Recently, I wrote a list of television series that I absolutely thought should not be brought back—shows that had run their course, either dying natural deaths or coming to satisfying (albeit premature) conclusions. While that article probably made me sound like a disaffected, “screw sequels and reboots, Hollywood has no original ideas” killjoy, there are quite a few shows that I think do deserve a second life—series that didn’t come to satisfying ends or which still had a lot left to say or do with their characters. So, in the spirit of embracing the current reboot-palooza, here are some shows that deserve a second look from executives, networks, and streaming services looking to profit from all that sweet, sweet nostalgia.
If only Clone High had debuted a few years later, it’d probably still be running today. Based on the premise that a mad scientist had cloned history’s greatest minds and sent them all to high school together as part of a weird, possibly pointless experiment, the MTV series foretold the rise of the surreal brand of humor that would become the hallmark of Adult Swim, with a bit of the intelligent commentary and emotional complexity of The Venture Bros. and Rick and Morty. The characterization was both hilarious and brilliantly spot on, with JFK as the macho jock dating popular girl Cleopatra, and Abe Lincoln as the morose, “do the right thing” guy who’s BFFs with hedonistic party animal Ghandi. The victim of a poor ad campaign, the wrong network, and just-plain-bad timing, the show would flourish in today’s animated series landscape.
JOAN OF ARCADIA
Christian entertainment tends to fall into the trap of looking at the world through a naïve, black-and-white dynamic. Shows like Seventh Heaven and myriad Kirk Cameron films exist in a universe where believers are good, atheists are bad, and God is a genie who’ll grant your every wish if you just stop believing in evolution. Joan of Arcadia alone stood out as an intelligent, thoughtful, real look at faith, with characters as morally complex and confused as your friends and a world just as chaotic as the one on the six o’clock news. Though God is a real presence here—He literally manifests to the eponymous Joan—He also doesn’t snap his fingers and make things right at the end of the hour, instead forcing the characters to face questions of belief and morality themselves. While the first season and much of the second were a domestic drama based on the daily struggles of its characters, the show fell into the trap of wanting a “big bad,” introducing Wentworth Miller as a sinister businessman who uses his chats with God for evil rather than good, and may have been plotting world domination. That’s where the show ended, and it’s easy to see how it alienated viewers with that asinine twist. It’d be nice for it to come back with a return to form, following a grown-up Joan as she and her friends face the travails of the adult world.
What is it with early 2000s animated series that were way, way ahead of their time? A show about a geeky suburban kid who goes to live with his hip older brother in a gentrified urban neighborhood, Mission Hill predicted so much about hipster culture that it’s a little creepy. From copious facial hair to ironic clothes to hanging out at revival movie theaters and dive bars, the world of Mission Hill is the world of 2010s Millennial America. Like Bob’s Burgers, it was an essentially sweet show with some very real human relationships at its core, wrapped in layers of surrealism and black humor so things didn’t get too sentimental. Though the ship may have sailed on bringing this one back—Portlandia has hipster satire on lockdown, and the subculture seems to have gotten past the initial growing pains that made it ripe for parody in the first place—a few years ago Hill could’ve been a modern-day King of the Hill, casting a kindly critical eye on a particular aspect of American culture while still embracing it. If nothing else, it at least deserves a second season to see if the show’s thumb is still on that Pabst-fueled pulse.
I’m kinda cheating here, since Frasier both died a natural death and had an organic conclusion, but I will never stop advocating for its return. I want to see Frasier in the 2010s. While so much of 90s culture was built around a certain blue-collar, everyman ethos, we now live in a world of organic groceries, artisanal goods, and hangouts you’ve probably never heard of. It’s the world that Frasier Crane always dreamed of living in, and I want to see how he’d thrive—or rather, survive—in it. He was, after all, a man who never met a good thing he couldn’t ruin or a streak of luck he couldn’t break through his own hubris and piggishness. I can only imagine how he’d manage to wreck living in a time and age seemingly tailor made for him. Please, Netflix? Can we see that happen?
The tale of a reluctant prophet hunting down an equally reticent antichrist in Depression Era America, Carnivale was arguably Twin Peaks Redux, polished and fine-tuned for the 2000s. It was an atmospheric, character driven series that relied on a slow burn to tell a complex story with its own internal mythology. Like Twin Peaks, the series was cancelled after a second season despite a rabid fan base, ending with a series finale that, while arguably a fitting conclusion, still left several pretty big hanging threads. There were a number of factors at play in that decision, from a lack of enthusiasm on HBO’s part to an exorbitant budget to the slow burn getting a little too slow and the mythology a little too convoluted. It’s been twelve years now, though, and the TV landscape has changed quite a bit. Fans are even more patient than they were in those halcyon days of the internet, and online communities have shown they’re willing to invest the time and patience into multiple seasons of a show without knowing where things are going, as long as there’s a satisfying payoff. (Also in the show’s favor: We learn in Season 2 that the final showdown between Ben, Justin, and Sophie will eventually take place at the Trinity nuclear test, roughly ten years after the events of the series finale. So, everyone would look older, anyway). Meanwhile, television has gotten even more epic than Carnivale could’ve dreamed—while its budget ran around $1-2 million per episode, the average episode of Game of Thrones costs between $6-8 mil, with the numbers going as high as $10. More than any other show that’s bowed out in the past two decades, this is the one most primed for a reboot.