Television is no different. A popular show ends, but it continues to live on in syndication or Blu-ray. Recent years have seen TV immortality take on a new form. A growing number of streaming services and networks are pulling from the past to flood airwaves with remakes and reboots.
Roseanne Barr’s hateful tweets caused her Trending TV Shows to be canceled. The reboot of Roseanne was one of ABC’s top programs. “Will & Grace” was re-introduced in 2017 with an impressive rating. “Full House”, however, resurfaced on Netflix in 2016 as “Full House”.
Remakes and reboots of “The X-Files”, “Twin Peaks,” and “Arrested Development” have been seen, as well as remakes of the “Dynasty”, “Lost in Space” and “Dynasty.”
The upcoming fall season will see a reboot and remake of ” Murphy Brown” as well as ” Cagney & Lacey,” Magnum P.I.,” and ” Charmed”.
Nostalgia is a long-standing product. The perfect conditions have been created for the reboot to succeed due to the changes in today’s television landscape.
The lure of comfort
Reboots are practical.
Fans of “The X-Files,” are most familiar with their characters’ complex histories when they tune in to the reboot. The show’s writers do not need to create as much foundation. They have the skeleton in place so they can continue with new stories.
For audiences, however, there is something more: nostalgia and the comfort that comes with being familiar.
Ryan Lizardi is a Media Scholar. He has researched the role of nostalgia within television programming and advertisements. He discusses how TV commercials often feature familiar characters, soundbites, and classic songs that can trigger memories. This can take viewers to moments of comfort, romance, and wonderment from their pasts. This effect is powerful and can create an immediate emotional connection with the audience.
In the weeks leading to the premiere of Fuller House, actors Candace Cameron Bure and John Stamos (who played Uncle Jesse) appeared on talk shows to promote their roles.
Kathleen Loock, a culture and media scholar, wrote that these promotions were able “to convey the comfort of the familiar” by repeatedly triggering memories of “Full House”.
This is why revived shows will often use the original or a modified version of the theme song: It prompts viewers to think back to a time they saw the original show.
Bridging today’s fractured audiences
Why is this happening? Why aren’t the 1970s shows being re-run in the 1990s instead?
The TV industry has seen a shift in the way we view television. Viewers are no longer tied to a broadcast schedule and have more options. They can choose from many different shows and can watch them whenever they wish.
Due to this, viewers have become more fragmented and are now gravitating towards niche shows that cater to their specific interests. There are fewer blockbuster prime-time hits.
These audiences can be bridged by reviving television series. They are a well-known brand that has been around since the early days of television and are easily recognized by large audiences. The original series’ fans are an existing audience that doesn’t need to lure them into the first episode. Media coverage, trailers, and advertisements can lure younger viewers to the series.
James Poniewozik TV critic writes that “the old hits had far larger audiences than today’s” and “they have a better opportunity of reuniting this mass audience.”
These remakes and reboots tend to have lower ratings after they premiere.
This could indicate that remakes and reboots don’t pay off. Julia Leyda, a television scholar, says that ratings are less important than they once were. She cites how Fox initially canceled “Arrested Development” due to low ratings. Its ratings from 2006, however, would be considered very good in today’s fractured viewership.
Maybe that’s why returned to the air this spring after a five-year hiatus.
Refreshed to appeal to a 21st-century audience
The characters may not change when older shows return. However, the world around them is changing.
Popular sitcoms like ” All in the Family,” The Jeffersons,” Good Times,” and ” M.A.S.H._ tend to tackle some of the most pressing social issues: race relations, class, and gender.
What was important politically and culturally in the past is less relevant to viewers today. When a series is resurrected, it often highlights social issues that will appeal to a modern audience.
In March, ” Roseanne”, returned to TV with two episodes in a row. These were seen by more than 18 million viewers. The storyline about the family’s politics received national attention. The title character had voted for Donald Trump.
“Roseanne,” like many other sitcoms, explored a major cultural issue and showed how everyday people were dealing with it. The show’s political narrative generated mixed reactions from viewers. The series was a conversation starter in modern society, regardless of political views.
The 2016 election sparked the revival of “Will & Grace,” where the original cast gathered for an episode that addressed campaign issues such as gun rights and education.
Remakes and reboots can anchor older shows in the current zeitgeist by incorporating current social, cultural, and political issues.
John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks, has given the current TV moment the title ” peak television”. This is to ensure that shows and their writers can experiment and invent in ways they could not have imagined just a few decades ago.
There is a need for nostalgia and comfort, and enough viewers want to go back to Will’s familiar home and see children of the Tanner family live their lives as adults. This makes the reboot a niche in its own right.