TV remakes, sequels, and do-overs

Sherlock

★★★★

Netflix, Amazon Prime; season 2 recently added

Sherlock (BBC 2010-Present) is probably the best proof that the entertainment world’s obsession with remakes and sequels doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sherlock updates Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson into two modern day crime solvers in modern-day London. If you’ve noticed the similarity to CBS’s new Elementary then you’re not alone. What the BBC series accomplishes that Elementary hasn’t yet is managing to squeeze some new insights about these characters by setting them in the present. Modern-day Sherlock Holmes isn’t just a gimmick—it shows you how someone as brilliant as Holmes would opperate in today's world, and how the modern world would react to him.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

★★★

Netflix, multiple episodes expiring 11/15

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Comedy Central, Syfy 1988–2001), or MST3K for short, is the gold standard in remaking bad ideas into hilariously watchable television. While the show has a tongue-in-cheeck sci-fi wrapping “story” in each episode, the real meat of MST3K is just the main characters watching terrible movies and tossing out jokes. Because of rights clearances for the original films, MST3K tends to release individual episodes rather than seasons—and quite a few are about to expire. If you haven’t discovered the show before, or you just want to remind yourself how great the show could be, then catch up now.

Mockingbird Lane

Mockingbird Lane

★★★½

Hulu, pilot streaming now

Mockingbird Lane (NBC, 2012) was understandably mocked by almost everyone who heard about it. It’s the Munsters reboot absolutely nobody has been asking for. It’s a laughably terrible idea, but what elevates it is the work of Brian Fuller, who previously created the tragically canceled Pushing Daisies. Mockingbird shares a lot of that show’s charming but weirdly morbid tone (or is it morbid but weirdly charming?) and it’s hard to deny that it’s a gorgeous looking show. This pilot, which NBC dumped onto the airwaves as a special just before Halloween, is likely all we’ll get. That’s a shame in a lot of ways, because while NBC probably made the right call financially, there’s a lot that’s charming here. If I have to have a Munsters reboot I’d prefer it involve, as this one does, Eddie Izzard doing some world-class scenery chewing.

Psych

★★★

Netflix, season 6 recently added

Psych (USA, 2006-Present) isn’t technically a remake or a sequel, but its premise can feel like it at times. Protagonist Shawn Spencer is so uncannily good with his powers of observation—but such a jerk about it—that he has to pretend to have psychic visions to get anyone to believe him. It’s a cute premise that’s weirdly being used by about a half dozen cop shows at the moment. The show probably could have abandoned the psychic rigimoral long ago if it weren’t, like all USA shows, mostly dedicated to having some fun. The show’s extended cast of characters and the interplay between James Roday as Shawn and Dulé Hill (I’ve been a fan of him since The West Wing) as his best friend makes Psych one of the most enjoyable shows on TV, even if it’s not one of the deepest.

The Legend of Korra

The Legend of Korra

★★★★

Hulu, season 1 now streaming

The Legend of Korra (Nickelodeon 2012-Present) is one of the best shows I generally avoid recomending to people. It’s a cartoon on a children’s network, which automatically causes a lot of people to dismiss it. It’s also a sequel to another series Avatar: The Last Airbender that many people know only through its terrible, M. Night Shyamalan-directed movie adaptation. None of those problems changes the fact that Korra’s first season was one of the best this year on any network in any medium. While watching Last Airbender will inform your viewing of Korra (and the newer show contains some spoilers for the first series) the show can be watched on its own, and it brilliantly expands the already inventive world of Avatar with new characters, great action sequences, and a smart take on steampunk technology.

Going Postal

★★★★

Netflix, full series recently added

Since it’s part of the Discworld series of novels, Going Postal (Sky, 2010) could technically be considered a sequel to 2007’s Hogfather. Although the specials concern totally different characters in totally different situations, they both share Terry Prachett’s Discworld setting. Discworld's bizarre but familiar fantasy setting lets Pratchet use the conceits of fantasy to comment on our world. Going Postal is a prime example of this, as its main character, con man Moist Von Lipwig, is forced to update the city's magical (but woefully out-of-date) postal system. While the rules governing mail in Prachett’s universe are bizarre, the steps Lipwig takes to modernize the post are almost exactly the steps modern postal systems took in the late 19th and early 20th century to keep up with technological advances. If all that makes the story sound boring, rest assured Going Postal manages to turn the story of running the post office into an exciting and tense tale of magic.

What’s new

  • Coma (A&E) Season 1:Netflix
  • Transformers: Rescue Bots (The Hub) Season 1: Netflix
  • Sesame Street (PBS) Various episodes Netflix

Expiring soon

  • Riverworld (Syfy) Season 1: Netflix (11/15)
  • Tekwar Various specials: Netflix (11/19)

[Streaming movies and TV shows—on services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Instant Videos—are ephemeral: Here one day, gone the next. The purpose of the Now Streaming series is to alert you to what movies and shows are new to streaming, what you might want to watch before it disappears, and other treasures that are worth checking out.]

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