20 TV shows that made major comebacks decades later
20 TV shows that made major comebacks decades later
As humans, we just can't help but feel drawn toward nostalgic content. Going back in time and reminiscing about the good old days can put a smile on just about anyone's face. Nostalgia can be found in all forms, from fashion trends to music to the fine arts—and, of course, television.
There have always been TV shows that seek to tug at our heartstrings by appealing to a romanticized past (think "Stranger Things"). And networks in the 21st century took viewers' love of nostalgic content one step further by reviving some of the most iconic TV shows of yore.
Some of these series picked up where the original left off while others fast-forwarded the clock to the modern day, amping up the nostalgia factor by retaining the same cast members. Others took a different approach, retelling the original story through a modernized lens. Then, of course, there are the game shows that don't tell a story at all—or anthologies that don't tell the same story twice—which nevertheless received the reboot treatment.
Like anything, some of these revivals absolutely worked, while others … not so much. Stacker compiled a list of 20 TV shows that made major comebacks decades later using various sources and databases. To make this list, the reboot had to premiere at least 20 years after the original aired its final episode. Let the nostalgia commence.
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If you're a child of the '90s, you're probably familiar with "Animaniacs." The satirical animated series aired from 1993 to 1998 on Fox Kids and WB Kids. And luckily for fans who now have kids of their own, Hulu rebooted the series in 2020. Yakko, Wakko, and Dot are all back to take on new zany adventures and are voiced by their original actors, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, and Tress MacNeille, respectively. The megalomaniacal duo Pinky and the Brain are also back and voiced by their original actors, Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche.
Turns out Dwight Schrute of "The Office" wasn't the only superfan of the sci-fi show, which originally aired from 1978 to 1979 on ABC before being canceled after 21 episodes. The "BSG" reboot is more of a reimagining of the original than a continuation and ended up being wildly successful. It ran from 2004 to 2009 on the Sci-Fi network and took home numerous awards, including three Primetime Emmys and a prestigious Peabody Award.
The Ewings and their familial feuds (not to mention famous cliffhangers) hooked viewers on "Dallas" when it premiered on CBS in 1978. The prime-time soap opera ran for an impressive 12 seasons and more than 350 episodes, making it one of the longest-running television shows of all time. The show was revived by TNT in 2012 and brought back a good deal of the original main cast members, including Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, and Larry Hagman. But the interest just wasn't the same, with the continuation lasting only three seasons before getting canceled for declining ratings.
After introducing fans to Donald Duck's extended family in the late '80s, Scrooge McDuck and the triplets Huey, Dewey, and Louie returned in a reboot that aired from 2017 to 2021. The cartoon still focused on the adventure-comedy aspect of the original but dove deeper into character development and backstories. But the primary difference? A more involved role for Donald.
In the era of '80s soap operas, "Dynasty" reigned supreme. Between 1984 and 1985, it was the top-rated show in the United States. But its popularity began to decline during its last two seasons and it was canceled in 1989 after nine seasons. Nearly 30 years after the last episode aired, CW rebooted the show, which focuses on the drama that follows the Carrington family. The new series ran for five seasons before coming to an end in 2022.
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Full House/Fuller House
"Full House" was one of the most beloved sitcoms of the late 80s and early 90s, so when most of the cast agreed to be involved in a sequel, fans were thrilled. "Fuller House" premiered in 2016 on Netflix and centers around D.J. Tanner-Fuller, who lives with her three sons, sister Stephanie, best friend Kimmy, and her teenage daughter in D.J.'s iconic childhood home in San Francisco. After five seasons, "Fuller House" aired its final episode in 2020.
"Hawaii Five-O" was a prolific police procedural that aired for a whopping 12 seasons on CBS between 1968 and1980. Decades after its last episode, CBS rebooted the show with a notable difference, switching out the "O" in the title with a "0." Like the original, "Hawaii Five-0" had a lengthy run, airing for 10 seasons between 2010 and 2020. It shared the original series' premise of a major crimes task force operating on behalf of the Hawaiian government and featured the same characters, though played by different actors.
The Joker's Wild
"The Joker's Wild" has lived many lives. The game show—which asks contestants to answer questions from various categories determined by a slot-machine-type mechanism—first aired on CBS from 1972 to 1975 before being syndicated between 1976 and 1981. There was a brief revival from 1990 to 1991, but the more successful comeback took place in 2017 when TBS rebooted the series and recruited Snoop Dogg as the host. The revamped show ran until 2019.
Lost in Space
Like its influence, "The Swiss Family Robinson," "Lost in Space" follows the pioneering Robinson family. Only, instead of their ship going off course at sea, this family is trying to colonize space. The original series aired on CBS from 1965 to1968 and took place in the year 1997. Fifty years after its final episode aired, Netflix revived the sci-fi show. Though the premise remained the same, the story was based in 2046. Like its predecessor, the reboot ran for three seasons, ending in 2021.
"MacGyver" was such a popular show during its original run that the word was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, referring to the titular character's ability to fix problems with whatever resources he has on hand. The original series was comprised of seven seasons which aired from 1985 to 1992 on ABC.
In 2016, CBS rebooted the show with some of the same characters (albeit played by different actors). The original premise remained intact, with MacGyver retaining his remarkable ability to diffuse situations without lethal force. Oddly enough, the revival was canceled after five seasons despite good ratings.
