Dramatic Remakes of Comedies, Ranked

What happens when the Fresh Prince gets flipped upside down for real?
Dramatic Remakes of Comedies, Ranked

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We’re guessing Samantha won’t be twitching her nose to help Darrin win an ad campaign in this one. Sony Pictures Television recently announced yet another reboot of ‘60s sitcom Bewitched, but this time, it’s “a dramatic, hour-long take.” If that means the supernatural murder of nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz, I’m here for it. What it more likely means is an overwrought reimagining of everything that made the concept of a magical spouse fun in the first place. 

The comedy-to-drama train has picked up steam over the past decade, with some stops along the tracks more satisfying than others. Here are some of the other attempts, ranked from worst to best…


A generation of kids grew up with the goofy Teen Titans Go!, a comedy-heavy, anime-influenced take on DC Comics’ popular Teen Titans books. 

A decade later as Warner Bros. tried to develop a strategy to battle the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it took to the short-lived DC Universe streamer to deliver Titans, a show Hollywood Reporter said “might as well arrive carrying a sign that says ‘Ask Me About My Edginess.’”

From the show’s opening scenes where a grim Dick (Robin) Grayson grumbles, “Fuck Batman,” you know you’re in for a dark, humorless take on teenagers running around in long underwear. And it didn’t even do that well. “The production design looks cheap,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall, and “the fight scenes perfunctory and forgettable.” Lots of current movies are taking the blame for superhero fatigue, but Titans might have helped start the backlash.

Teen Wolf

Comedies didn’t get much goofier than Teen Wolf, a shaggy Michael J. Fox comedy released during the same summer as the far superior Back to the Future. Like nearly all ‘80s teen movies, it involved bullies, beer kegs and bungling attempts to have sex. This one was also a heavy-handed metaphor for puberty, with unexpected hair sprouting in all the uncomfortable places.

Teen Wolf the TV series borrowed the puberty/monster metaphor and left the laughs behind. Somehow, it worked. Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker couldn’t quite believe it: “Teen Wolf, MTV’s clever, charming new show, makes you marvel at using the words clever and charming to describe an MTV show.” The show lasted for five seasons and inspired a 2023 Paramount+ movie by leaning into the concept’s obvious horror elements.


There were definitely dramatic elements in Ron Howard’s 1989 film Parenthood, but one look at the film’s poster — Steve Martin with a forced grin holding two moppets in the air by their feet — tells you all you need to know about the film’s intended audience. 

Howard immediately turned Parenthood into a traditional sitcom with Ed Begley Jr. in the Martin role, a flop in the same year that launched other terrible movie-to-TV adaptations like Ferris Bueller and Uncle Buck. The dramatic one-hour version that arrived in 2010 fared much better, nominated for a handful of Emmy, Golden Globe and Critics Choice awards. “This well-constructed drama is something to treasure on the TV schedule,” said Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan. “It’s a show that respects our everyday experiences and emotions and yet also manages to entertain.

Bel Air

This is a story all about how Will Smith’s life got flipped, turned upside down. West Philly’s Will Smith starred as West Philly’s Will Smith, and the show occasionally touched on weighty subjects like class divides and missing fathers. Mostly though, it was an excuse for the great Alfonso Ribeiro to break out the Carlton Dance

Smith was originally against a reboot but got on board when he saw a fan film that reimagined the core concept for a new generation. Critics liked Bel-Air more as it progressed, with A.V. Club’s Quinci LeGardye noting, “The series has stood out against the vast selection of nostalgic reboots by taking the themes and heart of the original series and building a world that can stand on its own as a solid dramatic series.”

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Like the original Teen Wolf, Sabrina the Teenage Witch found the silly in the supernatural. As part of ABC’s family-friendly TGIF lineup, Melissa Joan Hart tackled her teenage years by turning popular girls into pineapples. (Don’t worry, they usually got turned back.) It was the kind of show that wouldn’t have made you blink if Urkel showed up to ask Sabrina for a date.

And like Teen Wolf the series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina explored the basic concept’s dark underbelly, swapping the original’s talking cat for casual Satanism and bloody rituals. “Chilling Adventures ends up being a surprisingly complex interrogation of power,” wrote The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert, “aware both of the necessity of women claiming it and of the consequences that usually follow when that power is used for revenge.”

Lou Grant

Ed Asner was nominated for an Emmy for every single season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, winning three trophies for creating the spunk-hating Lou Grant, one of the all-time great sitcom characters. 

It’s one thing to shift from comedy to drama with an all-new set of actors, like in Bel-AirLou Grant earns degree-of-difficulty points by employing the same guy playing the same character, coloring with a completely different set of tonal crayons. Grant somehow career-shifted from running a Minneapolis TV newsroom to a job as city editor at the fictional Los Angeles Tribune, taking on social issues that Ted Baxter could barely pronounce, much less discuss. Asner took home two more Emmys, this time in the Drama category. He’s the only dude with multiple Emmys in both Comedy and Drama for playing the same character.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The original Buffy movie was an all-out goof, trading on the inherent absurdity of a bouncy high-school cheerleader taking on undead monsters. The vampires were played by the likes of Paul (Pee-wee Herman) Reubens, in case you’re not clear on the intended tone. 

The TV version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had its share of laughs, for sure, but it took a decidedly more serious approach to adolescent feminism and friendship than the doofus movie. Buffy was a totem for a generation of pop-culture mavens. National Public Radio reported that Buffy had a special following among academics, some of whom created a sub-field they called Buffy Studies. The series in total was “subversive, funny and emotionally engaging,” concluded The Guardian’s James Donaghy. “There is still nothing like this cultural icon.”


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