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TV series come back in new forms

What next? A remake of the '60s sitcom "My Mother the Car"? (A driver hearing advice from his mom-reincarnated-as-wheels wouldn't seem so weird now. Cars already talk to us.)

Maybe TV will take another crack at that '90s musical drama bomb "Cop Rock." (Call it "Cop Hip-Hop." Gotta stay on top of trends.)

Finished TV series don't necessarily fade away anymore. More and more get reboot revivals. Cable's Sci Fi channel hit the jackpot with its more adult "reimagining" of '70s space fave " Battlestar Galactica." Then NBC bombed out redoing same-era actioners "Bionic Woman" and " Knight Rider." This year, TV's "creative" execs are fishing deeper into the dead-shows barrel.

"Cupid" re-emerges on ABC March 31. Bobby Cannavale stars as the matchmaking love god/nutjob, played by Jeremy Piven on the same network for 15 episodes back in 1998.

"Parenthood" is being developed into a series - again - and by NBC, again. Twelve episodes ran in 1990 as an early single-camera comedy with Ed Begley Jr. as a hapless modern dad.

"V" has been ordered to pilot by ABC. It's reworking NBC's 1984 sci-fi series about alien invaders and the human resistance, this time starring Scott Wolf and Morena Baccarin.

"The Prisoner" returns this summer on AMC. James Caviezel becomes the nameless Number 6 - played by Patrick McGoohan in the '60s classic about a former spy detained in an idyllic "village" prison by devious secrets - seeking Number 2 (now Ian McKellen).

Targeting 'Cupid'

TV series remakes are nothing new (see sidebar). But the current craze is more profuse, and it plumbs a different well. Instead of reusing iconic hits, beloved characters or anthology brand names, these reboots find inspiration in lesser-known shows that to most viewers should seem entirely new.

In the strangest twist, the original creator of "Cupid" is doing the remake, too. Rob Thomas - who in the meantime hit the big time with cult obsession "Veronica Mars" - couldn't have been more pumped at last summer's press tour. "I loved writing the show 10 years ago. It's that thing you get yanked away from you," he told TV critics, "and I feel like I've got more stories to tell." Lucky for him, ABC felt the same way.

"We really liked that show," said ABC programmer Steve McPherson, who wasn't at the network when 1998's "Cupid" was scheduled in the little-viewed 10 p.m. Saturday time slot. Despite TV critics' enthusiasm, audiences failed to find this romance-of-the-week saga driven by an apparently troubled young man who insists he actually is Cupid and the young female psychiatrist who wonders whether her engaging patient is being truthful about being the god of love. When Thomas pitched similar concepts to today's ABC execs, they suggested he simply take another shot at his idiosyncratic original.

With a few changes, of course. "I think it had a very specific angle on the casting," McPherson said at press tour. "We just felt like, rather than try to fabricate something new on that," Thomas might want to reframe the same characters. And so quirky Sarah Paulson ("Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") joins romantic favorite Cannavale ("Third Watch," "Will & Grace"), inhabiting the roles created by offbeat dynamo Piven and harder-edged TV mainstay Paula Marshall ( "Gary Unmarried").

"My theory going in 10 years ago," says Thomas, "was that all the comedy is going to come from this totally id-driven guy versus this very button-down, serious woman." Now he's "trying to soften those edges" and find "soulful moments" for both protagonists.

Any "Cupid" would be a better fit these days at ABC, which has recently found its focus in romance-driven female-appeal hours like " Grey's Anatomy." But Thomas hastened to add the reboot was designed to be "a romantic comedy that didn't scare men away, that didn't seem so female that men wouldn't watch."

A more gender-balanced update certainly worked for "Battlestar Galactica" when Sci Fi revived the 1978 ABC series. The profile of women characters was sharply raised in its post-apocalyptic tale of society rebuilding among surviving humans and an attack force of doppleganger Cylon robots. Sci Fi's self-proclaimed "reimagining" made the concept more adult, even metaphysical, and allegorical to today's current events. That version concluded its narrative last week after 83 hours, while cancelation killed ABC's original after 34 episodes.

'Prisoner' uncaged

"The Prisoner" ran only 17 episodes when CBS imported it from the U.K. in 1968, but that was all McGoohan intended. The creator-performer wrapped up his enigmatic tale with a hallucinatory finale. That and McGoohan's recent death seems to leave the remakers of AMC's summer series plenty of room to maneuver, even as their work stokes debate among the '60s version's devotees.

"We're all total huge fans of the original," producer Trevor Hopkins said at press tour, "but we realized very early on that what we couldn't do was copy it. What [writer] Bill Gallagher wanted to do was reinterpret it." But still, said director Nick Hurran, "there's the Village, an ideal world where everything will be provided for you - as long as you don't ask questions."

The new "Prisoner" does reflect a more global society. The British production crew cast Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ") as an American protagonist, and the Village locale is meant to be less specific. (African locations were used in Namibia and South Africa.)

But its meanings may be more explicit. Number 2 co-star McKellen told critics that, by the end of the six-episode season, "you know everything about the Village - where it came from, where it's going to, who created it, why they did it, and what it's like to actually live there."

McKellen respects the original "Prisoner," he says, "with a lot of affection. But this, what we've done, is its own thing."

THE SHOW MUST GO ON - AGAIN

Some TV creations get updated ('90s hit " Beverly Hills 90210" becomes The CW's current "90210"). Other concepts change up the characters ('60s show "The Monkees" becomes '80s show "The New Monkees"). And many are transplanted from one country to another (U.K. version of "The Office" gets Americanized). But these shows entirely recycled an earlier hit:

Perry Mason / The New Perry Mason

1957-66 (CBS) starring Raymond Burr

1973-74 (CBS) starring Monte Markham

The Odd Couple / The New Odd Couple

1970-75 (ABC) Tony Randall and Jack Klugman

1982-83 (ABC) Ron Glass and Demond Wilson

Sea Hunt

1958-61 (syndicated) Lloyd Bridges

1987-88 (syndicated) Ron Ely

The Munsters / The Munsters Today

1964-66 (CBS) Fred Gwynne

1988-90 (syndicated) John Schuck

Dark Shadows

1966-71 (ABC daytime) Jonathan Frid

1991 (NBC prime time) Ben Cross

Route 66

1960-64 (CBS) George Maharis and Martin Milner

1993 (NBC) Dan Cortese and James Wilder

The Untouchables

1959-63 (ABC) Robert Stack

1993-94 (syndicated) Tom Amandes

The Fugitive

1964-67 (ABC) David Janssen

2000-01 (CBS) Tim Daly

Bonanza / Ponderosa

1959-73 (NBC) Lorne Greene

2001-02 (PAX) Daniel Hugh Kelly

Kolchak: The Night Stalker/Night Stalker

1974-75 (ABC)

Darren McGavin

2005 (ABC) Stuart Townsend

ANTHOLOGY REVIVALS

The Twilight Zone (1959-65, CBS; 1985-87, CBS; 2002, UPN)

The Outer Limits (1963-65, ABC; 1995-2002, Showtime, Sci Fi)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-65, CBS and NBC; 1985-86, NBC; 1987-88, USA)

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