Heat of the Night have in common with Hotel? More than you realize. Both were reboots of 1967 movies based on 1965 novels! Of course, rebooting Heat was a far more daring proposition. After all, the original film had won the Academy Award for Best Picture — not to mention Best Actor and Best Screenplay. A critic for The New York Times declared it, "the most powerful film I have seen in a long time." Filling the shoes of Sidney Poitier is no small task. Not only that, but the Oscar-nabbing Rod Steiger role went to Carroll O'Connor, best known as sitcom staple Archie Bunker. Nevertheless, it worked, airing for seven seasons.


I Love Lucy

Yes, even I Love Lucy, arguably the most groundbreaking sitcom of all time, technically counts as a reboot. It can trace its inauspicious origin to the 1942 romcom Are Husbands Necessary? — which The New York Times deemed "an almost pitiful endeavor to squeeze a few more laughs with frivolous marital farce." Those husband-wife high jinks were based on a novel by Isabel Scott Rorick, Mr. and Mrs. Cugat. This book would also serve as the source material for a 1948 radio program titled My Favorite Husband — starring Lucille Ball. Two years later, CBS asked Ball to turn My Favorite Husband into a television show. The forward-thinking Ball insisted recasting the hubby role, wanting to work with her real-life spouse, Desi Arnaz. Obviously, she won that argument. And Ball elevated the "frivolous marital" material of Are Husbands Necessary? to high art with her physical comedy brilliance.

Image: The Everett Collection


Mr. Belvedere

A prime example of an Eighties family sitcom, Mr. Belvedere could trace his roots back four decades. The dapper gentleman nanny originally appeared in the 1948 comedy Sitting Pretty. The movie spawned two sequels, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951). Shirley Temple was in the second flick!

Image: The Everett Collection


Perry Mason

The Perry Mason character has cracked mysteries and gotten his clients off the hook for nearly a century. Erle Stanley Gardner introduced his character in 1933. A year later, Warren William brought Perry to life onscreen in the movie The Case of the Howling Dog. Six Perry Mason flicks packed theaters in the Thirties, with three different lead actors in the role. (Three different actresses played Della Street, as well.) The TV show took the source material in new directions. The Raymond Burr take on the character savored his time in the courtroom more. In two of the original suspense movies, Paul Drake was known as "Spudsy Drake." Television's Paul Drake, William Hopper, noted in 1962, "Paul Drake in the Erle Stanley Gardner books was an entirely different character."

Image: The Everett Collection


12 O'Clock High

Mere years, if not months, after the close of World War II, pop culture was producing content about the globe-engulfing conflict. The 1949 war film Twelve O'Clock High adapted a novel from the prior year, casting Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Frank Savage, part of a bomber squad in Europe. Superproducer Quinn Martin rebooted the concept in 1964 with Robert Lansing as Savage. In season two, the network wanted a more "youthful looking" lead, and replaced Lansing with Paul Burke — who was actually two years older.


The Waltons

Henry Fonda starred as Clay Spencer in the 1963 family drama Spencer's Mountain, a film based on the semiautobiographical novel of the same name by Earl Hamner Jr. The Waltons not only rebooted the idea a decade later, it had the audacity to change the name of the family! Can you imagine how Waltons fans would react today if Hollywood announced a reboot — only they were calling the family the Bransons or the Millers or whatever?

Image: The Everett Collection

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