The reboot of “S.W.A.T.” looks vaguely familiar to anyone who saw the 1975-76 original.
The new show, which premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. on CBS/Ch. 2, is about the members of the L.A.P.D.‘s Special Weapons And Tactics team. Some of the character names are repeated. And it features a bit of the same instrumental theme song that hit No. 1 on the charts four decades ago.
Other than that, it’s a different show. Executive producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who co-wrote the pilot with Shawn Ryan (“The Shield”), wasn’t even thinking about “S.W.A.T.” when he started developing it. He was thinking about growing up in a neighborhood where “a 12-year-old kid … was shot and killed by a police officer and another neighbor of mine was an actual police officer, so we had a love-hate relationship with police growing up.”
That’s personified in the character of Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson (Shemar Moore, “Criminal Minds”), a guy who grew up in a part of Los Angeles where the police are feared; a cop who becomes the leader of his S.W.A.T. team when his predecessor (who’s white) accidentally shoots an innocent African-American teenager.
“To marry that with an iconic title like ‘S.W.A.T.’ just seemed to be to me a really, really great place to start,” Thomas said.
Although networks in general, and CBS in particular, have found some success by recycling titles (“Hawaii Five-0,” “MacGyver”), Ryan fears the “S.W.A.T.” title will be a double-edged sword. He worries that viewers will assume it’s “just a dumb, sort of action show” that’s all about “gunplay and some run-and-gun and some chases.”
The new “S.W.A.T.” has all of that, but it also deals with important issues without preaching; the cast is engaging; and it’s fun. Justin Lin (“Fast & Furious,” “Star Trek Beyond”) directed the pilot, and it’s gorgeous. (He’s also an executive producer.)
The new “S.W.A.T.” is one of the best surprises of the TV season. It’s proof that an old show can be rebooted successfully.
(A reboot, by the way, is not the same as a revival. The 2012-14 version of “Dallas” was not a reboot: It featured several of the same actors playing the same characters as in the 1978-91 original. The new version of “Dynasty” is a reboot: It’s based on the original and features characters with the same names, but, in its reality, the 1981-89 original never existed.)
Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Here are the best and the worst of TV reboots:
1. “Battlestar Galactica” • The 1978-79 original was cheesy and hokey; the 2005-09 reboot turned out to be one of TV’s all-time great dramas.
2. “All in the Family” • Not only did Archie Bunker & Co. turn out to be a show (1971-79) that outshone the Britcom on which it was based, “Till Death Us Do Part” (1965-75), but it spawned “Archie Bunker’s Place,” “Maude,” “Good Times,” “The Jeffersons,” “Checking In,” “Gloria,” “E/R” and “704 Hauser.”
3. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” • This one violates the reboot rule a bit — the 1997-2003 TV series was, to some degree, a sequel to the 1992 movie. But the series featured a completely different cast, a completely different tone and a completely different level of quality. The TV series was great; the movie was bad.
4. “The Office” • When the American version (2005-13) debuted, it was an unoriginal carbon copy of the Britcom (2001-02) on which it was based. But it grew to become one of TV’s best comedies of its era.
5. “One Day at a Time” • The original sitcom was very much of its time (1975-84), when divorce was still a scandal. The reboot, with an all-Latino cast, is very much a show for now; the second season will be released in early 2018. (The show also features the best remake of a theme song in TV history.)
6. “Hawaii Five-0” • OK, the reboot, which debuted in 2010, has passed its expiration date at this point. But it was good for the first five seasons or so — and did a very good job of updating the 1968-80 original.
1. “Coupling” • American fans of the original Britcom (2000-04) had high hopes for the American reboot (2003) which were crushed when the NBC version turned out to be godawful. It was yanked after four episodes.
2. “V” • The original miniseries (1982) was great; even the cheesiness worked in this tale of an alien invasion. The follow-up miniseries (1984) and weekly series (1984-85) weren’t as good. As for the 2009 reboot — great special effects, bad drama.
3. “Charlie’s Angels” • The blatant sexism worked the first time around (1976-81); it was just dated and dumb when it was rebooted (2011).
4. “Ironside” • Putting a police detective in a wheelchair worked the first time (1968-75); by 2013-14, it seemed oddly exploitative.
5.Prime Suspect” • The original British series (1991-2006), which starred Helen Mirren, was groundbreaking and sometimes shattering; the reboot (2011-12) was just another cop show. And not a good one. (Although the 2017 prequel, “Prime Suspect: Tennison,” was very good.)
6. “Beauty and the Beast” • The beast in this 2012-16 reboot of the 1987-90 original was a handsome guy ... and it was all downhill from there.