10 classic TV shows you might not realize were reboots

Perry, Lucy, Buck, Belvedere and more can trace their roots back to films from prior decades.

Who says an idea has to be original to be great? Some of the greatest films and television shows were adaptations. The fact that M*A*S*H was based on a movie did not seem to bother the 125 million or so viewers who tuned in for the series finale. Gunsmoke started as a radio program. Both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Flying Nun began as novels. 

And then there are the reboots.

"Reboot" has become somewhat of a dirty word to fans. We should first attempt to define it. In our mind, two key factors constitute a reboot. The show has to offer a new cast of actors in the roles, and it should come years after the original project was a hit. This gap in time allows the reboot to reimagine the characters and setting for a new decade, a new generation. (So, for example, Sally Field's Gidget feels more like an adaptation of a recent blockbuster, not a reboot.)

With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 classic TV shows that rebooted hit movies and radio programs. They tend to overshadow the originals.

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1. Batman


In many ways, the beloved Batman '66 is the quintessential reboot. Columbia Pictures released a 15-part Batman and Robin film serial in 1949, itself a sequel/reboot of the 1943 serial Batman. Robert Lowery (Bruce Wayne) and Johnny Duncan (Dick Grayson) had many similarities to Adam West and Burt Ward, down to their Wayne Manor. However, those early black-and-white cinematic chapters had more a noir adventure feel, befitting the Detective Comics source material of the 1940s. William Dozier's boldly colorful Batman series took the characters into pure camp, which undoubtedly rankled the fanbase accustomed to the "Dark Knight." This was not wholly original. In the comic books of the '50s, the Caped Crusader had grown more bizarre, battling robots alongside goofy sidekicks such as Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound. Still, the "Boof!" and "Zonk!" of Batman brought the character to life for a new generation well aware of psychedelic rock and Beatlemania.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century


Philip Francis Nowlan introduced Buck in his 1928 novella Armageddon 2419 A.D. The space cowboy subsequently had a popular radio program in the 1930s, a film serial with Buster Crabbe in 1939, and a primitive television series in 1950–51. While Buck remained relatively constant throughout all these incarnations, up to the clearly Han Solo–inspired Gil Gerard in the 1979 series, Wilma Deering evolved with the times. Sometimes written early on as mere love interest, damsel in distress or mere sidekick, Erin Gray (pictured here) gave the character a military authority in the '79 edition. She could hold her own.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Green Acres


Granby's Green Acres originally aired on CBS radio on summer Monday evenings in 1950. The audio program featured faces familiar to any Sixties television fan. Gale Gordon (The Lucy Show) played the lead banker-turned-farmer. He mistakes a mousehole for an electrical outlet. Bea Benaderet (Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies) portrayed the wife. The television show took the show in wild new directions, amping up the surrealist comedy, turning Lisa (Eva Gabor) into a glamorous socialite. Not only did the 1965 sitcom change the family name from Granby to Douglas, they got rid of the daughter, Janice. Eb was on the radio show, though — played by Parley Baer!

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Hotel


Amongst the many Aaron Spelling productions, Hotel often gets overshadowed by Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, etc., etc. But Hotel did run for five successful seasons beginning in 1983. It was an original idea. The 1967 movie Hotel, also set in the St. Gregory Hotel, had adapted a 1965 novel by Arthur Hailey, the guy who also wrote Airport (but not Bus Stop). The Spelling edition amped the sexuality and back-stabbing — and shifted the location from New Orleans to San Francisco.

Image: TV Guide

5. In the Heat of the Night


What does In the Heat of the Night have in common with Hotel? More than you realize. Both were reboots of 1967 movies based on 1965 novels! Of course, rebooting Heat was a far more daring proposition. After all, the original film had won the Academy Award for Best Picture — not to mention Best Actor and Best Screenplay. A critic for The New York Times declared it, "the most powerful film I have seen in a long time." Filling the shoes of Sidney Poitier is no small task. Not only that, but the Oscar-nabbing Rod Steiger role went to Carroll O'Connor, best known as sitcom staple Archie Bunker. Nevertheless, it worked, airing for seven seasons.

