In television, thanks to the ever-growing need for more material, anything worth doing is worth doing again. Popular shows, be they live-action or animated, can get a second life before a new, appreciative audience. Even middling successes can be revived, years or even decades later, and attract not just new fans but viewers who knew what it was like and are interested in the changes. But creative producers who do these relaunches may have a different vision for the property. The same elements that can make for light comedy can be retooled as grim, dark drama. Cartoon shows that had been aimed at kids the first go round can be infused with absurdist humor that appeals to adults. Ink-and-paint animation can give way to dazzling computer generated effects in three-dimensions.
Some shows, indeed, can be so far from their roots -- even if they retain known, typical elements -- that they can be vastly different properties, sharing little more than the same name. One example is The Bionic Woman from the 1970s and its revival Bionic Woman 30 years later. Some, like Gotham and Smallville, don't even have that much in common with TV forebears Batman and Adventures of Superman. Here, CBR takes a look at 20 examples of reboots that feel like completely different shows.
Since his debut in Pep Comics #22 (December 1941), Archie Andrews and his gang of buddies have been about the sunny side of small-town life in Riverdale, U.S.A. It's been that way through the multiple incarnations of Archie in various media, which include daily newspaper comic strips, multiple animated TV series, a couple of live-action TV pilots and a TV movie, and enough comics titles and spinoffs to fill a library.
But Riverdale, the latest incarnation of Archie on the small screen, is more like Twin Peaks than Dobie Gillis. Debuting on the CW in 2017, Riverdale has lots of soap opera in its DNA. Storylines have included teacher/student special relations, teen pregnancy, gangs, political corruption, organized crime and more.
19 CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was added to the Archie lineup in Archie's Madhouse #22 (October 1962). She eventually graduated from guest stories in Archie books to headlining her own title. She also was featured on TV from time to time, most notably in an animated TV series in 1970 and a live-action sitcom on ABC from 1996 to 2003.
Riverdale's producers considered including her in the first season finale. Instead, they put her in a spinoff, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, a drama that focuses on the supernatural and Sabrina's struggle with her heritage as a witch and a mortal. It debuts on Netflix on Oct. 26.
18 SPACE GHOST COAST TO COAST
Space Ghost first appeared on TV in 1966 as a straightforward Saturday morning animated cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera. The show followed the adventures of intergalactic crimefighter Space Ghost and his teen sidekicks Jan and Jayce, who had a pet monkey named Blip.
In 1997, Space Ghost came out of cancellation heaven for a different enterprise: Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Instead of defeating alien villains, Space Ghost was now the host of a talk show, albeit one that was bizarre. Indeed, one of his recurring foes, Zorak, was the bandleader. The show was a mash-up of old animated show footage spliced into interviews with live-action guests, played for laughs. It ran from 1994 to 1999, and was revived from 2001 to 2004, and again from 2006 to 2008.
17 LOONATICS UNLEASHED
The classic Looney Tunes characters -- Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Pepé Le Pew, Foghorn Leghorn, etc. -- developed over the 1930s and 1940s in cartoon short films produced by Warner Bros. When television came along, those cartoons were repackaged and enjoyed by new generations of fans.
In 2005 to 2007, the Kids WB presented a very different take, with Loonatics Unleashed. It presented descendants of the original characters in the post-apocalyptic world of 2772. Then, a wayward meteor hits the city of Acmetropolis, emitting waves of radiation that gave superpowers to some of the beings within its range, including teenagers Ace Bunny, Lexi Bunny, Danger Duck, Tech E. Coyote, Slam Tasmanian, and Rev Runner.
16 FRED AND BARNEY MEET THE THING
From 1967 to 1970, the Fantastic Four appeared in a Saturday morning animated series on ABC, produced by Hanna-Barbera. The Depatie-Freleng studio did another Fantastic Four series in 1978 without the Human Torch, because of a deal to put him in a solo project. But the oddest take was Fred and Barney Meet The Thing on NBC in 1979.
That show featured Ben "Benjy" Grimm as a test pilot who becomes a teenage kid with a magic ring on each hand. When he put them together and chanted, "Thing ring, do your thing!", orange rocks would fly from nowhere and turn him into The Thing. He mostly dealt with high-school hijinks, but did not actually meet Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.
Batman which appeared on ABC from 1966 to 1968, became the standard by which every live-action superhero production since is measured. Some would embrace their silliness and campiness, but most would try hard -- sometimes too hard -- to be grim and gritty, mistaking that for being "realistic."
