Have you noticed how everything on TV lately seems to be a reboot of another show?
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life comes out next week, and Fuller House was 2016's most watched show. Now there are rumors of a Will & Grace reunion, and you can undoubtedly name a dozen more reboots you've heard of in the last few years.
Every time a commercial comes on for one of these reboots, you see hundreds of comments that more or less can be summed up as: "Are there no original ideas anymore?"
The short answer? It's actually the opposite. There are heaps.
In 2015, there were over 400 scripted television shows on air. Every show you watch is competing with 399 others for your attention. So the reason nostalgia reboots work (and seem to be so dominant) is that they've already paved their own way; they already have a fanbase, and competition becomes a lot less daunting.
David Madden, president of entertainment at Fox, explained it to The New York Times. “There are a lot of shows out there, a lot of material competing for people’s attention. And where you have a title that people recognize, value and appreciate, that’s something we want to take advantage of.”
It means less marketing costs, less chance of not being picked up, and less chance of not creating an audience.
Another reason reboots work so well on TV? Thanks to the rise of streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, shows that have been in syndication for a while are gaining a whole new audience. A reboot creates a whole new generation of viewers.
One example is Arrested Development, which didn't get a large viewership while on air between 2003—2006, but gained major popularity with a new millennial audience on Netflix—for past seasons, as well as the new episodes.
Reboots oftentimes don't live up the hype. But the hype itself gets new viewers on board, to grow the existing audience. And for many networks, it's this rebranding of what already works that allows them to fund riskier, more original ideas.
So next time you hear a classic is rebooting, don't fret about the lack of fresh ideas. Another original idea is coming down the tracks—and probably thanks to the reboot.