The idea of a Repilot is not something I ever thought of until i watched the opening episode of season 5 of Community. Community was a very meta TV show. which looked at the tropes and trappings of TV and popular culture and was a very smartly written show. It’s a bit of a niche show, but I enjoyed it.
Now as per that episode (itself called Repilot) the concept is that a TV show can often change premise, several cast members and format later in it’s run. The example community used was Scrubs, whose final season pivoted from being about the early medical career of Doctor John Dorian and his immediate circle and became more about the newer doctors starting their careers. I was fascinated by that concept, but not enough to start watching Scrubs again. There are better medical shows, better sitcoms and better shows with most of that cast, but I never forgot the idea of a repilot.
Fast forward to several weeks ago and in work, the idea popped into my head that there were several other shows that did change in that manner. Sitcoms did it often, Grace Under Fire, Two and a Half Men, Whitney, Ellen and others, spring to mind. Then there are shows that their entire premise is like that, American Horror Story, True Detective, Miracle Workers and mostly likely others that haven’t occurred to me. But I am not including them, nor do I mean reboots and re-imaginings, these are shows that carried on, but were different in very clear ways, not just cosmetic ones, or one or two cast changes.
So in chronological order here we go….
Series C – episode 1 Aftermath. First aired 7 January 1908
Starring Paul Darrow, Jan Chappel, Michael Keating, Steven Pacey, Josette Simon and Jacqueline Pearce.
Originally the story of Roj Blake and his war against the facist Terran Federation in Earth’s far future. The first two seasons told the story of his uphill battle to overthrow this evil empire and it’s cost on him and his crew. But two of the main cast (including Gareth Thomas, who played Blake) wanted to leave and so it was left to some of the remaining cast and a couple of new people to take the show in a different direction and was now more of a rag tag group of rogues causing trouble across space. The entertaining Paul Darrow was move from the background to show lead and he shined in that role for the next two seasons. Yes it was the shame show, but it now had a different feel. Was it as good? Maybe not. Was it as well received? I don’t know, but it continued to be commissioned, despite the male and female lead walking off the show.
Galactica discovers Earth part 1, first aired 27 January 1980
Starring Kent McCord, Barry VanDyke, Robyn Douglas, Lorne Green and Robbie Rist.
Battlestar Galactica was a Glen A Larson attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars with a action packed space opera show done on a TV budget. It had a great concept and premise often used as a recapped voice-over. “Fleeing Cylon tyranny, the last battlestar, Galactica leads a ragtag fugitive fleet, on a lonley quest… a shining planet known as Earth.”
The series only really got the one series and as a result, never found Earth. It did get picked up as a lower budget revival, set in the here and now (well the hear and now of the early 1980s) and as a result, it’d be cheaper to make. More cost cutting was the casting of relative unknowns as the generation after the original cast. Kent
McCord played Boxy, the son of the previous series’ lead Apollo (played by Richard Hatch) now known as Troy he and his wingman Dylan were the pilots who were chosen, by new character Dr Zee, to secretly go down to the now located Earth, which was further behind technologically than the fleet and had no chance if the Cylons found the fleet and by extension Earth. It wasn’t as good, but there were interesting ideas and sometimes ambition matters when execution falters.
Season 5 Episode 1: Conviction – first aired 1 October 2003
Starring David Boreanaz, J.August Richards, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof & James Marsters
Angel was a spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, setting the vampire with a soul as a PI in Los Angeles, fighting demons and saving souls. After averting an apocalypse or two, the series ended with long time antagonists Wolfram & Hart (evil lawyers inc) ceding LA to Angel, offering him their LA office and leaving them to run it. The idea being that if they just starting demolishing the firm, then evil would do business elsewhere, if they didn’t they’d be part of the problem trying to do good, drowning in the evil they had previously been fighting. It became the metaphor of work in your 20’s. Can you still be the person you wanted to be, whilst being in the belly of the beast? Cue legal dramas, comical office politics and the addition of Buffy fan favouring James Marsters as Spike. Spike, now also a vampire with a soul adding conflict and comedy to the cast and the show changed as a result and could now tell new stories that took the idea of a demon fighting vampire and turned him into the head of an evil law firm. It was different, but it was still the same show. Would power corrupt? Sometimes. Would evil flourish? Sometimes. Was it worthwhile? Well that was the question. This new premise only lasted the one season, but it was a great swan song for this show that never eclipsed it’s predecessor, but was always worth watching.
Justice League Unlimited
Episode 1: Initiation – first aired 31 July 2004
Starring George Newburn, Phil Lamar, Carl Lumbly, Nichelle Tom, George Eads and Kevin Conroy (who is Batman)
The Timm-verse is the most ambitious and well realised animated saga outside of anime ever done. Starting with Batman the Animated Series, then Superman the Animated Series with diversions to Batman Beyond and Static Shock, it culminated in Justice League, which combined many of the characters and the voice actors who played them and brought them into a well realised and ambitious series that very rarely ever disappointed. It showed several parts of the DCU, including the Demon, Atlantis, Earth-3, the Green Lantern Corps and a return to the Fourth World. It ended with a 3-part alien invasion story and then they changed everything. No longer about 7 superheroes, it now included any hero that the expanded League needed. Heroes like Superman, shared a line-up with Hawk and Dove, Ralph Disney the world-famous Elongated Man, Supergirl, Captain Atom and the Question. We got to see more of the universe, including more Fourth World stuff, the future of Batman Beyond, Skartatis and even the future of the Legion of Super Heroes. We even got ongoing subplots, complex and relatable villains and a couple of great season finales. Also, we got a format change, no longer dependent on 2-parters, we got connected tales, or some great one-off episodes, which used humour, drama and action to tell enjoyable stories that showed the best parts of the DC universe.
Series 4 Episode 1 – Authorised Personnel Only, first aired 5 January 2005
Starring Jennifer Garner, Ron Rifkin, Michael Vartan, Carl Lumley, Kevin Weisman and Victor Gerber
Alias was a fun little spy-fi action show, combing action scenes, sci-fi tropes and soap-opera levels of “everything you know is wrong” melodrama. It started off with it’s lead Sydney being a double agent between the CIA and the criminal spy agency SD-6. Halfway through the second season, the SD-6 plot-line was finished and the series moved her towards being a regular spy in the CIA. Then we got a 2/3 year time jump, which extended that story a bit further. Now both of those things could be considered repots as a stretch, but that was mostly done organically, with no real start and end points connected to it. But for the fourth season it was a more clear change to premise. Instead of battling SD-6, Sydney and co were the core of APO which was a CIA backed version of SD-6. People were in different roles, some people knew the truth, some didn’t and it was similar enough to the original premise, but still feeling like a brand new show. This newish series lasted a further two seasons, before the Alias saga was wrapped up in a relatively satisfying ending.
There you go, 5 shows that seemed to become new shows within their own runs and in most cases decent TV.
I came up with another 5, but that is for another day.
Ttfn internet people.