Quantum Leap: Why Reboots Struggle with Balancing The Old & The New

It seems like a double-edged sword when a new cast carries on the legacy of a popular IP. First, brand recognition provides the audience with a general idea of what they can expect. At the same time, there's tons of context that's lost in the process. At the time of a series' success, let's isolate a few classic NBC shows on Peacock for the sake of argument, knowing there are tons of other reboots already attempted with mixed results. Currently, we have Quantum Leap with Raymond Lee's Dr. Ben Song and Caitlin Bassett's Addison Augustine taking on similar roles in the Peacock series to Scott Bakula's Dr. Sam Beckett and Dean Stockwell's Al Calavicci as leaper and guide for the NBC run.

Quantum Leap
Image: NBCUniversal

While we're in the middle of its premiere season, Bakula's already gone on record saying he passed up the opportunity to reprise his role short of an Andrew Garfield-type misdirection, while Stockwell passed prior to filming the new series. Should Bakula's absence similar affect the reception of the new Quantum Leap despite it being a continuation of the original story? The Lucas Till-starred MacGyver on CBS lasted five seasons before its cancellation, two short of the original ABC series that starred Richard Dean Anderson, who refused to appear in the prequel series.

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Image courtesy of NBC Universal

For what it's worth, we're three episodes in, and the cast of the new Quantum Leap has maintained the spirit and legacy of the original series, even if it's like MacGyver in embracing its ensemble nature. There are subtle nods to the original, but not where it's the sole driving narrative in hopes that Bakula will return, and it shouldn't be. It should be able to rely to stand up on its own like SyFy's Battlestar Galactica was the literal reimagining with a modern twist of the Glen A Larson series.

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In the case of Peacock's Saved by the Bell, it went far beyond just trying to honor the legacy of the NBC Saturday morning series by trying to have its cake and eat it too, focusing on both the new and classic casts. It was never about passing the torch when you have Jesse, Slater, Zack, Kelly, and Lisa still refusing to let go while the new cast tried to get a firmer grip. Holding on to its safety net cost any real hope for longevity as it was axed after two seasons. Hell, even Punky Brewster was doomed to fail as the show couldn't quite figure out how to organically grow a beloved children's character into a fully-fleshed-out adult in the Peacock update.

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Images courtesy of NBCU/Peacock

The pushback from holding on is the worst when it comes to the Star Trek franchise as its harshest critics appear just to want carbon copies of the syndicated shows when they're not trashing its social messages…for reasons while also forgetting that not every episode of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, or even Enterprise were considered classics. As fans, we want new generations to love what we did growing up, but we can't keep burying our heads in the sand and deny the context of why those shows were even success in their eras in the first place. They need to update to reflect the current culture of our times.

Quantum Leap: Why Reboots Struggle with Balancing The Old & The New
STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2022 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved **Best Possible Screen Grab**

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Tom ChangAbout Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangoria. As a writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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