TV show ch-ch-changes?
October 6, 2006 10:38 AM   Subscribe

TV series that make radical changes? [possible spoilers]

With tonight's season premiere of Battlestar Galatica (!), I was wondering if anyone knew of good examples of TV shows that made radical shifts in plot, characters, etc. from season to season?

The examples that come to mind: the infamous "shower scene" in Dallas and JJ Abrams "reboots" for Alias and Lost.

Any others?
posted by jca to Media & Arts (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Something very similar at AskMeFi.
posted by holgate at 10:44 AM on October 6, 2006

If the West Wing hadn't been cancelled, they would have continued with an almost completely changed administration.
posted by bonaldi at 10:45 AM on October 6, 2006

They just killed off the lead character of Fox's new show Vanished in episode 7.

Trying to continue X-Files without the chemistry of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson -- and, looking back, the pairing of them and the slow development of their relationship was the only really good macro idea the show ever had -- was basically a reboot. It's not that the last two seasons were bad on their face, but it pointed up that all the sci-fi gimcrackery were only fun to the extent that Mulder & Scully were the new Nick & Nora.
posted by blueshammer at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2006

Having seen every episode of Lost, when did it reboot?
posted by drezdn at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

When Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy) left Golden Girls (the series finale featured her marriage to a character played by Leslie Nielsen), the remaining regular cast members attempted to "reboot" the show by taking management of a hotel: the Golden Palace, featuring Cheech Marin as the eccentric cook, and Don Cheadle (later starred in the acclaimed movie Hotel Rwanda) as the manager.

I suspect it failed for several reasons: first, Golden Girls itself was faltering under the weight of severl back-lot writer and producer changes. Second, I think the American public was ready to embrace new products (Friends was only two years away), and the 'girls' had already had their time in the spotlight. Estelle Getty's rumored alcoholism may have also played a role.
posted by The Confessor at 10:58 AM on October 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

I missed the reboot in "LOST" too. I sincerely dread it as an inevitability, given J.J. Abrams' history, but so far I just know that Season One was a vastly different show with different possibilities than where we stand at the start of Season Three.

I'm very curious about how "Battlestar Galactica" progresses. I actually became a fan there after my obsession with "LOST" subsided enough to leave some room for another show.
posted by pzarquon at 11:02 AM on October 6, 2006

The Facts of Life went from being about a girls' school to running a sandwich shop.
posted by JanetLand at 11:03 AM on October 6, 2006

Bob Newhart's "Newhart" (the one with the Vermont inn and the inimitable Larry, Daryl and Daryl) did a partial reboot -- the wife was recast, the housekeeper was recast, her boyfriend was recast, and the entire series went from being shot on video to being shot on film, but the basic concept of the series was unchanged.
posted by briank at 11:04 AM on October 6, 2006

After the seventh season of The Practice, nearly all of the lead actors were axed. To add insult to injury (if I recall correctly), they were fired after they had spent the spring promoting the show to advertisers at the upfronts.

They brought in James Spader for the last season and then spun the show off into Boston Legal.
posted by mhum at 11:05 AM on October 6, 2006

Also, Coach began with Craig T. Nelson as the head coach of a Minnesota state university football team but relocated him to a professional football team in Florida in its last couple of seasons. Despite the change in setting, the cast remained largely intact.
posted by mhum at 11:10 AM on October 6, 2006

Response by poster: Facts of Life is a good example -- it had two "reboots". After the first season, when the new writers were brought in and they moved the girls out of the "dorm" (bye bye Molly Ringwald) and then when they graduated and began to run that store (hello George Clooney).
posted by jca at 11:13 AM on October 6, 2006

"Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" went from being about Buck and defending Earth/its interests to them Buck and Wilma traveling around in a spaceship looking for Earth's "lost tribes," in a sort of "Star Trek" /"Battlestar Galactica" puree of plots and character types.

The plots got a lot more insane, too. Buck became a satyr in one episode, and in another the ship was menaced by little people ala Time Bandits.
posted by mph at 11:20 AM on October 6, 2006

Ah, Edna's Edibles.
Extras is actually a good example - in the first season Ricky Gervais is just an extra in various shows and movies and it's all about the behind scenes stuff and actors being their supposedly nasty selves, and in the second season he's had his own script accepted by the BBC to make and star in his own show - it's done like a 720 degree turn around.
posted by Flashman at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2006

Buck Rogers reminded me of Wonder Woman. The first season was set in WWII and she helped Steve Trevor fight the nazis. Season 2 opened with Steve Trevor JR., and was set in the seventies. That's just weird.
posted by saffry at 11:25 AM on October 6, 2006

