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BEST: Dallas (1978-1991 and 2012)
Dallas was such a buzz-generating TV behemoth in the late '70s and early '80s that it's easy to overlook just how important — and influential — the soapy oil-baron series was for TV history. The ''Who Shot J.R.?'' twist set a standard for zeitgeist-capturing thrills long before the finale-as-cliffhanger became an expectation for most TV shows. And Larry Hagman's lovable villain J.R. predicted the whole modern vogue for anti-heroes. The new Dallas might never live up to its progenitor's pop culture relevance, but give the remake some credit: It recaptures the original's decadent, sexy appeal, and it's bringing Hagman back on your television.
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BEST: Hawaii Five-0 (1968-1980 and 2010-present)
Rarely have two shows with the same title been more different. The original Five-O starred Jack Lord — craggly-faced, dripping with gravitas — in a relatively straightforward, sober detective series. The new Five-O features a gorgeous, bantering ensemble cast with fantastic clothes investigating blockbuster-movie villains with iPads and explosions. The two shows do, however, share a fantastic tropical setting, which means that that both generations feel like vivid travelogues masquerading as procedurals. (And that theme song!)
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BEST: Beverly Hills, 90210(1990-2000) and 90210 (2008-present)
The CW's 90210 has never achieved the same zeitgeist domination as Beverly Hills, 90210 in its heyday. But over four seasons, the reboot has managed to carve its own distinctive space, with a mixture of plot lines that are genuinely moving (a teenager coming out of the closet) and pure batcrap crazy (everything that ever happened to Annie Wilson.) And the new 90210 will always be remembered for its greatest creation: Naomi Clark, the oddly appealing femme fatale played by prenatal camp icon AnnaLynne McCord.
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BEST: Battlestar Galactica (1978-79 and 2004-2009)
The original Battlestar Galactica is not as bad as its reputation would indicate. It had a great pulp sci-fi concept, a fascinating internal mythology, and some genuinely interesting (albeit prohibitively expensive) production design. But it's still thrilling to see how completely the new BSG transformed a sci-fi cheesefest into an urgent, addictive, epic tale. Over four seasons, BSG explored politics, religion, and what it means to be human, becoming one of the great defining shows of the Bush II era.
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BEST: Star Trek/Star Trek: The Next Generation (1966-1969 and 1987-1994)
Fans were skeptical about the Star Trek sequel series, which featured a new cast exploring the cosmos a full century after Kirk and Co. But if anything, The Next Generation managed to improve on the original series, with a giddy ensemble of characters and a career-defining performance by Patrick Stewart as a more cerebral starship captain. TNG set a new standard for franchise expansion, setting the stage for Deep Space Nine (yay!), Voyager (moderate cry of approval!), and Enterprise (sad trombone.)
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WORST: V (1984 and 2009)
The original miniseries V was hugely successful, and still holds up surprisingly well today. It's a dynamic mix of deep-thought sci-fi, with some memorably disgusting visuals — guinea pigs would never feel safe again. The new series had some nifty ideas, but its first season never managed to compare to the original. ABC is bringing it back in the fall, and the season finale was pretty fun, so cross your fingers on this one.
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WORST: Grapevine (1992 and 2000)
Grapevine started out life as an eccentric early-'90s sitcom. Characters talked to the camera, and each episode focused on a different romantic entanglement. David Frankel produced the show, Steven Eckholdt starred, and the series lasted six episodes. Eight years later, Grapevine returned. Characters still talked to the camera; each episode still focused on a different romantic entanglement. David Frankel still produced the show, Steven Eckholdt still starred (albeit as a different character), and the series lasted five episodes. The difference? A little show called Sex and the City, which made a once-fresh concept look like yesterday's news.
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WORST: Melrose Place (1992 and 2009)
Melrose Place made it all look easy: the twisted plots, the endless bedroom musical chairs, the sexy doctors, the relentless tornado of beautiful bitchery that was Heather Locklear's Amanda Woodward. Last season's CW remake tried hard to recapture the gonzo magic, but the curious decision to kick-start the new series with a murder mystery detracted from potentially fun elements (like Katie Cassidy's Ella). Even the departure of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and the return of Locklear couldn't save this dud.
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WORST: Cupid (1998 and 2009)
It's an irresistible notion: A man claims to be the mythological god Cupid, punished by his father Zeus and forced to remain on earth until he can unite a hundred couples in love. The original Cupid jump-started Jeremy Piven's career and is still fondly remembered, more than a decade after its untimely death. So it was a bit of a bummer when the new series, headlined by Bobby Cannavale, felt so DOA.
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WORST: Bionic Woman (1976 and 2007)
David Eick was an executive producer of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, which turned a '70s sci-fi cheesefest into a stunningly modern epic. That's a hard trick to pull off twice. Look no further than Eick's next project, Bionic Woman, which unsuccessfully tried to add dramatic heft to Lindsay Wagner's fondly forgotten Six Million Dollar Man spin-off. Still, Battlestar's Katee Sackhoff made a fun, feisty villain — why wasn't the show about her?
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WORST: Get Smart (1965 and 1995)
The original TV show was created by comedy legends Mel Brooks and Buck Henry in the early prime of their creative lives. The '90s remake starred Andy Dick. 'Nuff said.
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WORST: Coupling (2000 and 2003)
Hollywood has a long history of raiding British television for remake fodder: Iconic shows like All in the Family and Cosby have their roots across the pond. Still, the strange case of Coupling deserves special attention. The original BBC show was already a semi-clone of Friends, albeit with naughtier language and more explicit sexuality. NBC cloned the clone, removed the language and the sexuality, put it on the same night as Friends...and watched it crash and burn. (Full props to the casting director, though: the main characters were played by Jay Harrington, Sonya Walger, and Lindsay Price.)
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WORST: Two awful remakes of Fawlty Towers (1975 and 1979): Amanda's (1983) and Payne (1999)
Since Fawlty Towers is one of the best sitcoms of all time, it makes sense that it's gotten the American-remake treatment multiple times. Unfortunately, hard as they tried, Bea Arthur and John Larroquette just couldn't live up to John Cleese's snobby hotelier. There was actually a third remake, Chateau Snavely, that never even went to series after filming a presumably awful pilot. (Further proof that Golden Girls is the center of the pop culture universe: Arthur's future costar Betty White starred in Snavely.)
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WORST: The Love Boat (1977) and The Love Boat: The Next Wave (1998)
There was something endlessly charming about the original Love Boat. Gavin MacLeod's Captain Stubing presided over a weekly parade of guest stars, mostly fading celebrities and superstars of yesteryear. It was silly, but never boring. It was a kind of proto-Dancing With the Stars, albeit with more romance and less sequins. (And, you know, fictional.) The UPN remake was silly and boring, although the episode featuring MacLeod and his old costars was a nice touch.
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WORST: Knight Rider (1982 and 2008)
Nominally a sequel to the original David Hassellhoff actioner, the new Knight Rider tried hard to update the concept of a talking supercar. But audiences perhaps understandably turned away when it became clear that new star Justin Bruening was no Hoff. Lots of behind-the-scenes turnover — Val Kilmer replaced Will Arnett as the voice of KITT, and much of the cast was fired halfway through the season — probably didn't help either.