The Eighties saw more TV show revivals on American television than any other time in history. The reasons for this were most likely very basic. First, the late Seventies and early Eighties saw a cycle towards television show reunion TV movies. The cycle started in the late Seventies with such reunion telefilms as The Father Knows Best Reunion (1977), Halloween with the Addams Family (1977), and Whatever Happened to Dobie Gillis(1977). Ultimately the cycle would include such reunion movies as Rescue from Gilligan's Island (1978), The Wild Wild West Revisted (1979), The Return of Frank Cannon (1980), and The Return of the Beverly Hillbillies (1981). From TV show reunion movies, it was only a small step towards simply reviving TV shows.
The second reason for the plethora of TV show revivals in the Eighties was probably the same for the TV show reunion movies in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Quite simply, it was a matter of nostalgia. By 1977 there had been American network TV broadcasts for thirty years. By 1987 there had been American network TV broadcasts for forty years. By the Eighties, then, there had been about one and a half generations grow up in front of the TV screen (many Baby Boomers and the older Gen Xers). This permitted sufficient time for nostalgia about various TV series to have developed. As a result, the networks and studios most likely perceived a demand for reviving old TV shows about which many were probably nostalgic.
Despite this, the first TV show to be revived in the Eighties was a recent creation. Battlestar Galactica aired on ABC during the 1978 to 1979. And though its ratings were respectable, the network felt that the show was too costly for no higher than its ratings were. The cancellation brought protests from the show's fans, which led ABC to revive the show as Galactica 1980. On Galactica 1980 the Galactica had finally found Earth. As Earth was still less technologically advanced than the Galactica and its ragtag fleet,the Galactica's crew decided to ease Earth into the advanced technology, all the while protecting the location of Earth from the Cylons. Galactica 1980 had a much smaller budget than Battlestar Galactica and was forced to basically become a children's show due to a FCC ruling that dictated any show on at 6:00 PM CST must be "family entertainment." Between the budget and restrictions of the kind of scripts they could do, Galactica 1980 displeased the original series' fans and got lower ratings as well. It lasted only a few weeks.
The same year saw a revival of Sanford on NBC, with Redd Foxx returning as the curmudgeonly junk dealer. His son Lamont had gone onto bigger and better things, so Sanford now basically ran the business on his own. The series failed to capture the original's ratings and went off the air after a short run. The failure of the revival of Sanford and Son did not detour others from reviving old shows. After one revival as Young Maverick on CBS, Maverick was revived again as Bret Maverick on NBC in the 1981-1982 season. James Garner returned as the shifty eyed gambler, who had finally settled down in Sweetwater, Arizona as a rancher and owner of the local saloon. Jack Kelly appeared in one episode as Bret's brother Bart. Unfortunately, the series did not repeat the success of the original. It lasted only one season.
Sanford and Son was not the only sitcom revived that year. The Brady Bunch would also see a brief revival. Beginning with a telefilm to kick off the series (The Brady Girls Get Married), The Brady Brides was a continuation of The Brady Bunch, in which two of the three Brady daughters get married. Earilier the Bradys had returned after a fashion, in the spinoff variety series The Brady Bunch Hour in 1977. The Brady Bunch Hour did not last long, and neither did The Brady Brides. It only ran nine episodes. While The Brady Brides was a sitcom, a more bizarre revival would arrive in 1990. The Bradys was a drama based on the old sitcom. Like The Brady Brides, this new series was a continuation of the The Brady Bunch. It proved even less successful, running only five episodes.
For the next few years only sitcoms would be revived, some in continuations of the original series and others as re-imaginings of the series. One of the re-imaginings was The New Odd Couple, based on the classic series featuring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (which was based on both the movie and the play), which aired briefly during the 1982-1983 season. This version only changed one thing: Felix and Oscar were African Americans. The fact that the new series then differed very little from the original may have led to its failure. The original was then still quite popular in syndication.
The 1985-1986 season would perhaps be the season in which the most revivals of old shows would debut. Two of these were revivals of sitcoms that debuted off the networks. Following the success of the TV reunion movie Still the Beaver in 1983, Ted Turner revived the show as The New Leave It to Beaver. The series followed Beaver's life as an adult and as a single father following a divorce With many of the original cast returning to the show, it proved to be a small success, lasting four seasons. That same year saw the debut of What's Happening Now, a revival of the ABC Seventies comedy What's Happening. What's Happening Now reunited many in the original cast and was more or less a continuation of the original show. It ran for three years in syndication (ironically running one episode longer than the original).
