A TV network executive’s favorite word today is reboot. “Magnum PI,” “Queer Eye” and “Dynasty” are a few recent examples of former hits that have been rebooted for modern audiences. Hollywood is constantly looking to the past for the TV series of the future. But what untapped classic shows will get refreshed soon?
A new version of “Sliders” and the canceled-too-soon “Threshold,” starring Peter Dinklage, would be fantastic. But let’s aim for series that ended their run at least 20 years ago. Here are my picks for five TV programs ripe for a reboot and the actors who would be perfect for them.
“Quantum Leap” (1989-1993)
The premise: While conducting an experiment to prove that a person could time travel during their lifetime, physicist Sam Beckett walks through a quantum leap accelerator and disappears. He wakes up to find that he’s in another person’s body, in another time and place. Beckett, with help from friend Al, must right wrongs from the past to leap out of the time he’s stuck in and eventually, hopefully, get home.
The reboot: “Quantum Leap” was known for aptly mixing drama, humor and romance with elements of science and historical fiction. This requires an actor with incredible range, making Jon Hamm the perfect choice. John Hannah (“The Mummy,” “Spartacus”) would make an excellent partner as his slightly smarmy but trustworthy friend, Al.
”Fantasy Island” (1977-1984)
The premise: Welcome to Fantasy Island! For a weekend, your host, Mr. Roarke, can make any fantasy you desire come to life. But there’s almost always a price to pay in getting whatever you want.
The reboot: Everyone wants to go a place where all your wishes came true, even for a little while. It’s escapism TV at its best. Ricardo Montalban made the role of Mr. Roarke his own. I’d like to see Salma Hayek play his daughter, who now runs the island.
The premise: War veteran Dan Tanna is a private detective in Las Vegas. Aided by former showgirl Bea Travis, Tanna makes Las Vegas safe for locals and tourists by ensuring that the city’s seedier elements face justice.
The reboot: A new “Vega$” would max out the reboot checklist. A cool setting? Interesting profession for the lead character? Modernizing the original series without changing it much? Check, check and check. Karl Urban, who looks a lot like the original Dan Tanna (Robert Urich), would be fun to watch driving up and down The Strip.
”Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975-1979)
The premise: A compassionate, wisecracking teacher returns to his inner-city high school alma mater to educate a group of troublemakers. The kind-hearted and funny Mr. Kotter not only teaches reading, writing and arithmetic, but also lessons about life.
The reboot: Networks have a hard time handling two things — thoughtful comedies and any TV series set in a school. You’d think that would be a recipe for disaster, but this underrated 1970s show nicely balanced comedy and heart. Jason Segel as Mr. Kotter would be a great fit to go along with a cast of young, talented unknowns as his students.
“Northern Exposure” (1990-1995)
The premise: Neurotic New York native Joel Fleischman is repaying Alaska for funding his medical education by working as a general practitioner in the small town of Cicely. Fleischman struggles to fit in with the wacky locals yet finds himself growing as a person and as a physician.
The reboot: “Love Boat” and “Thirtysomething” were other series considered, but neither had the quirky appeal of “Northern Exposure,” which was one of the most eccentric and enjoyable shows to appear on network TV in the 1990s. Shia LaBeouf would make a fascinating Joel Fleischman.
Gazette TV critic Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.