Second Life: Old Kids' Shows That Are Making a Comeback
Love them or hate them, reboots are here to stay -- until they get remade once again. And while some franchises are better left alone (cough, cough, "Fuller House"), others are even stronger the second time around, especially when you're not old enough to remember the original. Here's a look at the best and worst kids' shows making comebacks faster than you can say "cannibalizing my childhood."
'The Powerpuff Girls' (1998 - 2005)
Way back in 1998, Cartoon Network did something amazing and produced a cartoon that was equal parts "Spider-Man," "My Little Pony," and Ms. Magazine: "The Powerpuff Girls." Audiences eager to see that girls could kick butt too responded strongly, keeping the show on the air for seven years. The carefully crafted blend of silliness, standard villain plots, and adorable sisters charmed kids all over the world, spawning merchandise, cosplay, and even a full-length feature film. So naturally, a reboot was inevitable, and the all-new "Powerpuff Girls" debuted in early 2016. The reboot retained the original male voice actors ... while replacing the voices of the girls themselves -- which, predictably, didn't go over well with fans, or even the show's original creator, Craig McCracken. The new version, while maintaining the loud, bright ethos, has been largely criticized for taking away what was so special about the original -- the idea that three little girls could protect the world and still be cute as buttons. But kids will definitely have fun with Bubbles, Blossom, and Buttercup, who are still just as powerful, if not empowering.
'Voltron' (1984 - 1985)
In 1984, producers eager to bring anime to American children saw their opportunity with "Voltron." Building on the success of "The Transformers," "Voltron" showcased a ragtag group of teenagers who piloted robot lions that could combine into Voltron himself -- a giant robot wielding an epic sword. The serial nature of the show's storytelling made sure kids watched each day as Voltron protected the planet. Oddly, the show retooled itself later that same year, abandoning the popular robot lions and replacing them with ... SUVs. The new version was not a hit with kids, and the planned third version of the series was abandoned, possibly because Voltron was, instead of lions or SUVs ... now smaller robots that turned into a bigger robot.
By 2016, the franchise had seemingly learned its lesson. It's playing it safe with a new version, complete with robot lions, called "Voltron: Legendary Defender." The 13-episode series lands in June 2016; a teaser trailer launched earlier in the year, signaling a return to the show's wonderfully cheesy roots.
'Inspector Gadget' (1983 - 1986)
Another show being brought back without its original pro-female message, "Inspector Gadget" was revived for an exclusive season on Netflix in 2015. The original, starring the inimitable Get Smart," in which Adams played Maxwell Smart, a crime-fighting super spy ... who was kind of an idiot. The joke that drove the original Inspector Gadget was that it was actually Gadget's daughter, Penny, and their oddly anthropomorphic dog Brain, who always managed to save the day without Gadget being aware of their help. While -- surprise, surprise -- Inspector Gadget inevitably got the credit for Penny's work in saving the world from the evil Dr. Claw, the show was the perfect escapism for kids wanting to see children outsmart their parents.
The 2015 reboot somewhat reinterprets the series -- Gadget is still the bumbling fool complete with an arsenal of robotic weapons, but Penny and Brain are now officially part of the Gadget team, and Penny now can only save the day with help from a new character, Dr. Claw's son, Talon. By now, fans of the original are used to the franchise being reimagined without its heart and soul (both the 1999 movie and its 2003 direct-to-video sequel barely featured Penny or Brain), but hopefully the 2015 reboot will have fans chanting, "Go, go, Gadget renewal!"
'Danger Mouse' (1981 - 1992)
Itself a spoof of the classic 1960s spy show "Secret Agent Man," the original 1981 "Danger Mouse" was a BBC cartoon that focused on a James Bond-ish spy, minus the scantily clad Bond girls, constantly on missions to save the world from nefarious animals set on global domination. But at its heart, "Danger Mouse" was an action comedy: Danger Mouse himself, while fearless, was more bravado than smarts, and it was his surprisingly able hamster assistant, Penfold, keeping him on track. Best of all, "Danger" Mouse was full of hilarious characters, both good and evil -- and fan-favorite Count Duckula even got his own spinoff series.
In 2015, producers brought back the rodent spy for an unprecedented 52 episodes with the all-new "Danger Mouse," which stayed true to the fast-paced, witty, death-defying ethos of the original.
'Thunderbirds' (1965 - 1966)
In 1965, children's television executives took a huge risk and broadcast "Thunderbirds," a show about a crew of brothers -- portrayed by marionettes -- piloting rescue vehicles in 2066. A predecessor to children's military cartoons like "G.I. Joe," "Thunderbirds" was filled with pilots who were ready for action and a surprising amount of emotion from characters with frozen facial expressions. After its cancellation in 1966, "Thunderbirds" maintained a cult following, eventually even coming back into the spotlight when the feature-film spoof "South Park," delivered a modern parable in an all-puppet spoof of "Thunderbirds."
In 2015, the series was rebooted as "Thunderbirds Are Go," with a combination of digital animation and scale models -- creating a new style that maintained the stiff visuals of the original while abandoning the campy flavor the puppets brought. The positive response from kids prompted producers to immediately renew the show for a second and third season, proving children are ready for new Thunderbirds, no strings attached.