A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs

These small-screen shows will surely stir the pot this fall.

Artwork for Zimbio by Rafael Hidalgo

Are you ready for a hefty dose of drama?

Well, even if you aren't, you better buckle up because this fall is going to be a wild ride!

Despite living through the golden age of television, we can’t shake off the endless trend of TV reboots, revivals, and spinoffs. Broadcast networks in particular are hoping to ride this wave and gain momentum after the recent success of Will & Grace, Star Trek: Discovery, and Young Sheldon. If anything, expect more shows to make a blast from the past as we are forced to sort through all the winners and losers of Fall TV.

While a lot of these small-screen shows are watchable, nostalgic, and competently acted, they are causing a bigger ruckus for stirring up some serious controversy. Whether it’s behind-the-scenes antics, steering vastly away from the original content, or resurrecting mediocre shows that no one asked for, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to these noisy dramas and comedies.

Keep reading to find out which TV shows are willing to take extreme measures just to get noticed in a crowded landscape.

1. The Conners

A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs
ABC

Roseanne is being reinvented after its namesake was swiftly booted. In fact, ABC has given a straight-to-series order to The Conners — a spinoff starring the original cast. The series was originally based on the real-life persona of Roseanne Barr, but the star no longer has any creative or financial involvement in the project.

“I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved,” Barr explained in a statement.

With a 10-episode order and little insight into how Roseanne will be written off the show, The Conners will certainly raise ratings and a lot of questions this fall. Given Barr’s shocking and disgraceful exit, it’s surprising that ABC chose to continue Roseanne’s legacy with a spinoff. So, the question remains: What kind of show is The Conners hoping to be?

It’s safe to presume the spinoff will begin with the death of Roseanne and will demonstrate how families can find middle ground through difficult but necessary conversations. Arguably, the show can still further representation of working-class families, even without Roseanne’s all-consuming presence. Yet Barr’s identity as a comedian remains tied up in its DNA. That’s why ABC canceled the sitcom in May after Barr’s racist tweets, rather than simply firing her. That’s why rebranding the spinoff as a separate entity from its predecessor is integral in establishing its success.

Barr’s loud public endorsement of Donald Trump put her in the headlines and made both her on and offscreen personas a symbol of the nation’s increasing political divide. Ironically, the point of the Roseanne revival was about bringing people together. The classic love-hate dynamics within a family were meant to flourish with laughter, yet the ugliness of ideological differences trampled that dream.

Perhaps The Conners will accomplish what the Roseanne revival aimed for and could never achieve. Finding political middle ground isn’t easy. It’s a goal that can feel especially imaginary in today's world . When the spinoff airs this fall, it will be dissected under a spotlight. Rather than shying away from the thornier issues that prompted Barr’s firing, lets hope The Conners has the courage to address and tackle them. It can use this moment to create a family sitcom that will actually unify people and also occupy an integral space in pop culture.

2. Last Man Standing

A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs
ABC

The Tim Allen vehicle was canceled by ABC in 2017, but FOX swooped it up for a revival that will air this fall. The power of nostalgia ignited by Roseanne was, presumably, the driving force behind this decision. Of course, we all witnessed the swift destruction of Barr's short-lived, resurrected comedy. Despite all the politics involved in Roseanne, FOX insists that Last Man Standing was given a second life because of ratings potential.

Whatever the case, FOX can’t deny the fact that most of the characters Allen has played are loosely based on him. In fact, Allen himself claimed that ABC canceled Last Man Standing because “There’s nothing more dangerous right now than a likable conservative.” In fact, he wanted his character to be more in line with Archie Bunker from All in the Family, which feels as politically divisive as one of Barr's crude, racially-charged tweets.

When Last Man Standing finally returns to FOX this fall, don’t expect this soggy comedy to discuss issues the political upheaval divided our country. These white, cisgender, and financially stable characters treat politics as a minor inconvenience and only debate about issues theoretically. The show eludes that extra edge by refusing to dive all the way in by making Mike a Trump supporter. In fact, Mike is more likely fighting with his liberal relatives on Facebook than holding up a QAnon poster at a Trump rally.

3. Magnum P.I.

A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs
CBS

Tom Selleck turned the titular character into an icon in the '80s, and the baton has been passed to Jay Hernandez for the forthcoming Magnum P.I. reboot. Make no mistake, this casting is not only groundbreaking but it also gives Hernandez a well-deserved shot at mainstream stardom. The reimagined cultural identity of Magnum has started a new and much-needed discourse in TV; however, the lack of Latinx writers on the series is extremely troubling.

“We’re certainly not denying the fact that he’s Latino. It is something that is acknowledged, and we plan to acknowledge it throughout the series,” executive producer Eric Guggenheim said during the Television Critics Association panel.

According to executive producer Peter Lenkov, this decision is a result of extraneous circumstances. “Not for any reason other than when staffing a show, it’s incredibly hard to find writers,” he explained.

Really, CBS? In 2018, you can’t find any Latinx writers? Casting people of color in reboots and revivals is pointless if you omit how their culture and heritage influences the characters they portray onscreen. By not having a writers room that includes Latinx writers, Magnum P.I. is doing a huge disservice to its reimagined leading man. There’s a psychology involved with the imagery we see on TV and in movies, so this isn’t just about recasting an iconic character in pop culture for a modern-day audience. What viewers are exposed to on a daily basis can help reverse stereotypes against the marginalized. Seeing Hernandez in a reboot this big is a stark contrast to a lot of what we see on TV and absorb on a subconscious level. 

