By Bill Brioux
Every day, it seems, there’s talk of another cancelled TV show coming back in a new, re-booted version. Last season, shows as diverse as MacGyver, American Idol, Lost in Space and Roseanne were revived. This season will see new versions of Magnum, P.I., Charmed, Murphy Brown and The Twilight Zone. Will & Grace is entering a third new season, as is One Day at a Time on Netflix, where Fuller House keeps getting fuller.
New versions of The Munsters, The Facts of Life, Miami Vice, Veronica Mars, Roswell and Frasier are on the drawing boards.
Even Canadian programmers are getting into the act, with CBC bringing back Street Legal with original star Cynthia Dale and CTV redoing Corner Gas as an animated sitcom.
There’s even talk of reviving a Canadian series that started way back in the early ‘60s – The Littlest Hobo. Which begs the question: has broadcast TV gone to the dogs?
It’s no secret as to why TV had embraced its past. In a crowded field, known brands cut through the clutter. Networks and studios are also happy to revive formats when they already own the rights.
Roseanne also demonstrated — before its star imploded — that audiences really want to see their old TV friends again Boomers in particular seem ready to embrace happier times. Just look at the rejoicing from Star Trek: The Next Generation fans eager to see Patrick Stewart return as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the upcoming CBS All Access spin-off.
There should be a rule, however, against re-booting sitcoms that already lasted seven years after they stopped being funny.
Murphy Brown ran for 10 seasons on CBS. The 1988 – ‘98 sitcom had a talented cast, led by Candice Bergen, and featuring strong supporting players, including Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto and Grant Shaud.
Bergen provided a different voice on TV at the time. The gag about handyman Eldon (the late Pastorelli) never finishing her house was cute for a while. Ditto the bit about how Murphy could never hang on to an assistant. Then the vice president of the United States, Dan Quayle, politicized the show by objecting to the idea that Murphy was about to bring a child into the world with no father in the picture. The show got tons of publicity, including the cover of Time, and a whole new backboard, but also quickly lost the funny.
Now, Murphy Brown wasn’t the only show that stopped being funny before it was cancelled. Will & Grace went at least one season too long and fell sharply in the ratings.
Classics such as The Dick Van Dyke Show (five seasons) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (seven) both left people wanting more.
If anyone is asking what show I would bring back my answer is The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. This sweet comedy was a series of parables between a father (played by Bill Bixby, who went on to star in The Hulk) and a son (played by Brandon Cruz). The premise was never about how young Eddie was always trying to fix his widowed dad up with a potential new “mom.” It was about a father trying to steer his son through the everyday challenges of life – and about what they learned from each other.
The series ran from 1969 to 1972, decades before the Internet, cell phones, social media, school shooting epidemics, climate change, the #metoo movement or hotel tycoons in the White House.
What would a new young Eddie be asking his dad to explain now? This I’d like to see.