Do revamps ever work?

Carrie Fairchild

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Looking at some of the series discussed on here and thinking of one that I recently delved into myself, I got thinking about the above question. Has a show ever been successfully "revamped" or "retooled" and continued to run for a considerable period? Or is the revamp the last kick of a dying horse as network execs and producers try to breathe life into a dying series? The only one that springs to mind is 70's detective series Baretta which ran for 4 seasons after it was reworked out of one season wonder Toma. I'm sure someone is going to point out a rather obvious success story that I've missed.

I've listed a few below to give you an idea of what I'm talking about. For example, the move towards soapier storylines in early Melrose Place wasn't a complete revamp but a more gradual process. And while a spinoff like Frasier or NCIS isn't a revamp, I see a spinoff like The Golden Palace as an attempt to keep the original idea afloat for a while longer.

The City: this is the one that got me thinking in the first place. ABC soap Loving was on it's way out but rather than ditch the premise completely and attempt to launch a new soap in it's place, they created this continuation by introducing a raft of new characters to Loving in it's final period and when it ended on the Friday, the young and the beautiful of Corinth were transplanted to a loft in New York City in the same timeslot the following Monday. It had Melrose aspirations but lasted just over a year.

Scrubs: the show was supposed to end at the close of the 8th season and was written in such a way to tie things up before ABC requested further episodes and thus Scrubs: Med School was born. It featured only three of the core cast from the previous seasons and changed location from the hospital to a teaching hospital. This was to be the final season.

The Drew Carey Show: I was only a casual viewer of this, so my memory may be incorrect, but I do recall in the final season or two, that Drew's workplace changed and suddenly him & Mimi were working for an online company staffed by young people (including Kyle Howard who seemed to be in everything I watched in the early 00's) while Christa Miller and Craig Ferguson were gone.

Central Park West: they were looking for a "Manhattan Melrose" but after ratings floundered they decided they tried for a "Dynasty East" instead, sidelining or dropping the young guns that had headlined the cast early on and pushing the older angle with the machinations of Raquel Welch and Lauren Hutton. The revamp limped along for 8 episodes.
 

Daniel Avery

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I'd have to think a bit deeper on this, but those that immediately come to mind:

The Facts of Life originally featured Mrs. Garrett (from Diff'rent Strokes) as a house-mother to seven or eight young girls in ages from 11 to 17 at a boarding school. There was also a headmaster and one of the teachers included as principal cast. It did not take long for the producers to recognize there were too many characters to write for. They hired some new writers/producers who whittled the cast down to Mrs. G and three of the original girls in close age range, then added one new girl to the mix. They also ditched the headmaster (the teacher had departed earlier in the first season) and placed the girls all in one environment (working in the cafeteria) on the campus that forced them to live together. The show lived on for many seasons and a few cast additions and subtractions (most notably the departure of Charlotte Rae's Mrs. Garrett) but was basically that core of four girls (who grew up onscreen).

Empty Nest was originally going to be a sitcom centered around widowed pediatrician Harry Weston. It was going to explore how he was picking up the pieces and moving on with life, having to get back out into dating, etc. while hanging out with his dog, Dreyfuss. His two adult daughters would drop by occasionally, as would his annoying neighbor Charlie. At work he'd be hectored by his pushy nurse/office manager, Laverne and he'd interact with the cute kids. After about 2/3 of the first season they realized they were running out of excuses for his daughters to visit, and Richard Mulligan could only do so many scenes talking to Dreyfuss before it all looked repetitive since he was in basically every scene of the show. So the daughters developed sudden "financial problems" and had to move back in with daddy, opening up plotlines where they vied for their father's attention and bickered like siblings half their age. Harry's work life was now balanced with home life, and the supporting characters shouldered a lot of the burden of screen time. Instead of Harry being the center of all the stories, they could now adopt the familiar A-plot, B-plot, C-plot structure with the daughters and Laverne becoming more developed characters and having stuff to do that did not directly involve Harry.

