We’re living in an age of second lives. From reboots to remakes to revivals to whatever they’re calling the new Twin Peaks, it seems that if you’re watching a movie or television show that isn’t about a superhero, it’s probably some updated/resurrected form of a franchise you’re already familiar with. While some of these are welcome, there are other properties that need to stay buried. They lived their lives, and trying to bring them back would go over about as well as resurrecting the dead in a Romero movie. With talk bouncing around the web right now of what the next batch of revived series will be, I wanted to look at some franchises that’ll hopefully stay buried.
Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal was a weird and beautiful thing. It went from being an episodic procedural with a big bad lurking in the background to a soap opera about the most depraved people on earth to Terrence Malick Presents: Thomas Harris’ Hannibal. Sure, we were all disappointed when word came down that the series would end after season three; the fact is, though, whether that ending was the result of Fuller needing a hasty conclusion or if it was always meant to be a season-ending cliffhanger, Hannibal and Will Graham plummeting to their apparent deaths in one another’s arms was as perfect a conclusion as the series could’ve gotten. By this point, anyone tuning in knew this wasn’t a Hannibal Lecter like they’d ever seen before. Unlike previous Lecters, always defined by his relationship to Clarice Starling (she even has to get a shout-out at the end of the cinematic Red Dragon), this iteration finally allowed writers—and audiences—to explore the tangled bad bromance between he and the severely underappreciated Will Graham. Continuing the show, and trying to rehash Silence of the Lambs (as Fuller expressed his desire to do) would have diminished not only Mikkelsen’s performance by forcing the audience to even more closely compare him to Hopkins, but once again bringing everything back to Lecter/Starling. The Holmesian plunge off the cliffs beautifully wrapped up three seasons of creepy will-they-or-won’t-they back-and-forth and finally gave the Graham character a more satisfying conclusion than ending up a mutilated drunk in Miami.
Penny Dreadful sorta lost its mind in its third (and final) season. What had previously been one of TV’s most dark and thoughtful explorations of faith and the nature of evil rapidly dissolved into a sloppily-paced mish-mash of bad tropes, rushed story arcs, and aborted plotlines, all seemingly written by a drugged up fan of the first two seasons rather than an experienced staff writer. Dr. Jekyll popped up for absolutely no reason in an incarnation that completely missed the point of the character; Dorian Grey turned out to serve no greater purpose after all; Ethan never did show down with Dracula’s beast form (whatever that was); and, most glaringly, Vanessa, the most complex and compelling female character on television, abruptly decided to toss aside all of that heroic nonsense from Seasons 1 and 2 in favor of some sweet, sweet vampire sex. It was a slow-moving train car derailment of a disaster that not even Brian Cox could stop. When the screen faded to black on the final episode, it wasn’t a disappointment—it was a mercy killing. Resurrecting the show would require either acknowledging the glaring, myriad faults of Season 3, or completely retconning them. Either task is unenviable. Let the beauty of Seasons 1 and 2 stand on their own, and let it take a lesson from itself about what happens when you try and mix-and-match the parts of something dead to bring it back to life…
Although Arrested Development has already been brought back once, with there being talk of a potential Season 5, this warrants discussion. The first iteration of the show was perhaps one of the most perfect sitcoms ever created. With its Easter eggs, long running jokes, esoteric references, and wonderful characterization, it’s a series that warrants multiple re-watchings to even begin to appreciate the level of work that the writers, directors, and cast put into it. Despite its premature cancellation after only three seasons (what is it about high-quality shows and three season runs?), the original series finale nonetheless proved to be the perfect conclusion to the Bluth family saga, allowing Michael to literally ride off into the sunset. And then we got Season 4. Maybe it’d been too long since the writers had lived inside the show’s universe and worked according to the Bluth’s twisted logic; maybe the cast had lost touch with their characters; maybe it was the episodic nature that prevented it from ever really being the ensemble piece the original series was. Whatever the cause, Season 4 seemed more like a “lost episode” Creepypasta than an appropriate continuation of the series. George Michael and Maeby had gone from cute to creepy; Michael was an unbearable boor, and there simply wasn’t enough Gob. It was a perfect example of trying to make lightning strike the same place twice, with the expected results. Like Hannibal, this one already got the perfect conclusion. Let it rest.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION
The most speculative entry on this list, no one at Paramount has so much talked about a TNG revival as fans of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movies (yes, they exist) have begun wondering about the possibility of Jean-Luc Picard and crew getting the same treatment. No. No. And, in Klingon—Ghobe! Unlike most other shows for which there’s talk of a revival, TNG didn’t suffer an early demise or leave fans with unanswered questions. It lived a long, natural life, taking viewers on seven years of adventures with the Enterprise-D crew before gracefully bowing out with a heartfelt and satisfying final episode. Too, the show was, in many ways, a product of its time. The cautiously optimistic, socially aware but non-judgmental climate of the late 80s/early 90s is very much woven into the fabric of the show, and the characters’ immutable altruism and basic decency would seem quaint amidst today’s flock of compromised heroes and villain protagonists like Walter White and Don Draper. A resurrection of TNG that resonated with today’s audiences would require giving everyone a dark backstory, muddying their interpersonal relationships, amping up the action, and exploring disturbing and morally ambiguous themes and plotlines. Star Trek already did that. It was called Deep Space Nine and it was awesome. Back off, Abrams.