NBC’s nostalgia for its glory days has thus far led to trying to build sitcoms around stand-up comics, reuniting with old friends like Stephen Bochco and David Milch, and forcing employees to start wearing big shoulder pads while blaring Wang Chung’s “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” on a constant loop in the hallways. Now it’s digging up Stephen J. Cannell’s Wiseguy and giving it a contemporary reboot, hoping to remind everyone—as with the rehiring of Bochco and Milch—that it used to do groundbreaking stuff and can once more, mostly by doing that exact same stuff over again. (Even if it was technically done by other networks, as Wiseguy originally aired on CBS.) In the original version, Ken Wahl played undercover FBI agent Vinnie Terranova (yes… yes), who underwent a fake prison sentence in order to establish his criminal credentials and infiltrate various dark corners of the underworld. The update, to be written by Homeland’s Alex Cary, will focus on a jailed, disgraced former cop who agrees to do the same as part of a plea bargain to lessen his sentence. It’s the 21st century; we demand redemption stories.
Of course, the original Wiseguy has a unique legacy for its pioneering focus on serialization, its surprisingly dark tone, those scenes of Kevin Spacey shooting drugs between his toes while carrying on a creepy, incestuous relationship with his sister—elements that are now ether de rigueur in modern drama or impossible to recreate without paling in comparison, unless Spacey wants to come back. But provided they can capture lightning twice and get an equally perfect cast—the original also included early standouts like Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks as Wahl’s supervisor—and find equally great guest stars to drop by for story arcs (like Stanley Tucci muscling Jerry Lewis, or Tim Curry playing a sinister record executive), this could be the first NBC self-scavenging that actually works. Or it could just be the next stop on the way to that inevitable ALF reboot.