6. I Love Lucy


Yes, even I Love Lucy, arguably the most groundbreaking sitcom of all time, technically counts as a reboot. It can trace its inauspicious origin to the 1942 romcom Are Husbands Necessary? — which The New York Times deemed "an almost pitiful endeavor to squeeze a few more laughs with frivolous marital farce." Those husband-wife high jinks were based on a novel by Isabel Scott Rorick, Mr. and Mrs. Cugat. This book would also serve as the source material for a 1948 radio program titled My Favorite Husband — starring Lucille Ball. Two years later, CBS asked Ball to turn My Favorite Husband into a television show. The forward-thinking Ball insisted recasting the hubby role, wanting to work with her real-life spouse, Desi Arnaz. Obviously, she won that argument. And Ball elevated the "frivolous marital" material of Are Husbands Necessary? to high art with her physical comedy brilliance.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Mr. Belvedere


A prime example of an Eighties family sitcom, Mr. Belvedere could trace his roots back four decades. The dapper gentleman nanny originally appeared in the 1948 comedy Sitting Pretty. The movie spawned two sequels, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell (1951). Shirley Temple was in the second flick!

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Perry Mason


The Perry Mason character has cracked mysteries and gotten his clients off the hook for nearly a century. Erle Stanley Gardner introduced his character in 1933. A year later, Warren William brought Perry to life onscreen in the movie The Case of the Howling Dog. Six Perry Mason flicks packed theaters in the Thirties, with three different lead actors in the role. (Three different actresses played Della Street, as well.) The TV show took the source material in new directions. The Raymond Burr take on the character savored his time in the courtroom more. In two of the original suspense movies, Paul Drake was known as "Spudsy Drake." Television's Paul Drake, William Hopper, noted in 1962, "Paul Drake in the Erle Stanley Gardner books was an entirely different character."

Image: The Everett Collection

9. 12 O'Clock High


Mere years, if not months, after the close of World War II, pop culture was producing content about the globe-engulfing conflict. The 1949 war film Twelve O'Clock High adapted a novel from the prior year, casting Gregory Peck as Brigadier General Frank Savage, part of a bomber squad in Europe. Superproducer Quinn Martin rebooted the concept in 1964 with Robert Lansing as Savage. In season two, the network wanted a more "youthful looking" lead, and replaced Lansing with Paul Burke — who was actually two years older.

10. The Waltons


Henry Fonda starred as Clay Spencer in the 1963 family drama Spencer's Mountain, a film based on the semiautobiographical novel of the same name by Earl Hamner Jr. The Waltons not only rebooted the idea a decade later, it had the audacity to change the name of the family! Can you imagine how Waltons fans would react today if Hollywood announced a reboot — only they were calling the family the Bransons or the Millers or whatever?

Image: The Everett Collection

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stagebandman 47 months ago
Your criteria is all over the place. I see "reboot" as a restaging of a previous TELEVISION series. Otherwise, it's actually an adaptation of another media, whether it be movies, radio or books. By your thinking there are THOUSANDS of TV shows that could be considered, from The Lone Ranger to Swiss Family Robinson (or even Lost In Space). I think sticking to the premise of television reboots would be much more interesting. Otherwise, most of these were pretty obvious for anyone over the age of 25.
genZmetv 47 months ago
IMHO Green Acres is amazing as is (and underrated!). I've heard about Granby's Green Acres before and I'm considering listening to it, but I feel like how much I love the tv show will make me biased against it, lol.
MEW1961 genZmetv 47 months ago
I agree with you! Great writers on that show!
Wiseguy 47 months ago
The series M*A*S*H was not based on the movie. It was based on the novel. Says so at the end of the pilot.
Wiseguy 47 months ago
FIVE actresses portrayed Della Street in the six Perry Mason movies: Helen Trenholme, Claire Dodd, Genevieve Tobin, Anne Dvorak and June Travis. Only Dodd appeared twice.
AEDC49 47 months ago
For #7! Don’t forget this for “Mr. Belvedere”-As early as the 1950s, attempts were made to adapt the character to television. Three pilots for a proposed series based on the Belvedere character were made during the 1950s and 1960s; a 1956 attempt starring Reginald Gardiner a 1959 effort with Hans Conried and a 1965 version starring Victor Buono in the title roll.
Also-“Our Man Higgins”-’62-’63- follows the adventures of an English butler portrayed by Stanley Holloway, who is inherited by a suburban American family, resulting in a cultural clash that grows into a cultural blending.
Higgins answers to Duncan and Alice MacRoberts, played by Frank Maxwell and Audrey Totter. Joining Holloway, Maxwell and Totter were Ricky Kelman, K.C. Butts, and Regina Groves, who portrayed the children Tommy, Dinghy, and Joanie MacRoberts, respectively.
It's Higgins, Sir! was previously a 13-episode NBC radio comedy series in 1951, created and produced by Paul Harrison, and written by Harrison and Rik Vollaerts. Harry McNaughton read the starring role of Higgins in that series, broadcast on Tuesdays at 9 P.M. (as Bob Hope's summer replacement).
Scenario-Alice and Duncan MacRoberts are looking forward to an unexpected inheritance from Scotland but than are surprised when it's a servant. Higgins is a prim butler who lends a hand with the three adventuresome children while the youngsters help Higgins become a bit more relaxed.
Cool Trivia-This is House later better know as “Bewitched” house was built for this series in 1961 & can be scene in many episodes of “Hazel” & “Dennis the Menace” going from the lone garage to the house being there for this series first use!
MarkSpeck 47 months ago
Robert Lansing was NOT replaced because the network wanted a youthful-looking lead, but because producer Quinn Martin couldn't deal with such a difficult (yet talented) actor. One of Martin's complaints with Lansing was that he couldn't understand Lansing when he talked most times. That led to a set of dailies with Lansing that ended with him turning toward the camera and scowling, said 'Did you understand THAT?', which got under Martin's skin big-time.

