Remember NBC’s somewhat desperate attempt to get people to watch summer reruns in 1997, marked by the tagline “It’s new to you!”? We seem to be in a cycle of TV marked by the return of series popular in the original “It’s new to you” era. These include Will & Grace (debuted 1998), Roseanne (ended 1997), Murphy Brown (ended 1998), and now Mad About You (ran 1992-1999), all with their original casts mostly intact.
Let’s not forget other announced reboots from even earlier eras, such as ’80s stalwarts Magnum PI, Cagney and Lacey, and Miami Vice, which will offer some reimagings of the leads and series context (which raises the question of why reboot the familiar just to change it – but that’s another post).
The impetus for this reboot era could be attributable to a number of things. Renewed interest in these programs from exposure on streaming services; a new generation who’ve never seen them at all; the nostalgic appeal to cater to older viewers who are traditional TV stalwarts; and a cast still able to play their characters. And, to be brutally honest, I think a big factor in these current same-cast reboots is that the leads of these hit TV shows were very available because most of them never hit it big again (aside from John Goodman, and a few years in features for Helen Hunt).
It will be interesting to see how long this reboot bubble lasts before it bursts. Not every reboot will be successes on the level of Will & Grace or Roseanne, and the copycat tendency of television will move on to the next big idea.
Give the boot to the reboot
TV’s never been immune from reboots, whether it was the early days when many TV series were transplants of radio series, or the various revivals across the years like ADAM-12, Dallas, Dragnet, or Battlestar Galactica. But it seems few revivals result in long-term success.
In a world of TV – and theatrical movies – seemingly bereft of original ideas, long-term success will come out of original content. Viewers appreciate thinking outside the box even if it’s just a twist on an old trope or genre. It’s doable, even on broadcast TV – see The Blacklist, Empire, or This is Us in recent years – and ever more important as the audience is tempted away by edgy cable or SVOD original series.
David Tice is the principal of TiceVision LLC, a media research consultancy.
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