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A TV Season Of Remakes: Play It Again, Sam!

TV's new "MacGyver" is Lucas Till
TV's new "MacGyver" is Lucas Till
TV's new "MacGyver" is Lucas Till
Credit CBS Television
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TV's new "MacGyver" is Lucas Till

Why the remakes of "Lethal Weapon," "MacGyver," "The Exorcist," and "Frequency" on the fall TV lineup?

Plus a TV version of "Training Day" coming at midseason, along with Fox's "Prison Break" revival and a spin-off  of "The Blacklist?"

Why all the reboots? Has the TV industry suddenly run out of  ideas?

June Lockhart, Jon Provost and Hugh Reilly starred in CBS' "Lassie."
Credit CBS Television
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June Lockhart, Jon Provost and Hugh Reilly starred in CBS' "Lassie."

No. It's always been that way.

In 1954, in TV's infancy, CBS' popular "Lassie" series was based on the canine first seen in movie theaters in 1943, and adapted for a 1948 radio series.

And the dog kept coming back: As "The New Lassie" (1989-91), "Lassie" (1997-98) and in cartoons.

In 1955, ABC tried a TV series based on "Casablanca," the Oscar-winning 1942 Humphrey Bogart movie. The TV show, starring character actor Charles McGraw ("The Birds," "Spartacus"), was quickly canceled.

Which happens to most remakes. But it didn't stop NBC from reviving "Casablanca" in 1983 with David Soul ("Starsky & Hutch"), Ray Liotta and Scatman Crothers as Sam the piano man. The 1983 version  lasted five episodes.

Yet TV networks keep playing the this old tune again and again. Why?

They're hoping to find the next "M*A*S*H," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Hawaii 5-0" or "The Odd Couple." Network programmers believe that re-inventing known characters or situations are easier to promote and break through the clutter.

Damon Wayans Sr. and Clayne Crawford revive "Lethal Weapon" Sept. 21 on Fox
Credit Fox Broadcasting
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Damon Wayans Sr. and Clayne Crawford revive "Lethal Weapon" Sept. 21 on Fox

So this fall we'll see remakes the 1987 movie "Lethal Weapon" with Damon Wayans Sr. and Clayne Crawford (8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, Fox); ABC's 1985-92 "MacGyver" with Lucas Till (8 p.m. Friday Sept. 23, CBS); the 1973 thriller "The Exorcist" with Oscar-winner Geena Davis (“Commander in Chief,” “Thelma & Louise”), Alfonso Herrera (“The Chosen”) and Ben Daniels ("House of Cards”); and "Frequency," from the 2000 Dennis Quaid movie, this time with Peyton List ("Mad Men") and Riley Smith (9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 5, CW).

CBS hit the jackpot with "M*A*S*H" in 1972, two years after we saw Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye Pierce in the Oscar-winning 1970 movie. Alan Alda was drafted for duty on the TV version, which aired 11 seasons and made tons of money for CBS. (Not so for "AfterMASH," the 1983-85 spin-off starring Harry Morgan, Jamie Farr and William Christopher which lasted only 30 episodes.)

Sarah Michelle Gellar's "Buffy" aired seven seasons.  "Hawaii 5-0" starts its seventh season on Friday, Sept. 23 – but that's way short of Jack Lord's 12 seasons on the original "Hawaii 5-0" in the 1970s.

TV's third incarnation of "The Odd Couple," with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, returns for a third season Monday Oct. 17. Tony Randall and Jack Klugman starred in the first version of Neil Simon's Broadway hit on ABC in 1970-75. ABC's revival with African-American leads, Demond Wilson ("Sanford and Son") and Ron Glass, aired only one season in 1982-83.

Jodie Foster and Christopher Connelly starred in the short-lived TV version of "Paper Moon."
Credit ABC Television
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Jodie Foster and Christopher Connelly starred in the short-lived TV version of "Paper Moon."

In 1973, movie audiences loved Tatum and Ryan O'Neal in "Paper Moon," a Depression era comedy. So a year later, "Paper Moon" premiered on ABC starring young Jodie Foster and Christopher Connelly ("Peyton Place"). The "Moon" vanished in 13 weeks.

And we can't forget TV versions of films including "In The Heat Of The Night," "Look Who's Talking" (based on "Baby Talk"), "Ferris Bueller," several "Muppets" revivals, "The New Leave It To Beaver," "Fox's "Gotham" retelling of "Batman," "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and a trio of shows canceled last season: "Rush Hour," "Limitless" (both CBS) and "Heroes: Reborn" (NBC).

Of course, TV executives aren't the only copycats in Hollywood. Movie studios have recycled TV titles and characters for decades, hoping to find an elusive franchise like "Star Trek."

Here's my short list of movies based on TV shows:

"The A-Team," "Addams Family," "Beverly Hillbillies,' "Bewitched." "Charlie's Angels," "Dennis the Menace," "Dukes of Hazard," "The Flintstones," "The Fugitive," "Get Smart," "I Spy,"  "Incredible Hulk," "Miami Vice," "Maverick," "McHale’s Navy," "Miami Vice," "Mission Impossible," "Mod Squad," "My Favorite Martian," "Sgt. Bilko," "Sex and the City," "Star Trek," "Starsky & Hutch," "SWAT," "Twilight Zone," "Uncle Buck" and "Wyatt Earp."

Next year "Baywatch" comes to the big screen. The remakes just keep on coming.

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