Gotham, which is in its final season, from the start was bent on proving it is Not Your Father's Batman. Debuting in 2014, it opened with the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and is a coming-of-age story both for young Bruce Wayne and rookie detective Jim Gordon, in the glum and sordid city of the title where the villains hold sway.
The long-running Smallville was a very different take on the Superman mythology. After several animated and live-action versions that emphasized Superman the adventurer -- going back to the 1948 serials starring Kirk Alyn -- Smallville willfully avoided having Clark Kent don the costume until the series finale. The producers' watchword was "no tights, no flights."
Instead, Smallville's focus was on young Kent's discovery and exploration of his origins, and about the people in town and how they reacted to and dealt with an alien presence on Earth. Smallville ran from 2001 to 2011, first on the WB for five seasons, and then after WB merged with UPN, on the CW.
13 HULK AND THE AGENTS OF S.M.A.S.H.
The Incredible Hulk, from his beginning in 1962, was a half-ton monster of barely controlled, and often uncontrolled, rage. He notably had near-unlimited strength but a dim intellect. Most of all, he wanted to be left alone, as his interactions with people typically turned into massive battles.
That was the approach in most animated versions of the Hulk, like the first in 1966's The Marvel Super Heroes. But in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., the Hulk was a team player, along with fellow hulklings She-Hulk, Red Hulk, A-Bomb and Skaar. They fought and joked their way through entanglements with Marvel villains. The show aired from 2013 to 2015 on Disney XD.
12 BATMAN BEYOND
There have been many animated versions of Batman, starting with Filmation's Batman/Superman Hour in 1968. That show was an unofficial sequel to the 1966-'68 live-action Batman TV series that had just ended after three seasons. Other animated Batman series followed over the years, mostly in the conventional vein, from Filmation and other producers. One standout was Batman: The Animated Series, from 1992 to 1995 and its sequel, The New Batman Adventures from 1997 to 1999.
The 1999-2001 Batman Beyond took things in a darker direction than any previous animated TV version. Set 40 years in the future, it featured a long-retired Bruce Wayne teaming up with teenager Terry McGinnis to be a Batman for a new age, clad in a high-tech battle suit.
11 TEEN TITANS GO!
Kid Flash, Robin, and Aqualad first appeared as a team in The Brave and the Bold #54 (July 1964). In issue #60 (July 1965), joined by Wonder Girl, the group was cover featured as Teen Titans. They later graduated to their own title. In 1967, they had sequences on Filmation's Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, with a lineup of Kid Flash, Speedy, Aqualad and Wonder Girl.
An anime-influenced Teen Titans series ran from 2003 to 2006 on the Cartoon Network and the WB. This had a lineup based on the 1980s New Teen Titans comic book revival, featuring its new characters -- Starfire, Raven, Cyborg -- with Robin and Beast Boy. It was followed by a spinoff, Teen Titans Go!
10 HUMAN TARGET
The Human Target was an innovative twist on the bodyguard concept: a man who impersonates the target of a would-be assassin, planning to get the drop on him before he strikes. The DC character Christopher Chance first appeared in Action Comics #419 (December 1972), bouncing around in backup stories and guest roles before headlining a miniseries, graphic novel and ongoing series under the Vertigo imprint.
Human Target had a seven-episode run on ABC in 1992, with Chance leading a team of operatives using high-tech gear, traveling in a specialty aircraft. The second stab was on Fox in 2010, but Chance didn't use disguises; instead, he and his team engaged in global derring-do.
9 THE FLASH
The Flash debuted in comics in Showcase #4 (October 1956) and soon graduated to his own series, as well as a key role in the Justice League of America. He was Barry Allen, a Central City Police Department forensic scientist who gains speed powers from a lightning strike that hit him and shelves full of chemicals.
The Flash has also had two live-action TV series. The first ran for one season on CBS in 1990. Here, Allen becomes a superhero and crimefighter after his older brother Jay -- who was new to this version of the character -- was murdered. The later version, on the CW, debuted in 2014. It had Allen, and several others, gain powers from the explosion of a particle accelerator.
8 LOIS AND CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman aired on ABC from 1993 to 1997. It reflected the changes in the Superman mythos that had been introduced in the 40 years since Adventures of Superman, which aired in first-run syndication from 1952 to 1958.
Lois and Clark followed the mold established post-Crisis by writer/artist John Byrne in 1986. In this show, as in the then-current run of comics, Clark Kent is a more assertive, confident personality. His parents Jonathan and Martha are alive. Lex Luthor is a conniving captain of industry. Most of all, the relationship between Lois Lane and Clark Kent is played as romantic comedy.