Martin then went to Bill Self, the head of 20th Century-Fox Television and told him that he wanted to replace Lansing. Self said that he could do that, but since Fox was co-producing the series, that they'd have to approve whomever Martin chose. Martin mentioned Paul Burke, and Self gave the go-ahead.
DJS3 47 months ago
Buster Crabbe (Known for not only Buck Rogers, but also Flash Gordon) made an appearance as "Brigadier Gordon" in the "Planet Of The Slave Girls" episode (Season 1, Episode 2 - September 27th, 1979) of "Buck Rogers In The 25th Century." It was a great episode which was a nice tip of the hat to Buster Crabbe and also passing of the torch to Gil Gerard. 🚀
DJS3 DJS3 47 months ago
For reasons unbeknownst to me, I'm not able to use the upload photo function, so I'll post a link to it... https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BZTZkNjA5Y2QtODI2My00MjBhLWI4MzEtNjZjZDlmMGMzOTIxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTcxNzc3ODU@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,809,1000_AL_.jpg Sorry, but you'll have to copy and paste it to see the image I found of Buster Crabbe and Gil Gerard together from that episode. It looks posed, so it may actually be a promotional shot for that episode and not a screenshot of it.
texasluva DJS3 47 months ago
I had no idea that Gil Gerard and Buster Crabbe had this picture taken together. I thought maybe Buster had passed away before this but it was in 1983 R.I.P. You would need to Save Image As to your device (you can also right click on image to find a suitable size (search Google for Image). Give it a name of your choosing. Choose file button below. type in name and when you see it then just "click". It should load it here for viewing. .
DJS3 texasluva 47 months ago
Thank you for posting that image. I originally was trying to do the steps as you stated, but no luck. I think it was an issue with my phone. I could do it from my PC, but I wasn't home. Thanks again for posting the photo! 👍
duncan50 texasluva 47 months ago
That’s so cool
SalIanni 47 months ago
If Batman was a reboot, wouldn't The Adventures Of Superman with George Reeves count as one as well? It too had been featured in many forms (radio, movies, comics) before the TV version arrived in 1952.
ELEANOR SalIanni 47 months ago
Reboots work in many different ways. People are more likely to watch something they already know something about. Also producers and directors are more likely to produce something they are familiar with. Writers find it easier to write for these shows as they can reuse scripts and plots. So no wonder reboots are so popular.
cperrynaples 47 months ago
BTW, I must ask all of you what you think of the HBO reboot of Perry Mason! I think it's a great film noir that the author would be proud of!
mfitzpat811 cperrynaples 47 months ago
Gee I think Erle Stanley Gardner would be embarrassed by this reboot. I’ve read most of the books and never knew Perry started a out as a private detective and a sloppy one at that!
Oh well guess this is Perry Mason for a new generation.
ELEANOR mfitzpat811 47 months ago
ESG be proud?? They tried a reboot back in the 70's and it went over like a lead balloon.
CarolKelley mfitzpat811 47 months ago
I have no interest in the new Perry Mason nor in many reboots to be honest. Nobody, but nobody, can touch Raymond Burr as Perry. The later Robert Osborne made an interesting observation about remakes. The Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon was the third adaptation of the Hammett novel to be produced in a decade, but movies did not tend to get re-released after their initial release so that the stories would be new again in a few years. Once movies could be shown on TV, there was no so much need for remakes because you had the original film.
Wiseguy CarolKelley 47 months ago
So nobody should play Sherlock Holmes except Basil Rathbone? Get real. Classic characters will always be rebooted and well they should. You can always choose not to participate.
Wiseguy mfitzpat811 47 months ago
HBO has just announced that Perry Mason has been renewed for a second season.
Wiseguy ELEANOR 47 months ago
The success of the 1970s Perry Mason is irrelevant to the author's pride. Since ESG died in 1970 before that and the current reboot whether or not he would be proud or not is mere speculation.
dictracy 47 months ago
Knew all this, and have the 1949 Batman serial on DVD, it’s a fun watch for its time but there’s no beating Batman ‘66
Hogansucks1 47 months ago
I thought Twiggy always needed a re-boot !😆 And Erin Grey also!!! 🤪