Another way the reboot is making big changes is by transforming the role of Higgins into a woman. Perdita Weeks has taken on this important role. “I thought it was a boys’ club,” Lenkov said of the original Magnum P.I. “If you’re going to do it in 2018, you need a strong female lead.”

There were certainly a lot of women in the original series, but there wasn’t a strong female character. Placing an integral and empowered woman in the center of a group of males puts a different spin on things — one that is more in line with the progressive strides of Peak TV. But don’t get it twisted: The reboot will still show Magnum and Higgins butting heads on the regular. Of course, their combative dynamic is buffered by a mutual playfulness. This way, the brotherhood of the male characters stays in tact, and viewers get more depth and dimension when a lead female character creates conflict.

Although the Magnum P.I. reboot is shaking things up in a good way, especially when it comes to casting and creating diverse roles, it certainly needs a reality check in the writers room. Rather than shying away from how how race and culture can be defining factors in shaping an individual’s identity, the reboot should address these issues head on.

4. Lethal Weapon

A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs
FOX

For a moment it seemed like the end was near for FOX’s TV adaptation of Lethal Weapon. Co-lead Clayne Crawford stirred up controversy for his toxic on-set behavior towards the show’s cast and crew, and it eventually resulted in his termination. Although Crawford confirmed that he was reprimanded for his behavior twice, the apologies he posted online came a little too late. In the posts, Crawford explained that he reacted poorly and with anger, and discussed a specific incident in which "an actor felt unsafe because a piece of shrapnel from an effect hit him." The situation escalated after Crawford’s co-star, Damon Wayans, confirmed and shared evidence of this on-set altercation.

Crawford played the unpredictable Martin Riggs alongside Wayans' character, Roger Murtaugh. After the series received a Season 3 renewal, it was announced Seann William Scott would replace Crawford as a brand-new character who forms a partnership with Murtaugh. Given that Lethal Weapon is meant to be lighter fanfare filled with action, drama, and comedy, this casting news certainly makes sense. It also allows for a swifter transition into the third season since Riggs was shot during the final seconds of the Season 2 finale. It’s a presumable set up for his death, which would then allow Scott’s character to easily fit into the new narrative. Introducing a new character in the premiere and paying proper respects to Riggs in the same episode will prove to be quite the balancing act, but Lethal Weapon is certainly up for the challenge. It’s better than getting canceled, right?

"If we could not feel confident to bring that show back with a great cast in a way that the audience would accept it, we would have simply not brought the show back," FOX Television Group chairman and CEO Gary Newman told Deadline. "Until they came up with Seann, we were planning a schedule without Lethal Weapon." 

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Scott’s character is how he came to be. Showrunner Matt Miller found inspiration while reading an article in The New Yorker around the same time when news of Crawford’s on-set turmoil was making headlines.

“It was about a CIA agent who had served overseas in Iraq and had became very disillusioned,” Miller explained. “He came back and became a cop but his philosophy as a cop was not to run in and shoot people, take down bad guys. What he was looking to do is always defuse the situations as opposed to escalate them.”

It’s apparent that Cole is the opposite of the rage-induced Riggs who blindly leapt into high-stakes situations. Cole, however, is a guy who is looking to steer away from chaos. Despite all the crazy explosions and drama, you can bet that Cole will bring an onslaught of laughter and some much-needed hijinks to Lethal Weapon. More importantly, the shift in tone — both onscreen and off — is definitely a welcome change.

5. Charmed

A Guide To Fall TV's Most Controversial Reboots, Revivals, And Spinoffs
The CW

This revival, quite frankly, feels like a completely different show from the original series. Charmed will still focus on three sisters who discover they're witches, but this time the leading ladies are all women of color. The multicultural power of three is now repped by Melonie Diaz, Sarah Jeffery, and Madeleine Mantock.

It’s no secret the reboot has received a lot backlash, especially since Holly Marie Combs, Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty, and Rose McGown have been so vocally against it. By not asking the original stars to partake in the reimagined version, The CW’s latest rendition has angered many fans. What’s more? Dubbing the reboot as “fierce, funny, feminist” takes a swing at the original, which, in fact, does have its own feminist take within a supernatural construct. By pitting the two versions against each other, fans have been put in a tough spot. Can you feel excited for the new Charmed without feeling like you’re betraying the Halliwell sisters of the past?

It’s a difficult question to answer, considering the well-intentioned goals of the newer version. Although the heart of the original Charmed will remain in tact in this reboot, you can expect this rendition to be firmly rooted in 2018. That means the issues you talk about at the dinner table with your family and friends will be brought to the forefront through the narratives of the sisterly trio.

“We’ve had a chance to see three white witches,” stated executive producer Snyder Urman. “Coming off of (Jane the Virgin), I know so much more about what it means to see yourself on screen, see yourself being represented and see yourself being the hero of a story, and that’s really important to us.”

Taking issue with the network that refused to renew Charmed 12 years ago and is now reimagining it isn’t out of line. It would be better if the original leads were incorporated in some way, but the truth is the success or failure of Charmed mostly belongs to the fans. It’s not easy for the fandom to get on board with the reboot, but there’s an entire generation of young women who might find the older version passé. Perhaps, this new take will give them something more accessible so they can have their own magical and empowering era of Charmed.

I'm the TV Editor at Zimbio. My interests include books, pop culture, and Colin Firth.
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