The TV series War of the Worlds significantly changed in tone from season one to season two.
posted by Mapes at 11:42 AM on October 6, 2006

The most obvious answer to this question is Dr. Who.
posted by MsMolly at 11:49 AM on October 6, 2006

The scifi comedy Red Dwarf did several reboots. Mostly involving virtual reality ("it was all a dream!") and nanobots ("any sufficiently advanced technology, etc").
posted by meehawl at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2006

what about the cast switching that happened with the dukes of hazard?
posted by lester's sock puppet at 11:59 AM on October 6, 2006

Charles in Charge? A new season opened with a different family in the same house as before. They said that the old family had moved out, but it was surprising. Of course, I was 11.
posted by unknowncommand at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2006

How about It's About Time? (Link's to its IMDb trivia page which describes its mid-season reboot.)
posted by Rash at 12:00 PM on October 6, 2006

Does ER still have any of its original characters?
posted by macadamiaranch at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2006

With all the talk about reboots, I'm surprised no one has mentioned Reboot.

Abc cancelled the series after two seasons, but it continued to be produced and aired on YTV. The series changed dramatically.
posted by utsutsu at 12:14 PM on October 6, 2006

Does ER still have any of its original characters?

Laura Innes (Dr. Weaver) is still on, though she actually joined in the second season, I believe.
posted by scody at 12:18 PM on October 6, 2006

I think Yvette Freeman as Haleh has been in every season of ER. But I don't think she's a regular, front billed member of the cast. The last of the first season regular cast to leave the show was Noah Wyle.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:30 PM on October 6, 2006

Though it was gradual, the original Law and Order has gone through as many as two complete rotations of the cast. Still the same roles and settings, though.
Also NYPD Blue - At the end of the show Dennis Franz was (I think) the only original cast member left from Season 1.

I still haven't seen an answer to the question about where Lost rebooted. Seems to me they're all still on that damn island, except for the few fatalities.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 12:30 PM on October 6, 2006

Buffy The Vampire Slayer killed off main characters constantly from the very beginning, and went from high school to college to work.

The Wire has radically changed focus each year, emphasized by the intro music being performed by someone different each season.
posted by bingo at 12:42 PM on October 6, 2006

Hmm, I don't know if it counts as Radical, but The Wire on HBO has made some major changes to the cast over the years.

Great show
posted by Cycloptichorn at 12:45 PM on October 6, 2006

Do minor characters count? Is Kubiak Jerry still on ER? If so he might count, though he came and went quite a bit in the time till I stopped watching some years back.
posted by phearlez at 12:46 PM on October 6, 2006

I find it a bit ironic that nobody's mentioned the horror that was "Galactica 1980".

If you've never seen it, try to picture the original "Battlestar Galactica", except without a spaceship, without Cylons, and the crew replaced with a cast of children so creepy-naive-polite that they make the kids on the Brady Bunch look like a bunch of Hell's Angels.

Sci Fi runs it once in a while in their afternoon mini-marathons. I can only assume this is because, secretly, they hate us fans.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2006

No one mentions switching Darrens on Bewitched? Maybe that's not a reboot as the show didn't change, just the actor.
posted by bDiddy at 1:54 PM on October 6, 2006

Black Adder. The first season was set in the middle ages, the second in the 16th century, the third in the 19th century, the fourth during WWI. Two of the characters remain the same throughout, and many of the actors re-appear in different roles.
posted by Emanuel at 2:02 PM on October 6, 2006

Jag was cancelled by NBC then picked up by CBS. Two female characters that had been key to the show were gone, and Mac, the Admiral and other characters were added.

The producers had to jump through some hoops because Catherine Bell had played a character who was killed in the first seasons cliffhanger finale. When she was brought back as Mac, they did some silly things to make her the doppleganger of the woman who was killed, and played up a relationship between that woman and Harm that had not existed in the original airing.
posted by saffry at 3:36 PM on October 6, 2006

Jerry in ER got shot on last season's finale but he's OK and, I assume, will come back. Last night there was a substitute desk clerk who provided some comic relief.

ER and Law & Order are franchises; the characters are supposed to rotate every few years but the location and the basic story framework stays the same.
posted by matildaben at 3:49 PM on October 6, 2006

Personally I'd like to know what happened in the new episode of Battlestar Galactica. I stopped watching the show midway through season 1 because it stopped being a guy show and became a soap opera.
posted by Vindaloo at 3:52 PM on October 6, 2006

Grange Hill, a long running and popular childrens' drama about a high school in the UK, has significant cast changes each year (or, at least, it did while I was growing up) with the coming and going of different students and teachers.