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The reboots of "Hawaii Five-0," "MacGyver," and "Magnum P.I." all take place in the same "Lenkov-verse," named after showrunner Peter M. Lenkov, where characters are known to crossover between shows. "Magnum P.I." was the last of the three to get revived and the premise of the new series stayed true to its 1980s predecessor, following the story of Thomas Magnum, a Navy SEAL turned private detective living in Hawaii.
It looked like the show was going to suffer the same fate as the other "Lenkov-verse" shows when it got canceled by CBS in 2022 despite being a Top 25 show with viewers. Luckily, NBC came to the rescue and ordered 20 more episodes, which will be split into a fifth and sixth season, with the option for more if it proves successful.
After Disney acquired the rights to The Muppets in 2004, a full-blown resurrection occurred with a slew of new shows and movies—including a revival of the beloved '80s cartoon "Muppet Babies." This version boasts updated animation with computer-animated characters, many of which are returning including the toddler versions of Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Animal, and of course Nanny (now called Mrs. Nanny). The reboot also introduced a new character named Summer Penguin. The Disney version of the show ran from 2018 to 2022. And like the original, it took home a number of awards, including a couple of Daytime Emmys.
One Day at a Time
"One Day at a Time" was a wildly successful show when it first aired between 1975 and 1984, landing in the top 10 highest-rated shows during its 1979-1980 season. More than 30 years after its last episode aired, Netflix refreshed the show, modernizing the original premise of a divorced mother raising two teenagers from a Latino perspective. The new show sees its main character, Penelope Alvarez, trying to return to civilian life after her service in the Army Nurse Corps.
The new version ran from 2017 to 2019 before being canceled by Netflix. Pop TV picked up "One Day at a Time" and aired a fourth season in 2020. The sitcom was canceled once again, prompting its showrunners to shop it around but to no avail.
Party of Five
"Party of Five" was a staple for teens growing up in the '90s. The original series ran for six seasons and followed the five Salinger siblings after they suffered the unfathomable loss of their parents in a car accident. Twenty years after its final episode, Freeform reimagined "Party of Five" for the 21st century, switching out the Salingers for the Acosta siblings, who must find a way to push forward after their parents get deported to Mexico. Despite the popularity of the original series, the reboot only lasted 10 episodes and was canceled after its first season.
It didn't take long for "Roseanne" to gain popularity when it originally premiered in 1988. That same year, it was the second-highest-rated show on television, remaining in the top five for six of its nine seasons. Given its success, it should come as no surprise that a revival was well-received, especially since it starred the original cast members Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert, among others.
Unfortunately, the shine wore off quickly after the 10th season aired in 2018. Barr was heavily criticized for posting racist tweets about a former adviser to President Barack Obama and ABC canceled the show. The rest of the cast ended up creating a new show without Barr called "The Conners," which premiered in October 2018 and aired its fifth season in 2022.
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Saved by the Bell
"Saved by the Bell" was the ultimate teen show when it premiered in 1989 and remained a staple in pop culture even after the series ended in 1992. When NBC decided to reboot the show in 2020, it was met with open arms—especially since original cast members Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tiffani Thiessen, Lark Voorhies, and Mario Lopez returned to reprise their roles. However, the enthusiasm wasn't enough for the series to stick, and it was canceled after two seasons.
The Tom and Jerry Show
Tom and Jerry are two of the most iconic cartoon characters out there. But despite starring in more than 150 short films in the '40s and '50s, "The Tom and Jerry Show" only aired 16 episodes in 1975. Luckily, the famous cat and mouse duo were able to continue their antics when Cartoon Network revived the series in 2014. The reboot lasted much longer than the original, airing 117 episodes between five seasons.
The Twilight Zone
"The Twilight Zone" is widely considered one of the greatest television shows of all time. The anthology series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, seamlessly mixed sci-fi, horror, paranormal, and fantasy elements and was known for its surprise endings and moral lessons.
Considering its popularity and cult following, fans were elated when a revival was announced in 2019 to be narrated by famed comedy star and horror director Jordan Peele. The reboot only lasted two seasons, but not because it wasn't well-received. Rather, the showrunners decided that between the 20 episodes they shared all the stories they wanted to tell.
Sometimes shows don't reach their full potential until after they're over. For "Twin Peaks," the cult following was overwhelming … but only after ABC canceled the mystery drama two seasons in. A feature film called "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" served as both a prequel and sequel to the series in 1992.
But it would take three decades before Showtime resurrected the show for a third season in 2017. Set 25 years after the initial story, Kyle MacLachlan returned as Special Agent Dale Cooper. Other original cast members joined him, along with new characters. The continuation received positive reviews and was named the #1 show of 2017 by several critics.
The Wonder Years
"The Wonder Years" is considered one of the best shows of the '80s, winning a handful of awards including several Primetime Emmys and a Peabody Award during its six-season run. The coming-of-age dramedy made its return in 2021, nearly 30 years after the original series ended. The new version still takes place in the '60s, but rather than focusing on a white family it tells the story of the Williams family—a Black, middle-class family living in Montgomery, Alabama—through the eyes of 12-year-old Dean.
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