Lucia826 47 months ago
Clifton Webb was Mr Belvedere in the movie
Lucia826 Lucia826 47 months ago
Clifton Webb was also in the Cheaper by the Dozen.
How about Here Comes Mr Jordan (Robert Montgomery 1940s) later was a remake with Warren Beatty ( but I don’t remember the remake title)
cperrynaples Lucia826 47 months ago
He was also in Laura and was secretly gay! Here Comes Mr. Jordan was remade as Heaven Can Wait, which ironically was the title of an unrelated Don Ameche film from that period! It was remade again with Chris Rock in the 2000's!
Lucia826 cperrynaples 47 months ago
Who was in Laura?
cperrynaples Lucia826 47 months ago
Laura is a classic film noir about a woman who dies mysteriously and returns more mysteriously! Gene Tierney gave her best performance in the title role!
Lucia826 cperrynaples 47 months ago
Dana Andrews was the male lead. I loved that movie. I was born in 1944 and I think the movies from the 40s, 50s, early 60s were great. But Gable, Grant, Bogart, Wayne, Susan Hayward, Bacall, Bergman,etc. were the best movies of all. Many of the musicals were so much fun both on Broadway and on film. We didn’t have to hear about their “views.” My other great live even now is Old Radio. My grandkids love to listen to old comedy shows - especially Jack Benny and. Ozzie & Harriet. Today’s podcasts are kind of like finding a great radio show. The technology is—in a way—taking us backwards just with a twist.
cperrynaples Lucia826 47 months ago
Yes, and don't forget Vincent Price! Before he became typecast in horror movies, he was a dramatic actor!
texasluva 47 months ago
1. Batman '66 is still being shown (re-runs) and a good watch. You have the POWS, the Holy's and others with catchy quotes. The characters that try to throttle Batman and Robin ain't too bad either. The film Batman and Robin Film serial of 1949 don't think I have ever seen it (4 hrs and 23 min). The earlier Batman Is probably collecting dust in some archives. Maybe a DVD you can buy.
2. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I probably have seen one half of the episodes. It's okay. The Buck Rodgers with Buster Crabbe in (1939) is shown rarely. Though
Svengoolie did a awesome dub of a episode that was out of this world just recently.
3. Green Acres never liked. Moving on from here.
4. Hotel never watched the movie nor series.
5. In the Heat of the Night for sure one of my top 100 favorite movies. "A hundred and sixty-two dollars and thirty-nine cents a week? Well boy! Sam, you take him outside but treat him nice, because a man that makes a hundred and sixty-two dollars and thirty-nine cents a week, we do not want to ruffle him!" "They call me MISTER Tibbs!". Tv series I have seen most if not all episodes one time or another.
6. I Love Lucy. Brilliant series. Watch it when I can.
7. Mr. Belvedere-Never watched any of his movies nor tv runs.
8. Perry Mason- There is something about a Perry Mason man. Does he ever lose? Not often but he sure gets to the bottom of it. Always one series to watch.....
9. 12 O'Clock High-I have seen the movie a few times. Peck is always one to catch whenever he's staring. Never watched the TV series that came out in the 60's.
10. The Waltons- For some reason I never did catch on to this series. I know it was wonderful for others. I really have no complaints. Maybe watched a few episodes.
texasluva 47 months ago
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Lucia826 stephaniestavr5 47 months ago
Great show!
MarkSpeck texasluva 47 months ago
Nobody could 'stare' like Gregory Peck! ;)
Wiseguy stephaniestavr5 47 months ago
"Twelve O'clock High"
genZmetv texasluva 47 months ago
uh excuse u green acres SLAPS
texasluva genZmetv 47 months ago
Well for disliking Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor in Green Acre(age) I guess I deserve a back hand or two . Then again it's not a perfect world Just never took a hankering to it. Nothing against Arnold though
genZmetv texasluva 47 months ago
haha! not "slaps" like you're getting slapped; it's modern slang that some young people (such as myself) use. it means here that it rocks/its really good. :)
ncadams27 47 months ago
Lucy wanted Gale Gordon and Bea Benadaret to play Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy, but they were both busy with other shows (Our Miss Brooks and Burns & Allen).
cperrynaples ncadams27 47 months ago
Yes, but both did guest roles! Gordon would of course do all 3 of Lucy's later shows [The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy, and Life With Lucy]!
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