In a similar vein, Teachers, an adult British comedy series about teachers working at a high school, changed dramatically between seasons with the main character leaving after season 3, multiple characters mysteriously disappearing, and the school changing name.
posted by wackybrit at 3:58 PM on October 6, 2006

The surprisingly excellent sci-fi show Slider lost John Rhys-Davies somewhere in the third season, replacing him with the busty (but talenetless) Kari Wuhrer. Each next season brought in another replacement among the original gang of four, until only Cleavant Derricks from the original cast remained.

Supposedly, John Rhys-Davies was axed for insulting a Fox mid level manager at a party years before. The manager then gained enough pull in the show to get him canned.

posted by jedrek at 4:03 PM on October 6, 2006

Millenium had a vaguely apocalyptic ending to its second season, which was expected to be its last. It was, however, brought back, so it was all retconned to "an isolated incident", and the show reinvented itself for its third season.

BTW, there's a huge different between major right turns for a show and ongoing character changes. That's not what the poster is asking for.
posted by mkultra at 5:43 PM on October 6, 2006

This is highly common in Indian soap operas. Characters turn from good to bad, enemies become lovers, etc. Indeed, often they'll signal a character's change of heart by changing the actor.
posted by divabat at 8:52 PM on October 6, 2006

Response by poster: stopped being a guy show and became a soap opera

And why do you think these things are mutally exclusive?

By the way, the BSG season premiere was great. ;)
posted by jca at 9:01 PM on October 6, 2006

Well, "Lost" did introduce the tailies as a whole new set of additional characters, which was kind of a reboot since the cast was pretty fixed for the first season.
posted by smackfu at 9:05 PM on October 6, 2006

There was Sanford and Archie Bunker's Place, although either could be seen as an entirely different spinoff.
posted by First Post at 12:18 AM on October 7, 2006

"Valerie": The show's namesake lead (Valerie Harper) got in a contract dispute with the produceers and walked off. They killed her character off and brought in Sandy Duncan as a replacement. The show went on for a while after that; first as "Valerie's Family" and finally as "The Hogan Family."

"Ellen": I believe they did some major retooling between the first and second seasons, replacing most of the main ensemble with new characters.

"Mrs. Columbo": This might be the king daddy of retools. As originally intended, the show was to be about the wife of Peter Falk's very popular TV detective Columbo. Mrs. Columbo worked as a reporter and solved mysteries of her own while taking care of their kid.

The early episodes followed this story but for a number of reasons people couldn't buy it -- Kate Mulgrew, who played Mrs. Columbo, is about 25-30 years younger than Peter Falk, she wasn't the nice Italian lady many viewers pictured him with, etc.

Over the course of the series, they managed to change her name to Kate Callahan, change the name of the show to "Kate Loves a Mystery" and establish that this Kate Columbo/Callahan had absolutely no connection to the Mrs. Columbo of the Peter Falk show.

The beauty is they managed to get all this done in the two short seasons the show ran (13 episodes total).
posted by Opposite George at 1:15 AM on October 7, 2006

More on "Mrs. Columbo" here (scroll down.) The generally-agreed-upon-as-awful concept came from network brass, who made the series despite the strong objections of the original "Columbo" show's producers:
The show was long gone before the real "Columbo" made his return on ABC, but Levinson and Link had an idea of how to treat this series on "Columbo". They wanted to have Columbo complaining, "There's a woman who's running around pretending to be my wife. She's a young girl. She's charging things. I wish my wife was like that. She's an imposter."
posted by Opposite George at 1:28 AM on October 7, 2006

Saved by the Bell. The show changed each time they graduated up. Originally the show was about Jr. High and I think had them in the midwest with minor differences, then they went to high school and suddenly the location etc... was different. Then they had a season where they worked at a tropical resort and the school wasn't around. Then there was the college years. Following that they had the new class back in high school, where they had a new cast except for the principle and Screech (working as a principle's assistant) and I believe they changed cast on that show suddenly between seasons but the less said about that version the better.

Another valid question for Ask Mefi might be should I be worried I know all that about Saved by the Bell?
posted by rfbjames at 3:54 PM on October 7, 2006

Retool entry on the TV Tropes Wiki. Also search for entries containing "Retool" there.

Personally I'd like to know what happened in the new episode of Battlestar Galactica.

Vindaloo, meet Television Without Pity. They seem to be treating the two-hour premiere as two separate episodes. (Links currently go to "recaplets" which are pretty good summaries in themselves. Detailed, multi-page, snarky full recaps should be up within a week.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:47 PM on October 8, 2006

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