Matthew Sikes (Gary Graham) and George Francisco (Eric Peirpoint) in the 1989 series Alien Nation.
And yet the trend seems to be escalating, despite recent disasters like the unloved update of Knight Rider. Current projects for next season alone include revamps of V: The Series, Eastwick, and The Prisoner. Fran Kuzui is reviving Buffy (the movie, not the series). Even Teen Wolf, the 1985 Michael J. Fox teenage werewolf romantic comedy, is being brought back by MTV.
So it's perhaps inevitable that someone should turn to Alien Nation, the story of a small population of spotty-headed Newcomers who try to integrate into human society. It began as a film (1988) and then ran on Fox for one season (1989-1990). It was canceled, the victim of a network financial crunch, but Alien Nation never really went away: its loose ends were explored in a series of books and comics and five made-for-TV sequel films airing from 1994 to 1997. Unlike some properties with a lot of potential that flared brightly and then vanished in the ether, Alien Nation has maintained a presence in the sci-fi pantheon.
And its time is now again. Sci Fi Channel, which next week will start calling itself Syfy, has let on it's in development on a new version of Alien Nation.
Alien Nation has a great pedigree: Rockne S. O'Bannon (Farscape, seaQuest DSV) wrote the original movie, and the 1989 series was adapted by O'Bannon and Kenneth Johnson (V, The Incredible Hulk series, The Six Million Dollar Man, and The Bionic Woman).
For the new project, Tim Minear has been tapped to handle the writing, and this is great news. Minear, who has a gift for exploring character and morally complex situations with wry humor, has written classic episodes for Lois & Clark, Strange World, Firefly, Wonderfalls, and particularly some of the best episodes of Angel. This should be a strong fit for the Alien Nation property, which has in the past concentrated on finding new, often darkly comic, angles on entrenched social issues in the context of the relationship between its human/alien odd-couple cop partnership.
"It's genre mixed with procedural mixed with funny mixed with big, giant scary," Minear told Variety. "I love serialized stuff, but this is also a cop franchise. That Starsky & Hutch/Lethal Weapon buddy-cop comedy is absent from TV right now."
The revamp is "very much in keeping with what we've been looking to do," said Syfy programming executive VP Mark Stern: "find themes that are more than just hard sci-fi, something that feels contemporary and relevant and invites a broad audience in."
"The challenge," he added, "is how do you do it in a way that will reinvent it without it feeling like a derivative rehash. [Minear's] approach felt like it wouldn't be a traditional adaptation. We got excited." At least Stern has identified the problem with resurrecting old franchises. We can hope the Minear knows how to create something old that's new again.