These TV Shows Reaaaaally Need To Stay In The Past

by S. Atkinson
Warner Bros. Television Distribution

Sometimes, a show is created, and it runs its course, and it is perfect. You glass-half-full types might argue such shows are prime targets for a revival, but that's not necessarily true. There are at least — at least — 13 shows that should stay in the past. Maybe it's because they ran their course, did what they set out to do, and would only suffer in being crafted for a whole new audience and in a new time setting. Or maybe it's because, hey, they weren't perfect, but they were fun and smart and something new. Either way, these finished shows shouldn't get revivals now or ever.

If you want to look to the dangers of TV nostalgia, it's worth thinking about Netflix's Gilmore Girls revival. Since the show was built around two actors' charisma, there was no question of recasting roles. Instead, the show was simply set in the present with the obligatory time gap. But while their snark had been a welcome part of the '00s television culture, their fat-shaming of neighbors at the pool felt problematic in our more enlightened, body positive age. Similarly, Rory's complete lack of professionalism as a journalist — from sleeping with a source to just sleeping on an interview — felt much more unsettling in the age of fake news.

But, if we learn from the pitfalls of that revival, there are plenty shows that are better off in the past where they belong.


'Mad Men'

It's hard to think of a more powerful ending to the series than the one we got. Loveless loners got paired off, one luckless ex-wife found a measure of independence and control in her last moments, struggling workers ended up as bosses. Also, that Coca-Cola ad. Since the final episode ended in the last days of the '60s, it's also hard to imagine how they'd wangle a reason for bringing it back. The advertising landscape of the '70s is a totally different show, surely.



I know, her snark is sorely lacking on our screens. But, all the same, Daria worked perfectly in how she questioned all the subcultures of the '90s that thought they were switched-on and self-policing (the fashion scene, the skater scene, the art scene, corporate feminism) but were actually pretty complacent. It's hard to imagine this series working in a new time-setting.


'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

We got a lot of Buffy — six years' worth, to be precise. The show was a perfect example of TV kismet: an otherworldly-level charismatic actor (Sarah Michelle Gellar) crossing paths with an equally amazing ensemble cast and letting creative sparks fly. If we brought back Buffy, we'd have to either recast the lead characters or get rid of the high school setting, and none of those options sound appealing.


'Sabrina the Teenage Witch'

This series was poetry in motion. Every fan should refuse to entertain the idea of a world where puppet Salem (the best Salem, so much superior to moving-real-cat Salem, used for action shots) would be replaced by some sort of CGI monstrosity. But, in 2017, there's no way that adorable puppet would fly.



You have probably never seen the show that made Simon Pegg famous, Spaced, and that's terrible. If you're a pop-culture nerd, then this is your present, because it's full of references to everything from The Shining to Star Wars to Jurassic Park. But part of its charm was that it was made on a limited budget and for a limited time (it ran for just two seasons). Any attempt to resuscitate it would probably give it an incredible budget and none of the satirical recreations of huge movies would make any sense anymore, because they would likely be realistic recreations rather than humorous snippets.


'Don't Trust The B---- In Apartment 23'

Because Krysten Ritter's party girl Chloe is way, way too similar to the role she'd go on to become superstar famous for, Jessica Jones. Sure, she's way more glamorous than the perma-leather jacket clad private investigator. But her mistrust of other people, sharp one-liners, and disinterest in what anyone else thinks of her lifestyle is way too close to the Marvel hero for this show to ever be brought back.


'The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air'

When a show is a cult of personality built around a charismatic lead, that makes recasting an iconic role almost impossible. Nobody can replace Will Smith (sadly not even his son Jaden) and Smith's too mature to play a hilarious teen anymore. Let's let this one rest in peace, okay?


'My So-Called Life'

The beauty of this show isn't young Jared Leto, nor the acres of flannel shirts on offer, but the wonderful slowness of the plot. There are entire episodes which revolve around something Angela Chase thinks, rather than anything happening. In the age of Game Of Thrones, it's hard to imagine such event-free programming being aired. So, bringing this back would be a mistake because it's all too likely TV networks would get rid of the one aspect of the series that was genuinely revolutionary and swap it for endless drama.



Dan Harmon's TV baby wasn't just amazing because of all the in-jokes and the extremely meta world he created (remember the Dreamatorium?). It had a winning formula thanks to the cast's chemistry together. Given the fact that, during Season 5, both Chevy Chase (who played Pierce Hawthorne) and Donald Glover (who played Troy Barnes) left, it suggests that the cast were done with the show and wanted to focus on new projects. If you can't reunite the whole cast (and, given Glover's commitments, you probably couldn't), then what would be the point of bringing this back?



Because if Friends was set in 2017, it would make you want to rage at your television. Why ruin perfection with a needless revival?


'Malcolm in the Middle'

Again, the idea of recasting Malcolm feels wrong; Frankie Muniz was essential to the show's charisma. But even if you persuaded all the cast to shoot a revival series and set the show in the present day, how would you ensure all the family lived under one roof? Would it be an adorable family comedy or a mood-killer about how millennials can't afford real estate? Also, post-Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston's timetable would be heavily booked up.


'Lizzie McGuire'

I'm not going to pretend I don't want to find out if Lizzie and Miranda are still best friends or if Gordo and Lizzie ever got more intimate than just smooching to an Italian backdrop. But the show is joyful because it's a coming-of-age story. I can't quite see it working in its adult incarnation.

So, if you're missing your favorite TV show from the list above and you're a genuine fan, don't campaign for a revival. Just phone up your best friend to come over, get your favorite box set lined up, and get set for a re-watch. It's for the best.