The Official Ranking of TV Revivals, From Roseanne to Arrested Development

Nostalgia is big in TV these days, but not every TV revival can be a winner

By Chris Harnick, Billy Nilles Mar 28, 2018 1:40 PMTags
TV Revivals split, Lisa Kudrow, Roseanne Barr, Sean Hayes, Gillian Anderson, Jason BatemanHBO, ABC, NBC, FOX, Netflix

Roseanne is back…but is it better than ever? Revivals aren't new to the world of television, but they are the current fad.

Arrested Development kind of resuscitated the craze in 2013, with 24: Live Another Day, The Comeback and many more following in its lead with new seasons, the most recent being Roseanne. Murphy Brown is waiting in the wings and of course there are all kinds of rumors swirling, from revivals of Fresh Prince to The Office.

However, not all revivals are created equally—or well. From Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life's four-movie structure to Arrested Development's single-character focused episodes, revived TV shows told their stories in a variety of ways. Some were a success, others, well, they were better off dead.

Below, we've ranked the recent batch of TV revivals—there is no Get Smart or Fantasy Island in here—from worst to best.

TV Reboots, Remakes and Revivals Guide: Which Shows Are Returning From the Dead?
9. Arrested Development

Let this revival be a lesson to producers and networks everywhere: Don't do it unless you get schedules of your stars aligned. Arrested Development season four featured the Bluth family on their own adventures, barely intersecting. It didn't work. Part of the magic of Arrested Development was the dynamic between the actors playing this beloved dysfunctional family. Only having a few together here and there did not work.—Chris Harnick

8. Twin Peaks

We're not sure what we were expecting when Showtime announced that it, along with original creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, would be reviving ABC's influential early '90s drama Twin Peaks, but it certainly wasn't the frustrating, confusing, self-indulgent slog that we got in the summer of 2017. Lynch seemed to almost purposely deny fans anything that they were tuning in for, trapping star Kyle MacLachlan in two different characters when all we really wanted was some more time with Dale Cooper and the damn good coffee at the Double R Diner. (May we never hear the name Dougie again!) With a sprawling cast and 18 episodes that barely even took place within the titular city limits, these was almost too much to comprehend. And don't even get us started on that mid-season treatise on the detonation of the atomic bomb because we have no idea what it meant either.—Billy Nilles

7. Prison Break

Was there anything wrong with this 2017 revival of Fox's modest mid-2000s hit, Prison Break? No, not exactly. But did anyone actually want it? No, not exactly. Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell's return to the roles that made them stars came and went with little fanfare, which makes the chatter earlier this year that Fox is developing another season all the more puzzling.—BN

6. 24: Live Another Day

Note: We're talking about the Jack Bauer season, not 24: Legacy. 24: Live Another Day was good, it was comforting seeing Kiefer Sutherland save the day, again, and it's always good to have Mary Lynn Rajskub on TV screens.  Was it revolutionary? Not really, but it was entertaining.—CH

5. The X-Files

Mulder and Scully returned to TV with six new episodes in 2016 and they…weren't great. Yes, it was so much fun to see David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson back as their iconic characters, but the episodes felt off, save for one standout, you know which episode we're talking about. They got the chance to make things right with 10 episodes in 2018 and—gasp—they did! For the most part. The X-Files introduced new writers and directors to the team and with that came a fresh energy for a batch of episodes that felt classic and timely. Anderson has said she's done with the character and that's totally cool. Fox should be done with The X-Files then. The latest revival season didn't end great, but it ended on a sort of hopeful note for the beleaguered FBI agents TV fans love. Let it stay there. The magic of The X-Files lives in the chemistry between Anderson and Duchovny's characters. Let it stay that way.—CH

4. Roseanne

During its nine-season run in the late '80s and early '90s, Roseanne was revolutionary in the way it portrayed a working class family, letting the struggles of the Conner family speak for the million of families out there watching who found themselves in the same boat. With many of those same issues still present, if not intensified, in 2018, the timing for the show's return couldn't be more perfect. Sure, the political posturings of the characters in the premiere episode may rub some people the wrong way, but at the end of the day, the same scrappy and wickedly sarcastic heart that made us fall in love with Roseanne Barr's creation in the first place is present and accounted for. Plus, any opportunity to watch Queen Laurie Metcalf do her thing is a win in our book.—BN

3. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, we never knew how much we missed you. Amy Sherman-Palladino returned to Stars Hollow in November 2016 with four movie-length installments on Netflix. The structure took a minute to get used to, but seeing Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and especially Kelly Bishop, tear it up on screen together just felt right. Things changed, things were the same, things were Gilmore in the best way possible.—CH

2. Will & Grace

Oh honey, sometimes you can go home again! After a few awkward minutes in the 2017 premiere wherein series regulars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally had to explain away the original series finale's 20-year time jump that left their characters estranged, the revival of NBC's beloved sitcom immediately began firing on all cylinders. With co-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan penning the scripts and James Burrows—who directed every episode from the original run—back behind the camera, it truly felt as if no time had passed since we last saw Will and Grace and Karen and Jack. That the top brass at NBC has already renewed Will & Grace for two more seasons should come as no surprise considering what a ratings success its been for NBC's line-up.—BN

1. The Comeback

Valerie Cherish forever. Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback was a gem back when it first aired in 2005 and was a gem when it returned in 2014. The entertainment-industry skewering comedy had more emotion and heart than most long-running dramas and featured dynamic performances from Kudrow as Valerie Cherish, a former sitcom star who turns to reality TV to reclaim the spotlight, and a top-notch supporting cast including the criminally-overlooked late Robert Michael Morris as Val's hair guru and best friend Mickey Dean. The Comeback will go down as one of TV's finest shows—and it's only produced 21 episodes. The revival was perfect in almost every way, including its take on the treatment of women on and working in TV. We want more, but at the same time Valerie got her happy ending, and so did viewers.—CH

Agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments or yell at us on Twitter: @chrisharnick, @billynillesduh.