7 IRON MAN: ARMORED ADVENTURES
Iron Man first appeared on television as part of the syndicated The Marvel Super Heroes animated show in 1966. That was fairly faithful to the comics, although it was crudely animated. His next headlining bit was 1994's syndicated Iron Man, as part of the Marvel Action Hour.
The 2009-2012 Iron Man: Armored Adventures was a drastically different take on the character. Here, Tony Stark was a 16-year-old, running his father Howard's enterprises after his disappearance in a plane crash. Teen Tony creates the Iron Man armor to investigate, and uses it to battle other Marvel villains. He is helped by Pepper Potts and James Rhodes, also teens. This show was CGI animated in 3D.
6 SPIDEY SUPER STORIES
Spider-Man has been a success on the movie screen, both with the Sam Raimi trilogy of films from 2002 to 2007, and the two Amazing Spider-Man films in 2012 and 2014. On television, there was an hour-long live-action show on CBS from 1977 to 1979.
But there was another live-action series featuring the character that debuted three years earlier: Spidey Super Stories. These were short segments inserted into episodes of the children's educational show The Electric Company. The segments were a quirky mix of animation and videotape, with Spidey's speech characterized by word balloons -- the better to help young viewers learn to read. Spidey Super Stories ran for three seasons, from 1974 to 1977.
5 HARVEY BIRDMAN, ATTORNEY AT LAW
The Hanna-Barbera stable of animated superheroes included Birdman, whose adventures were chronicled in Birdman and the Galaxy Trio on NBC from 1967 to 1968. Birdman gained his powers from the sun god Ra and fought crime on behalf of the government agency Inter-Nation Security.
In 2001, Birdman was given new life on Adult Swim, after a sneak peek on Cartoon Network the previous year. Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law was created by scriptwriters for Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and featured similar absurdist humor. The show spoofed courtroom dramas, with Harvey Birdman as a defense lawyer, Hanna-Barbera villains as opposing counsels and other company characters as clients.
The syndicated ThunderCats animated series initially aired from 1985 to 1989. It featured the title characters fleeing from the demise of their home planet Thundera. They were forced to land on Third Earth because their armada was attacked by their enemies, the Mutants of Plun-Darr. On their new homeworld, the ThunderCats strive to protect their source of power, the Eye of Thundera.
The series was revived in 2011, airing on the Cartoon Network for one season. Darker in tone than the original run, the ThunderCats' world was enslaved by the evil sorcerer Mumm-Ra, who took out their leader, Claudius. A band of stragglers, led by Claudius' son, Lion-O, fought to overthrow Mumm-Ra's conquest.
3 SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND
The long-running Scooby-Doo franchise was launched in 1969 on CBS with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The Mystery, Incorporated team of Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Shaggy Rogers and his dog Scooby, traveled the country in Fred's van, the Mystery Machine. They went to investigate paranormal activities, but in nearly every case uncovered a fraud. Often, the hoaxster, after being exposed, would complain, "and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"
The 1998 direct-to-video movie Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island twisted the formula by having them encounter true zombies and a curse that changes people into cat creatures.
2 SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED
After the 1994 animated series Spider-Man concluded in 1998, the Fox Kids network needed a replacement. Spider-Man Unlimited was the result of some corporate wrangling between Marvel Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Saban Entertainment to fulfill a contractual obligation.
In this series, Venom and Carnage commandeer a spacecraft taking John Jameson to Counter-Earth and take him hostage. Spider-Man follows later, equipped with a nanotech costume using components made by Reed Richards, so he can handle Venom's and Carnage's abilities. When Spider-Man arrives, he finds Jameson is allied with a band of freedom fighters out to overthrow the High Evolutionary and his army of hybrid human-animal beings, the Beastials.
1 BIONIC WOMAN
The first iteration of The Bionic Woman was on ABC in 1976 for two seasons, switching to NBC for its third. It was a spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man, featuring tennis pro-Jamie Summers, who sustained multiple injuries in a skydiving accident. Her legs, right arm, and ear were replaced by cybernetic prostheses, and she became a covert agent for the Office of Scientific Intelligence.
The series was revived as Bionic Woman in 2007 on NBC. Here, Summers is injured in a car crash and is fixed up by the Berkut Group, gaining artificial legs, right arm, right ear, and right eye. The tone of this version was bleaker, and the show was canceled after eight episodes.