If you experience déjà vu every time you turn on the tube, nothing mystical is going on. It’s just that the TV shows we grew up with or enjoyed as young(er) adults are getting remade like never before, from Murphy Brown (with much of the same cast intact) to Magnum PI (hot new star, no—gasp!—mustache). These TV reboots are proving pretty successful, too.
A recent industry poll found that folks are more interested in revivals than new versions with fresh faces.
Revivals (the industry term for shows with original members) include the like-fine-wine Will & Grace and The Conners, continuing without Roseanne Barr, who departed after posting a racist tweet. Reboots with new actors on board are also getting renewed—Dynasty, Hawaii Five-O, and MacGyver, for example. And a plethora is coming down the pike, from Miami Vice to The Munsters.
It’s odd, though, with streaming services offering oodles of fresh fare (Netflix introduced some 673 hours of new content in the third quarter of 2018), why are networks producing and developing old shows?
Going With a Proven Brand
“In a content universe where programmers are struggling to find audiences, the easiest way to break through the clutter of ‘too much stuff out there’ is with a proven brand that has a built-in marketplace awareness,” explains Andrew Goldman, senior vice president of Ownzones Entertainment Technologies and a film and television adjunct professor at New York University.
Adds TV critic Jim Colucci, author of Golden Girls Forever: “Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have an unfair advantage over broadcasters, which have to be everything to everyone. They have to be available to the entire country, please advertisers and conform to standards. Streaming services don’t have those restrictions.”
We needn’t feel that networks are purely pandering to us with Boomer-era reboots. Because streaming services and digital channels air lots of classic episodes, the networks hope to rope in those 18- to 34-year-olds who’ve become familiar with “our” TV, too.
Bottom line, are these shows any good—or should we stick to reruns instead? A recent industry poll found that folks are more interested in revivals than new versions with fresh faces. Colucci notes that updates do strive for relevance and diversity: The un-mustachioed Magnum, Jay Hernandez, is Latino, and the new Higgins is a woman, Perdita Weeks. And he’s looking forward to the still-in-development Designing Women reboot, which insiders say will boast new and original cast members: “I was a huge fan so I have high hopes, but it’s hard to go home again.” Stay tuned!