Macleans Magazine talked to me about retooling TV shows. I said, in part:

Lee Goldberg, a writer-producer for such heavily retooled shows asDiagnosis Murder (and creator of the novel series The Dead Man) says shows are revised for many reasons: “budget concerns, political issues, previous series commitments, lack of enthusiasm or support at the network.” But, he adds, the primary reason for a retool is summed up in two words: “pure desperation.”

[…]But most of the time, a retool changes a show nobody watches into another show nobody watches. “Perhaps the most startling case of retooling was a series called Klondike,” says Goldberg. “The network thought it was a chilly locale. The show went off the air for two weeks. When it came back it was Acapulco. Didn’t fare any better in a warmer climate.”

I also told the author, columnist Jaime Weinman, that often retooling is a desperate attempt to carry on a hit series after most of the cast has left (like MAYBERRY RFD, THE HOGAN FAMILY, GOLDEN PALACE, and SANFORD ARMS).

For other series, retooling was the norm. THE DORIS DAY SHOW was completely retooled every season for five years…on the drama front, OHARA, the show with Pat Morita as a detective, was retooled every season for three years.

Other examples of radical retooling include BURKE'S LAW, which became AMOS BURKE: SECRET AGENT its last year. THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE show entirely changed its cast and concept in year three. FRINGE has to be the most radical retooling ever (if you don't count the DALLAS season that was written off entirely as a dream).

Another, smaller retooling that usually spells the end of a series is when a series drops their opening theme music in favor of something entirely new to refresh the show — examples include BONANZA, EMERGENCY, KOJAK, SEAQUEST, LOST IN SPACE, CHICAGO HOPE, and 77 SUNSET STRIP. But there are exceptions, too — MONK, SIMON & SIMON, MAGNUM PI, and CHICAGO HOPE are big ones.

But I would say, by and large, that retooling usually fails. 

2 thoughts on “Retooling”

  1. You really think FRINGE is the most radical retooling ever? It kept the same concept — FBI agents investigating bizarre scientific mysteries — and even the same cast, for the most part. It just shifted its emphasis from procedural to serialized stories. The same thing happened to ANGEL in its first season. It was a procedural supernatural private eye series, and they quickly realized it worked better as a serialized show, building on its mythology.
    Anyway — I don’t mean to argue with you. Just thought it was an interesting statement, since, as you said, shows like BURKE’S LAW retooled their entire concept, which seemed more radical than anything FRINGE has done.


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