For Better or Worse – Five British TV Shows That Came Back From The Dead

Upstairs Downstairs

Upstairs Downstairs

Grey Feeney

“Yes Minister” Ended 1988 – Revived 2013

The knives were out for BBC executives when it emerged that they had passed up the opportunity to resurrect the much loved political satire Yes Minister – no less than 25 years after it was last seen on the small screen. Satellite TV channel UK Gold quickly swooped in to pick up the new version of the show which is largely based upon the long running stage version of the saga. Despite the fanfare, it quickly became apparent that Britain has moved on since the Jim Hacker era. TV cameras weren’t even allowed in parliament when the original version of the show was aired so people were genuinely intrigued by the comic insight into life in Downing Street. A generation later and Rupert Murdoch, Edwina Currie and Alistair Campbell have ensured that we all know about anything and everything that goes on behind closed doors at Whitehall. Gentle nudge, nudge, wink, wink political satire may still have a fan base in British theater but cynical TV fans gave the new show a resounding thumbs down.

“Doctor Who” Ended 1988 – Revived 2004

Dodgy sets, sub-par acting and a lack of cash saw Doctor Who die a slow death in the late 80s. Years later, Welsh TV wizard Russell T Davies resurrected the long running show with a high-tech version that was designed to appeal to a more mainstream audience. Out went the question mark shaped umbrella and in came a wise cracking, leather jacket wearing Doctor Who was ably assisted by tabloid favorite – Billie Piper. Artisans say the new show lacked depth while fans of the classic series cringed at the continuity errors and abandonment of the traditional episodic format. Nevertheless, the British public loved it and it continues to be one of the BBC’s top shows going into the eighth year of it’s resurrection.

“Upstairs Downstairs” Ended 1975 – Revived 2010

Upstairs Downstairs is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best British TV costume drama of all time. The original starring Gordon Jackson and Jean Marsh was a huge hit on both sides of the ocean and fans all over the world were jubilant when the show was resurrected in 2010. However, things started to go wrong when ITV launched its own butler-oriented drama Downton Abbey just weeks before Upstairs Downstairs made its long awaited return. Worse followed when leading lady Eileen Atkins quit the cast in a row about the direction of the show. Viewers soon followed her out the exit door as the second season of the show completely forgot its roots and evolved into a drama based around same sex romance in the late 1930s. The theme in question had already been thoroughly explored in the recently aired Night Watch starring none other than Upstairs Downstairs actress Claire Foy. That show was critically acclaimed so there were few takers for a soapish version of the same story based around cliched scripts and cartoonish characters. Oh and they also decided to introduce the character of King George VI – sans speech impediment – just weeks after The King’s Speech hit the box office.

“Survivors” Ended 1977 – Revived 2008

Survivors was a cult classic post-apocalyptic drama created by Terry Nation, a Northern Irish sci-fi writer whose other credits include Doctor Who and the Daleks. Like his Doctor Who stories, Survivors was a slow moving piece in which the focus was on character development rather than special effects and action sequences. The popular show lasted for three years before disagreements among the cast and the production crew led to its demise. Nearly 30 years later, the BBC decided to bring the show back to life with a jazzed up version that was supposed to appeal to the Primeval and Doctor Who crowd. It didn’t work. Despite a strong cast that included Max Beesley and Paterson Joseph, the new series was lackluster because Terry Nation’s realistic characters were replaced with one dimensional caricatures. The old show was based around the Survivors’ attempts to get past the apocalypse whereas the new show was based around solving the mystery behind the mass extinction event. The writers didn’t seem to realize that there is no point solving a mystery when there are no policemen or judges left to hold the culprits accountable. After two dreary seasons, the BBC decided it was better to leave the revived show’s fans with an unsolved cliffhanger rather than wasting another penny on the badly made show.

“Jim’ll Fix It” Ended 1994 – revived 2011

When he was alive, Jimmy Savile was regarded as a trendier version of Mother Theresa who had dedicated his life to helping people in need – especially kids. It seemed like a fitting tribute when the BBC resurrected Savile’s long running show to honor the much loved DJ just after he passed away late in 2011. However, Eastenders star Shane Richie utterly failed to revitalize the show as the new Savile but the failure of Jim’ll Fix It Mark II as just the start of the BBC’s problems. It soon emerged that while the BBC entertainment chiefs were lamenting the loss of the DJ that their counterparts in the news room were investigating claims that he was a child molestor. What began as a Christmas TV tribute ended as a sickening scandal that engulfed the BBC, 10 Downing Street and the nation as a whole.

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