Knight Rider, of course, is the first one I thought of here. What angst with young Mike Traceur--losing his mother after learning his father was really a hero who gave up life with his family for the greater good... and is it really the greater good? Isn't that just a sham? The Knight Foundation is deeply corrupt, as he learns once he's inextricably tied to it. His father was duped. Now, he must go on the run with KITT, who has had an existential crisis when his programming seems contradicted by the behavior of the very people who did it. Further, he discovers that his soul was stolen from a pretty, emo young boy who is being held captive in the Knight headquarters, and the ongoing arc is about trying to rescue him. Mike has Sarah inside the Foundation, as her relationship with her father jitters apart because she realizes the depth of his depravity. Yeah... and in the series finale, Sarah and Mike climb into KITT, and he drives over the edge of the cliffs along Route 1 in Maine, flinging them into the cold North Atlantic, as a drizzly rain falls around them. Cut to the Knight Foundation, where they've kidnapped Mike's unknown son, and started integrating his personality into yet another car... EEEP!
Eight Is Enough: The Bradfords come to the harsh realization that overpopulation has destroyed the economy. None of them can find work, and the environment is slowly poisoning them. One by one, we watch them fall ill and die, until only Nicholas is left, and he vows not to continue the wasteful lifestyle that brought them all to ruin.
Charlie's Angels: Wealthy Charlie, through his slightly sinister agent, Bosley, recruits girls from rehab centers and juvenile detention facilities, and through his Svengali-like power, brainwashes them into the life of vigilantes. He only picks beautiful girls, because he also has Bosley send them to him, blindfolded, so he can have his way with them. When new girl Dakota is recruited, she is powerfully reminded of her abused youth, and this opens her eyes to what's happening. Instead of running, she decides to take down the whole rotten enterprise and rescue her friends.
Three's Company: Jack, a young chef struggling with his sexuality and rejected by his parents, moves in with the drug-addled rock star Janet, who has a rent-controlled loft, and her troubled sister, model Chrissi. Homophobic landlord Mr. Furley is determined to end their sweet life in the building, and forces them into humiliating hard labor to keep him from revealing their secrets to the press.
The Six-Million Dollar Man: Following the stunning success of The Bionic Woman remake, of course, they need to follow up with the story of Steve Austin. A test pilot who discovers corruption in the highest realms of government, he survives an attempt on his life (via a sabotaged plane), only to be rebuilt--"better, stronger"--by the very people who did it. They manipulate his mind so he doesn't remember what he discovered, but as the series progresses, he begins to discover the real agenda of Oscar and the others...
The Facts of Life: Eastland School is the last hope of the hopeless, a place where the desperate are sent when everything else short of the legal system has failed. Blair, a neglected rich girl, has done everything she can to attract her parents' attention, including a drunk driving accident with horrible, haunting consequences. Working class Jo couldn't stop her increasing violent posturing. "Tootie," who got her nickname for doing a whole lot of tooting of cocaine, is bipolar, and Natalie has suffered from an eating disorder since her mother was sent to jail for embezzlement. Mrs. Garrett, the tough-minded headmistress, uses extreme, but effective, measures... but is she really on their side?
Surely, many other empty-headed old shows could be improved like this. The Love Boat, The Waltons, Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes... why the Emmy opportunities are endless!
What kinds of ways could we improve these and any other shows whose producers clearly never saw their full potential for exploring the gritty realities of life?