TV Revamps That Fell Flat On Their Face

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

Every so often, the powers that brigade tellyland get all nostalgic.

When inspiration runs a little dry, or ratings aren’t great, they’ll raid the TV graveyard for old favourites. They’ll wave over their magic wand to make them more palatable for today’s audience. Old programmes get a second chance and new ones receive a mighty rejig. But it doesn’t work out.

Perhaps they should take a note from Catweazle. Just as 11th century wizards cannot survive in 1970s England, TV series we have known and loved cannot transcend the decades (except Doctor Who. But he’s a time-traveller anyway).

The sands of time have claimed Knight Rider, Crossroads, Gladiators… how much evidence do you need? But just for fun here’s our run down of the revamped programmes that fell victim to media’s Darwinian weeding process.

GLADIATORS

Original run 1992 – 2000; revived and revamped 2008; cancelled 2009

If you ever turned the sofa up on its side to create a “Pyramid? out of the cushions in your mum’s sitting room you’re bound to remember this with some fondness.

Gladiators was a thrilling weekly romp of spandex, crashmats and pugil sticks. How we longed to be in that audience with a giant foam finger, singing along to ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ as another contender gets dry-humped off a ring on a chain.

It went in 2000, probably after its prime audience had grown up and realised how silly it all was.

But then last year Sky1 went and exhumed this sacred piece of telly history, tarting it up in a very conscious attempt to come off all 21st century. Our old Gladiators now had water and fire and everything. And fake breasts.



Look at them, they’re all frowny and mean. The boys must be frowning because they have to wear bikinis. The gladiators of yore were friendly with admirable sportsmanship. Except Wolf. He was a card wasn’t he?

Unfortunately Sky1’s pyrotechnic reincarnation of Gladiators wasn’t received as well as expected.

Referee John “contenders… ready!? Anderson jumped ship after the first disappointing season, and it was finally killed off in May this year.

THE BILL

Running since 1983; revamped 2009

Actors’ rite-of-passage ITV1 cop drama The Bill has undergone a number of rejuvenations in its 26-year history.

Its most recent – and drastic – facelift saw the show going all gritty on us, returning to post-watershed, with some US-style good looks and the axing of the “Overkill? theme tune.

Regardez:



It’s quite an, erm, step away from The Bill we know:



Unfortunately its Americanisation did seem to jar with the East Landan dialogue. Its long panning shots of the police station, in glorious HD, are punctured by those stabs of “guvnor? and “nicked?.

It was set to be the UK’s version of The Shield, but TV viewers didn’t bite. The Bill’s revamp instead was responsible for a drop in ratings. 4.5million tuned in for the first outing “Live by the Sword?, falling to 3.9 million following week.

No doubt however this TV stalwart will remain.

CROSSROADS

Original run 1964 – 1988; revived and revamped 2001; cancelled 2003

Ah, Crossroads.



According to Wikipedia, a byword for cheap production.

Back in the day its rickety charm and its iffy spluttered dialogue pulled in up to 16 million viewers, though the show was cancelled in 1988 as audiences became more and more disillusioned with the dodgy storylines.

Dodgy storylines like the character of Jill Harvey being pregnant for over a year. There was a lack of care and respect for the audience. A chef disappeared behind a fridge in one episode, only to return 6 months later.

As the soap went out five times a week, each episode was recorded live (to be broadcast later), leaving every mistake hilariously intact.

But 13 years after its cancellation, when ITV were after some feather light entertainment to plug into their Home and Away-shaped hole in programming, they pumped £10million into the revamping of the show, and in 2001 it returned to our screens.

The motel was now a hotel, moved from Birmingham to Nottingham, and the set was delightfully static. The acting was dreadful though.



Worryingly it took a hiatus in the summer of 2002.

The last episode aired the following year, with hotel boss Angel waking up to realise that the entire series was a dream, and that she wasn’t a hotel owner after all. She was a supermarket checkout girl back in Birmingham.

Plain insulting.

CATCHPHRASE

Age of Roy Walker 1986 – 1999; revamped 2000; cancelled 2002

They don’t make them like this anymore. Remember when the contestants appeared as if from nowhere at their podiums on a revolving platform, the prize money was only in triple figures and strip lighting wasn’t just in Soho’s finest retailers?

Catchphrase was a gameshow staple, gracing the ITV schedule for over a decade. Roy Walker was its charismatic anchorman, gleefully providing the contestants with support and encouragement, no matter how cretinous they were.

But then Roy went.

In his place came the utterly charmless Nick Weir who said goodbye to his dignity pretty much straight away as he tumbled down the steps that cut through the live studio audience in a spectacular fall.

He broke his foot, having to appear in subsequent episodes in a plaster cast on crutches.

Oh, you want to see the fall? Our pleasure:



This is our plea for Catchphrase’s return. But only with Roy.

We couldn’t resist sticking this li’l gem in:


KNIGHT RIDER

Original run 1982 – 1986; revived and revamped 2008; cancelled 2009

After NBC announced the return of Knight Rider back in 2007, the world waited with trepidation.

Knight Rider MK1 was very much a 1980s affair. It could have only been made in the 1980s. Knight Rider is distinctly 1980s. So how on earth would they pull off dragging it into the 21st century?



By borrowing a leaf from (21st century) Transformers’ book, ordering a pretty young thing to play the original Michael Knight’s estranged son, a ton of CGI and a sexy Ford Shelby GT500KR Mustang voiced by Val Kilmer.

2008’s rendering of Knight Rider started life as a TV movie, which went down very well.

Alas, it just couldn’t sustain the marathon of a full series of 17 episodes (down from 22), and two months after its final episode, having achieved disappointing ratings, NBC announced it would not renew the show for a second series.

Perhaps the only thing that could have saved Knight Rider this is the Hoff himself.

Guttingly there’s no embed of the original title sequence with whizzy flying car shots LEDs and everything. But there is a link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMB6eUujR7w

Enjoy.



Leonie Mercedes