There are certain shows you can see being successfully remade and/or reinvented. Most of them, in fact, assuming they are properly executed.
Hawaii 5-0, I guess, has been fairly successful for CBS. I think the secret is to pick a show that people might remember the original cast of fondly, but which didn’t offer a really iconic performance. Older viewers might remember Jack Lord as the star of the first Hawaii 5-O, but you can’t say he owned the part to the extent that no one else could play it. Similarly, I could see remakes of, say, McMillan and Wife or McCloud working with new actors. Yet it’s a lot harder to picture somebody else doing Columbo.
NBC just announced a remake is in the works of Charlie’s Angels. Again, no problem there, I think. The show’s concept is stronger than the actors we remember in the show, and indeed, it was already been reinvented as a successful movie (and less successful sequel). Indeed, even when the original show was at its peak of popularity, genuine cultural phenom Farrah Fawcett very poorly gambled that no one else could fill the ‘hot blonde’ slot on the show. She demanded more money and threatened to leave the show.
Needless to say, she proved disastrously incorrect, even if the blondes that followed her were comparative non-entities. (Suzanne Somers proved even dumber, making the same exact gamble on Three’s Company after Fawcett had already gone down in flames doing the same thing. Somers gave up millions of dollars in income because she failed to recognize that the one and only person the show couldn’t easily replace would have been John Ritter. It’s harder to find genuine comic timing than perky breasts.)
Meanwhile, ABC has probably just been saved millions of dollars by happenstance. The producer of House MD was shepherding a reworking of The Rockford Files for the alphabet network. Now, that’s a horrible idea. James Garner WAS Jim Rockford, and moreover an actor who really had a really unique personality. Even after securing what by TV standards was a ‘name,’ actor Delmot Mulroney, the remake idea seems obviously doomed. Perhaps luckily for all involved, a major planned story arc on House somehow imploded, and the producer had to flee back to his cash cow to help get things back on track.
That doesn’t excuse the executives who green lit the idea, though. There are zillions of successful shows from the past to rouse from the grave. Why pick one of the comparative few that it would be all be impossible to rejuvenate?