Curiously, the two other shows revived were anthology series, a format that had been dead nearly since the early Sixties. CBS brought back The Twilight Zone, Robert Serling's classic fantasy/sci-fi show. The new series featured scripts by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King, and George R. R. Martin, The episodes were both remakes of episodes from the original and brand new teleplays. It would ultimately run three years on CBS. The other anthology show to be revived was Alfred Hitchcock Presents, debuting in 1985 on NBC as The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The presence of Hitchcock was insured by colourising some of his introductions for the original series for use on the new one. Like the new Twilight Zone, it also featured remakes of episodes from the original series as well as original episodes. The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents was cancelled by NBC after one season, it returned to the air in January 1987 on the cable channel USA Network. There it ran for another two years.
The 1986-1987 season saw the revival of two more sitcoms. In 1985 a movie based on on the novel Gidget, the Gidget movies, and the short lived 1965 TV series Gidget (which introduced the world to Sally Fields) aired entitled Gidget's Summer Reunion). The telefilm was successful enough to inspire a new syndicated sitcom called The New Gidget. I suppose this series could be considered both a continuation of the Sixties sitcom and a re-imaginging of it. The New Gidget featured an entirely new cast (indeed, as Gidget Caryn Richman looked very little like Sally Fields), but at the same time it seemed to draw upon the original series for inspiration, with Gidget and Moondoggie now married.
The other sitcom to be revived in 1986 was The Monkees. With a wholly new cast and characters and a slightly new name, The New Monkees would seem to be a re-imagining of the original series. It debuted in the wake of a new Monkees craze brought on by MTV's airing of the original series. with Monkees creator Bob Rafelson in the producer's chair. Released to syndication, the series bombed, only lasting a mere 13 episodes.
Nineteen eighty seven would see the debut of what could be the most successful TV show revival of all time. Since its cancellation in 1969, Star Trek had grown into an outright phenomenon. It had been revived as an animated series and a series of feature films. An attempt was even made to revive Star Trek as a TV show in the Seventies (Star Trek Phase II). In 1987, then, a new Star Trek series must have seemed like a sure thing. While Star Trek: The Next Generation had an entirely new cast (and an entirely new ship), it was essentially a continuation of the original Star Trek. In fact, it could even be described as a sequel. It was set in the same universe, around 80 years after the original show. And while it took some time for Star Trek: The Next Generation to be accepted by many older fans, it would prove successful enough that further (and in my opinion superior) Star Trek series would be created: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993), Star Trek: Voyager (1995), and the prequel Star Trek: Enterprise (2001). Star Trek: The Next Generation also marked a shift in television revivals. Whereas most of the revivals prior to Star Trek: The Next Generation had been sitcoms, in the years following Star Trek: The Next Generation there would be many dramas revived.
While the success of Star Trek: The Next Generaton would result in further Star Trek series, not every series revival was so successful. Sea Hunt had been a successful syndicated series that ran from 1958 to 1961. The new series was a re-imagining of the original, with Ron Ely in the role that Lloyd Bridges made famous. It only ran for 22 episodes. The new Mission: Impossible which debuted the following year would also fail. Debuting in the fall of 1988, the new Mission: Impossible was essentially a continuaton of the original, with Jim Phelps (again played by Peter Graves) working with a new Impossible Missions Force. The new series managed to survive its first season, but it ended its second season after only 15 episodes.
The same year would see a revival of the Sixties sitcom The Munsters. The Munsters Today was a continuation of the original series, with the explanation that they had been put into suspended animation for the last twenty two years. Shot on a shoestring budget with an entirely different cast, The Munsters Today was generally considered inferior to the original series (which is saying something, in my opinion). Despite this, it actually lasted longer than the original show (while both ran for two years, The Munsters Today had 72 years while The Munsters only had 70.
Not surprisingly, 1989 would see more TV show revivals. Two would be abject failures. The New Dragnet, yet another revival of the classic show, aired for only one season. With an all new cast, it may have suffered from comparisons to the original. A new version of another Jack Webb series, The New Adam-12, also debuted that season to little success. It only lasted one season as well.
The Eighties ended with the revival of Kojak, itself a part of The ABC Mystery Movie, a revival of sorts of The NBC Mystery Movie. The new Kojak was one of a group of rotating elements (of which a revival of Columbo was also one). The revival was a continuation of the original series, with Theo Kojak now an inspector on the Major Case Squad. The new version lasted only one season, not quite as long as the revival of Columbo (which outlived The ABC Mystery Movie just as it had The NBC Mystery Movie).
With the close of the Eighties, the number of TV show revivals would slow down a great deal. In fact, the Eighties had at least as many TV show revivals, if not more, than the Nineties and the Naughts combined.