As movie franchises continue to borrow the flimsy tactics of TV to promise returning audiences, TV is taking up the tactics that movies used for the very same reason. The current TV landscape is littered with reboots, remakes, sequel seasons, and spin-offs, at least to the point where they dominate the field over original creations. This is not all for the bad: the best season of TV from last year was the overdue third season of Twin Peaks and the second best season was Spike Lee‘s remake of his own debut film, She’s Gotta Have It. Indeed, the issue has rarely been with the lack of originality in TV-show premises but rather the lack of ingenuity and inventiveness that goes into making these shows.
So, the news that came out last night that CBS has ordered pilots for reboots of two memorable TV programs, Magnum P.I. and Cagney & Lacey, shouldn’t immediately send one spiraling into disillusionment about the state of popular culture. Then again, no one would blame you if you did. The two pilot orders are among a pack of six that’s being set-up for CBS for their 2018-2019 premieres, none of which sound particularly thrilling or even that entertaining at first glance.
For those who are not familiar, Magum P.I. starred Tom Selleck as the titular private investigator, Thomas Magnum, who solved cases in Hawaii. Cagney & Lacey followed the professional and personal lives of a pair of female detectives in the New York Police Department, played by Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless, who took over for Meg Foster after the first season. The reboots currently are holding onto the same essential premises, though I would imagine their episodic, serial structure will be traded in for a more portentous and boring season-long arc.
It’s tempting to pick on CBS’s decision to re-up old popular series – Magnum lasted for eight seasons, while Cagney & Lacey had seven – as a continuation of the overall lack of originality in the network’s programming but they are hardly unique in this. The CW, ABC, and NBC are remaking Roswell, The Jetsons, and The Munsters respectively, and Fox looks primed to continue beating the dead horse that is The X-Files. Now, if they hired some genuinely imaginative artists to lead these shows, they might be worth checking out, but their looks to be little sign of that happening.