With Fawlty Towers and Frasier remakes in the works, here’s our pick of the best reboots of all time
It’s a remake you never thought you needed, but now feel excited about: Fawlty Towers is getting a reboot more than 40 years after it was first aired.
83-year-old John Cleese will be returning as hotelier Basil Fawlty, and this time will be joined by his 39-year-old daughter, Camilla Cleese, an actor and comedian. The new show will be set in a hotel again, but this time Basil not only has to contend with his demanding guests, but also how to navigate the modern world as an octogenarian.
The show comes in a long line of recent do-overs: That ‘90s Show, a reboot of the Nineties hit sitcom, That ‘70s Show, was released on Netflix in January, and it was announced last month that NBC’s Frasier is going to get a modern update too.
Reboots are tricky thing to get right, as politics and humour move on. If showrunners attempt a revival, they have to work out how to adapt the show to meet a modern audience’s expectations – and that’s a harder task than it sounds.
But, some series have been successful at capturing audiences’ hearts twice over. Here’s our round-up of the best TV show reboots of all time.
Beverly Hills, 90210
For many readers, when they think of 90210 they’ll think of the late Noughties series which starred Rob Estes, Shenae Grimes, AnnaLynne McCord and Michael Steger. But this CW series was actually a reboot: Beverly Hills, 90210 first aired in 1990, running on Fox for an entire decade. It was created by Darren Star, who went on to make Sex and the City, and follows a group of good looking high-school friends who all live in the covetable Californian postcode. As might be expected, the series was full of romance and friendship drama, but over its 10 years, it also covered issues including homophobia, animal rights and alcoholism.
Beverly Hills, 90210 was so successful that it launched a tonne of spin-offs, including Melrose Place (1992), Models Inc. (1994) and a reboot of Melrose Place itself (2009). There is some crossover between the series, such as season one’s Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) who crops up in season two. Then, the third reboot BH90210, which took place in 2019, saw a number of the original cast returning to the small screen, to the joy of thousands of fans.
Critics were, on the whole, behind the third series, with Time saying it’s, “mostly a tight, soapy satire of a decadent industry—the audiovisual equivalent of a beach read that’s smarter than it needs to be—it sometimes gets sentimental,” while Vulture said: “This 2019 iteration does something that a lot of reboots don’t, which is quench your throwback thirst while acknowledging, on some level, that there’s something sad, a little pathetic, and deeply meaningful about the need to revisit our youth.”
BBC’s Doctor Who was a major hit from the off, and ran for a whopping 26 years before numbers started to dwindle and it was finally cancelled in 1989. Then, over a decade later, longtime Doctor Who fan Russell T Davies was given the job of reviving the show, and Doctor Who relaunched in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion, Rose.
The reboot series was a huge success, and episodes including The Empty Child and Bad Wolf have become the stuff of Doctor Who legend. Since then, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker have all played the beloved time-travelling character; Davies’s name is almost synonymous with Doctor Who, and the show is still going strong after 17 years. Of course, as Doctor Who has updated, it met some backlash (people criticised series 13 showrunner Chris Chibnall, for example, for choosing to pursue a ‘woke’ agenda) but on the whole, the relaunch can be regarded as one of TV’s biggest success stories.
Does the American Office count as a reboot of the British Office? We say yes. Released two years after the original – arguably just long enough to be counted as a reboot – both shows were written by British comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and both mockumentary shows follow the daily lives of a group of colleagues working in a paper company’s office.
The American version was a massive success, running for nine seasons and bringing fame to its cast members, including Steve Carell, John Krasinski and Ed Helms.
A case where the reboot was even better than the original: when Queer Eye was released on Netflix in 2018 it became an international success, winning dozens of awards (including Emmys) catapulting Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk, and Jonathan Van Ness into international stardom, and spawning numerous spin-offs including Queer Eye: Germany and Queer Eye: Brazil.
The LGBTQ self-help show sends the ‘fab-five’ around America to give needy participants a physical make-over while providing emotional support.
But many viewers won’t have known that Queer Eye was, in fact, a reboot. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy ran for five series from 2003-2007 on Bravo, and followed a similar structure as five gay men were sent to give a straight man a makeover. The original show received high ratings and had millions of viewers per episode.
Sex and the City
When the show And Just Like That premiered in December 2021, Sex and the City’s reboot show caused an earthquake online. While some fans of the original series didn’t mind the spin-off, which joined original characters Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda Hobbes (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte York Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) nearly 20 years after the last season aired (Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha Jones dramatically bowed out) others hated it.
Creator Michael Patrick King had tried to modernise the series – so new queer and non-white (which the original series was ashamedly severely lacking) were added to the cast. Some felt it was too little too late, others felt like it was done inelegantly. And anyway, many felt the series had been perfectly concluded and its revival was wildly unnecessary.
Some welcomed a return to the world of Sex and the City. The Guardian, for example, said “Dare I whisper it? I’m really enjoying And Just Like That”. And while critics raged online, viewing numbers made the reboot a commercial success: it was HBO Max’s most-watched series debut when it was released. The series was renewed in March 2022.
Twin Peaks (The Original Series) - In pictures
The only person who could possibly reboot David Lynch’s Nineties mystery drama with any success would surely be Lynch himself, and this is exactly what happened in 2017 when the director released a third series of his cult show. It picked up 25 years after it had left off, and FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) returned and was still trapped in the Black Lodge and Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee)’s murder investigation is reopened.
Was it as good as the first series? Arguably yes. The New York Times said, “Mr Lynch’s mastery of tension persists... The script, by him and Mr Frost, recognises the power of silence and anticipation. And Mr Lynch, who is directing the entire revival, still has his penchant for dualities and eerie beauty.” Rolling Stone said, “Twin Peaks: The Return was the most groundbreaking TV Series ever,” adding that the “25-years-later murder mystery was not only a masterpiece – it may have permanently changed the medium”.