Mama's Family was originally a spin-off derived from sketches performed on The Carol Burnett Show. NBC developed the show with Vicki Lawrence's "Mama" character as the lead (who finally got a name: Thelma). Most of the 'family' were not from the original sketches--they created a spinster sister (Fran) for Thelma, as well as son Vinton, grandchildren Buzz and Sonya, and daughter-in-law Naomi. Original sketch characters played by Carol Burnett, Betty White, and Harvey Korman appeared sporadically as guest stars. The NBC version was much more like the CB sketches: moments of sharp, pointed emotions and arguing mixed among the jokes. After two seasons NBC cancelled the show, but producers decided to revive the show for first-run syndication a few years later. The show returned with many cast changes and more creative freedom away from NBC. Fran, Buzz, and Sonya were out; repressed neighbor Iola and Eunice's son Bubba were in. Burnett and Korman were also not to appear, and White, only once. The retooling made the show much more of a conventional sitcom since the links to the source material had been basically severed once Burnett's Eunice was no longer around. The retooled version lasted several more seasons and received high ratings right to the end.
 

tommie

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I dunno
I guess this falls into gradually changing a show, but out of those that's airing currently, I'd say Mom had pretty obvious subtle revamps - originally it centered more on Christy's home life, dealing with her mom moving in, her children, her ex husband and her work place with AA being just a part of Christy's life. They of course moved on from that and gradually re-focused the show dealing mostly around the AA meetings and the women there.
 

Angela Channing

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In the UK we had a successful TV series called Man About The House and when it came to an end 2 of the characters were given their own series, George and Mildred, which was even more popular than the original series. Another spinoff of that show, Robin's Nest was also very popular.

Frasier was a very successful spin off from Cheers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
was a complete revamp of the original Star Trek series with completely new characters but followed the same basic format and did very well on TV and the big screen.

You could argue that every time they recast The Doctor in Doctor Who, the show is revamped and changes to accommodate the style of the new actor playing the lead role. Some have been more successful than others but it breathes new life into the show and enabled it to remain popular for decades.

The Bionic Woman was a character that appeared in the Six Million Dollar Man and her own successful series shared several characters with the original show.
 

Daniel Avery

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I was thinking more of revamps that occurred during the run of a show, not ending one show and starting another (a spin-off) or a new version of an old show with new characters (a reboot).

Doctor Who would indeed be best classified as a revamp situation within the regular run of a show, though I tend to think their situation is unique to television!
 

Carrie Fairchild

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In the UK we had a successful TV series called Man About The House and when it came to an end 2 of the characters were given their own series, George and Mildred, which was even more popular than the original series. Another spinoff of that show, Robin's Nest was also very popular.

Frasier was a very successful spin off from Cheers.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
was a complete revamp of the original Star Trek series with completely new characters but followed the same basic format and did very well on TV and the big screen.

You could argue that every time they recast The Doctor in Doctor Who, the show is revamped and changes to accommodate the style of the new actor playing the lead role. Some have been more successful than others but it breathes new life into the show and enabled it to remain popular for decades.

The Bionic Woman was a character that appeared in the Six Million Dollar Man and her own successful series shared several characters with the original show.
I was thinking more of revamps that occurred during the run of a show, not ending one show and starting another (a spin-off) or a new version of an old show with new characters (a reboot).

Doctor Who would indeed be best classified as a revamp situation within the regular run of a show, though I tend to think their situation is unique to television!
Doctor Who is one that I hadn't thought about. The revamp (or regeneration) is just an accepted part of that show's plot now. Another UK show that I just thought of was Waterloo Road. It's an odd one because it was revamped for business reasons rather than creative ones. BBC were trying to increase the number of productions they had outside of England and instead of creating a new series, they just moved production of the show to Scotland to fill a quota and explained it away that the school had to close and for some reason, some of the teachers and pupils decided to relocate to Scotland.
 

Daniel Avery

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Which reminds me of Little House: A New Beginning, which I would have to research a bit to figure out if it is considered a revamp, a spin-off, or a simple continuation with a name-change. I tend to think of it as a continuation of the same series, but with the name-change. The shows I mentioned earlier didn't change their name or attempt to make a point of their changes. The reruns of New Beginning are sold in the same package as LHOP, so perhaps the producers consider it just the next chapter of LHOP rather than a spin-off, and other than some drastic cast changes there was no noticeable change in tone or themes.

Archie Bunker's Place pulled something similar, but you see ABP in syndication separate from All In the Family, and there are noticeable changes in Archie's character in ABP. It is more a spin-off than a continuation, IMO.
 

Willie Oleson

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I tend to think of it as a continuation of the same series, but with the name-change
It was the season without Charles and Caroline Ingalls, but apart from that it didn't feel like a new beginning, while the move to the city was a new beginning for the Ingallses and Olesons (for a while anyway).
 

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Charles in Charge, which starred Scott Baio as a sort of live-in nanny, was cancelled after one season and then revived for four more in syndication.

Unfortunately, the family in the second version was not as endearingly quirky as the first and the show devolved into more of a two-hander between Charles and his buddy Buddy (Willie Aames).
 
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